A reflection on passing out at FitRec

Jacklyn Tsung | Senior Graphic Artist

There is a scene in “The Passion of Joan of Arc” where Joan — remarkably played by Renée Falconetti — faints to the threat of torture by her captors. It’s the first time the viewer witnesses a tangible fracture in Joan’s resolve, and seeing this paragon of perseverance at such a moment of weakness is devastating, yet humanizing. 

As I watched this film in one of my classes this past week, I couldn’t help but sheepishly reflect on a confrontation I had with my own crushing humanity recently. However, unlike Joan of Arc, what I endured was far more humiliating than it was honorable.

Of all the things I had on my metaphorical bingo card for this fall semester, passing out at FitRec was not one of them. But that is exactly what happened to me two weeks ago. While the specifics leading up to this unfortunate circumstance were mostly accidental, the frame of mind I was in that paved the way for this to occur was not as involuntary.

From a physical standpoint, I never considered myself to be a particularly strong person, which is something I’ve been rather self-conscious about as of late. This notion, combined with a string of ailments and traumas I’ve experienced over the past year, left me struggling to feel like my body actually belonged to me for quite some time. 

I wanted to be more secure in myself, so when I moved back to Boston at the beginning of September, I was aching to find a way to bring security to fruition. Therefore, when I was invited to attend a practice for a club sport by an acquaintance, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to shock myself into a new state of intense activity. 

The session started with a workout that lasted under 15 minutes. Even at that short length, it was challenging for me. Even if it wasn’t for the other people I was working out with. As sweat rolled down my face, I could feel my body reaching a breaking point on several occasions, but I thought I would be the odd one out if I couldn’t even make it through the beginning warmup. 

Since I was desperate to not be seen as weak, I kept pushing myself harder and harder. 

Upon completing my last set of reps and getting up from the floor to get a drink, I could feel my body begin to fail me almost immediately. Throughout that short workout, I somehow managed to sweat out the majority of the water in my system. As a result, my body was shutting down due to dehydration. Stumbling out of the practice room, it took everything in me to make it over to the nearest bench and sit down. My heart was racing, my ears were burning, and I was losing my ability to keep my eyes open. Needless to say, I was terrified.

It was around this time that I must have fainted entirely. When I came to, I was no longer on a bench, but rather lying on a cot with my hands cramped out into claw-like positions. Thanks to the kindness of the person I knew at practice, my dehydrated body was transferred gently to the EMT’s office upstairs. Lying on that bed, I pulled on every ounce of energy I had left to break out of this rigid state. I might’ve been embarrassed that I passed out, but I wasn’t going to give up on myself that easily.

With some rest and a lot of fluids, I was able to recover from this state of dehydration. I could tell at that moment that letting my health slip so seriously would be unsustainable for my future. 

It took losing complete control of my body to realize that I am so much stronger than I believed I was. 

I recognize now that my perception of my own weakness — along with being inherently flawed — was counterproductive to my well-being. If I want to feel like my body belongs to me again, I have to be nicer to it and more attuned to its needs, rather than pushing it to lengths it is not yet capable of. 

To provide a more pleasant coda to this saga, I am glad to say I was able to return to FitRec recently for the first time since I fainted. Properly hydrated, I got through my workout without collapsing to the ground. While that is a low bar to clear, I was proud of myself all the same. 

Doing the best I can isn’t a sign of failure. I shouldn’t be embarrassed by any shortcomings I might experience along the way to reclaiming my body for myself. I might not have been the epitome of strength when I fainted, but if I start treating myself with more kindness and understanding, maybe I’ll finally be able to feel like the Joan of Arc of FitRec in my own right.

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