Well, Shit!

[Content Warning: Poop, Medical Details]

Yesterday I discovered that I have a sort of a rareish medical condition. From the sound of it, its a medical condition that’s easy enough to have; and I ought to be able to not have it happen again if I am thoughtful.

I woke up in the morning and had to go to the bathroom, so I slid out of bed, grabbed a swig of orange juice from the glass on the night table, and walked to the other room, sat down and started doing my thing. How shall I say this? I really had to do my thing pretty badly and it started going quite well indeed. In other words, I was not constipated or anything like that – it was, in fact, a great relief. It was such a relief that it felt quite good and, (at least I am pretty sure this is what happened) I took a breath and kind of pushed a bit. Then, I woke up on the floor, in a pool of blood.

My glasses were broken and my right eye was fogged and I couldn’t see out of it (turns out it was full of carpet fuzz) My first thought was that I’d had a stroke so I thought I’d see if I could control my phone (which is why I took a picture) – so far, so good. After some blinking my eye began to work again and I was able to stick some kleenex on the bleeds to reduce them while I did some damage assessment. I know head wounds bleed a lot, and the fact that I wasn’t showering blood all over the place meant it was pretty minor. But it wasn’t so minor as all that. I didn’t seem to be having a heart attack because I hear those are very distressing and painful and I’d probably not have regained consciousness at all.

So I googled, “why did I faint when I pooped?”

Surprisingly, that query dropped me to several explanations of what had happened. It’s called “vasovagal syncope” [mayo] and, the short form is: don’t take a deep breath and don’t push. The pressure on your diaphragm combines with your full lungs and can compress your chest enough that it spikes then drops your blood pressure and -pop- you’re out like a light. When I was a kid in high school some of the other kids would do a similar thing, where you breathe fast a few times then hold your breath and another kid presses on your sternum and -pop- you’re out. I never did it because it didn’t look like a whole lot of fun. In fact, this 2017 article [s] points out that it can injure you rather badly. My past experience with passing out and falling down led to a broken jaw wired shut for 2 months, so I can already attest to that.

This has actually happened to me once before but I chalked it up to too much red wine the night before, and dehydration something something.

That’s not a scar, that’s an experience point

I took the rest of the evening easy and drank a lot and rested, then when everything stopped leaking, I took a shower and cleaned up the obvious mess so I could do a damage assessment. The longish vertical cut is where the broken arm of my glasses (on the frame) went into my eyebrow and the contusion is probably the frame. Lucky me, I didn’t hit anything harder or at the wrong angle.

So now we all know “don’t push!” is good advice.


  1. Jazzlet says

    Ow! Though it does show how well our eyes are protected, your brow ridge deflected the arm of the glasses upwards away from your eye. I know any number of people, myself included, who have had accidents where they almost had their eye out, but only one person who actually did have their eye damaged, and that was by a cap rocket that was thrown directly at her in the playground at school. Glad you didn’t hit your head any harder.

    I’m not allowed to push hard, and certainly not hold my breath and push as the gastro people think it would cause more damage to my already somewhat fucked up colon. Fibre is your friend, and if you ever need to take any of the opioid painkillers or any other medication that has consiption as a possible side effect make them give you one of the stool softeners from the off. Glad you are seeing a doctor and I hope it is just vasovagal syncope.

  2. invivoMark says

    I have a related condition, postural hypotension. If I stand up too quickly (and especially if I stand up quickly and then stretch my arms or back), I end up on the floor. I haven’t lost consciousness from it yet, but it’s a risk.

    I’ve gotten used to it, so that I recognize when an episode is coming on and I can brace myself or find a soft/clear spot to crash, and have managed to avoid damaging myself so far.

    Neither of our conditions are particularly rare (vasovagal syncope is quite common). I agree that syncope is easy enough to live with, if you just learn the signs or avoid the triggers.

  3. lochaber says


    A ways back, I took an EMT course, and the instructor described this to us, and said it’s sometimes used by medics/firefighters to “cheat” a physical by lowering their blood pressure into the acceptable range. And, also, that it can be dangerous, and it’s likely one of the things that contributes to the stories you hear of people dying on the toilet.

    Hope you heal up quick, and nothing else is amiss.

  4. says

    I have a big canopy bed with some saris draped across the canopy frame and curtains and fairy lights and a power distribution system underneath. It’s usually half covered in books and papers.

    And right now I have the skull and crossbones sheets on the pillows because it’s summer.

  5. Pierce R. Butler says

    ‘Twas a few decades ago, so details have probably gotten munged, but IIRC they told me I had “vasovagal syncope” after helping a friend get a hurt dog to a vet’s office – apparently brought on just by the sight of a fair amount of blood and relaxing a bit after the stress and rush.

    I did not quite reach the point of passing out, but surely would have if the vet hadn’t told me to sit down on the floor, look away, and take slow deep breaths.

    Similar situations later, involving humans, did not produce a rerun.

    The dog turned out fine.

  6. voyager says

    Very good advice. I’m sorry you had to learn it first hand. Your “experience point” looks sore. I hope it heals up quickly.

  7. says

    Pierce R. Butler@#12:
    apparently brought on just by the sight of a fair amount of blood and relaxing a bit after the stress and rush

    I’ve had it happen several times, usually involving bloody injuries. Most notably, however, I was taken by surprise in the scene in Fatal Attraction where she smears blood (being vague to avoid spoilers) – I checked out right in my theater chair. A few years later I was talking to someone who had obviously had an injury and asked them what happened; they began to explain that they had their arm on the edge of a car’s window when the car rolled over and … the next thing I remember was I was on the floor looking up at concerned faces.

    Here’s what I believe happens; this is not an official medical theory: my imagination kicks in and I forget that I am not dealing with something real. I imagine the hurt and terror of the accident and begin to think “what do I DO?!” in fact in the Fatal Attraction incident I distinctly recall having that thought: “APPLY PRESSURE!” It was only a momentary suspension of disbelief but it was enough for me to dump a great deal of adrenaline into my system. That spiked my blood pressure and when I realized nothing was actually wrong, my blood pressure dropped again and I was -out-.

    I’ve obliquely mentioned that I broke my jaw by passing out due to a bloody injury in 2013; that happened when someone experienced a very deep knife-wound (not my fault!) and I was taping the edges together when I thought to rinse my hands with the rubbing alcohol in the first aid box, stood up, and fell facefirst on a concrete floor. Fortunately I had mostly gotten the taping-up going in the right direction, and we both went to the emergency room for a total of 25 stitches between the two of us and 2 months of my jaw wired shut.

    My passing out from bloody wounds was something I discovered when I was a kid and I sliced the meat off of one of my knuckles using a machinist’s punch on a steel box (they make good cheese graters, too) put it back where it belonged and held it down with some duct tape then went upstairs and wound up on a concrete floor with a severe concussion. Normally, I manage it just fine: tape stuff together, elevate the injury, lie down, wait for the shock, recover, get on with things. I was surprised to discover that simply imagining someone else’s pain could do it to me.

    By the way: “fainting at the sight of blood” is a weird toxic masculinity issue. Toxic masculinity tells us its cowardice but it seems to me to be empathy and having a good, fast, imagination and lots of mirror neurons. It’s never bugged me, it’s just occasionally a nasty surprise.

  8. says

    Who knew proper pooping practice was so important?

    Yeah. I almost didn’t say anything but I figured, “hey, someone might want to know this.”

    I spent the afternoon forge-welding a chunk of 1 3/4″ wire rope into a bar, slinging around 2300F steel and all that, and briefly paused and wondered “what if I passed out now?” Uh, yeah, no. What’s cool is that I seem to be just fine doing dangerous stuff because I’m calm and focused. That’s why making myself pass out while taking a dump was such a surprise!

    A friend of mine had the auditory problem where they would sometimes completely lose their balance and fall down. They got surgery and now it’s better, but I imagine there are a lot of jobs/hobbies that are closed to you if you have something that can suddenly incapacitate you.

  9. Pierce R. Butler says

    Marcus Ranum @ # 14: … “fainting at the sight of blood” is a weird toxic masculinity issue.

    It would matter a great deal in a disaster-response or combat situation: as a nation of John Waynes, we (US men) must live prepared for both at any/every moment.

  10. jrkrideau says

    @ 17 chigau (違う)
    The only faceplant I ever did was alcohol induced.

    Best one I ever did was forgetting we had the driveway fixed. Rode off the end of the driveway, crashed my bicycle and spend a month and a half with a cast on my left hand. Talk about stupid.

  11. dangerousbeans says

    @chigau my last face plant was due to tram tracks. They’re a real hazard when you’re doing 30km/h on skinny tyres.

    @Marcus yep randomly losing balance or similar would really limit what you can do. I knew someone who had a form of epilepsy that meant she couldn’t drive or even ride a bicycle.
    i really take my being (mostly) physically abled for granted

  12. kestrel says

    My cousin calls those “knowledge marks”.

    Yeah, this is definitely a thing. The Partner works in the ER and so has had the opportunity to train people who are keen to do that job. At least some of them, despite their ardent desire to learn and participate, will keel over and have to be carefully moved aside so the rest can continue helping the patient. The Partner says one must brace for that sort of thing because otherwise your brain can get sort of overwhelmed and just check out for a bit. Apparently practice helps, and making every effort to stay calm. BUT I am glad to hear you are going to the doctor as you never know, there is possibly something else going on, and those symptoms are difficult to ignore. Especially when they leave scars. Glad you are OK!

  13. Badland says

    Oy. Be well.

    Chigau speaks for my faceplanting experience, I fell asleep* sitting upright on a bench and fell forehead-first onto the bricks. Minor grazing and much shame ensued.

    *passed out

  14. Peter B says

    My problem is simple low BP. When I stoop to look at something low then stand quickly I see the curtains start to close. I grab hold of something until my vision clears. But mostly I avoid standing quickly.

    Some years ago I possibly had the flu. Let’s just say I did not have to push when sitting on the toilet. When standing, the curtains started to close and I put myself on the floor before I fell to the floor. Fluid loss exacerbating my low BP was my assumption. I waited a minute and literally crawled back to bed.

    I’m often told I have a nice PB for an older man. Is that a compliment or an insult?

  15. John Morales says

    Is that a compliment or an insult?


    My first dog showed me the proper way to defecate; only do it when you feel the need, only do as much as is easy to do. Then carry on until the next time you again feel the need. I learnt the lesson and I’m more than happy with the outcome. No more straining.

    There’s portion of the gut called the rectum, which is pretty straight. Normally, the need is felt when that is full, and it’s (absent medical or dietary issues) quite easy to relieve without straining. The stuff further up will in due course fill the rectum again, and so it goes.

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