And then I learned that MRI’s freak me out

28 Oct

So, I screwed up my shoulder. It’s been hurting for…oh…almost two weeks now. My doctor sent me for an MRI, and that took a week to get into (to which my friend said “Wow, just a week? That’s fast!”)

Now, during all the pre-MRI questions and reviews, they ask flat out – Are you claustrophobic?

I answered no. Because I’ve never considered myself as such.

I think that if you are claustrophobic or anxious about getting an MRI, they give you stuff to calm you. But I was certain I’d be fine. I joked that I’d probably nap and hoped I wouldn’t snore too loudly.

I was not nervous at all. Actually, I was looking forward to it, even a bit excited. Hey, trying new things! Getting answers for my shoulder! Being left along for like, a whole half hour!

No, being nervous was not on my radar. However, the moment the guy running things hit the button that had me going into the MRI machine, it was as if he also flipped the anxiety switch on to Full Panic Mode.

<spoiler> I got through it.

However, seven seconds into the Tunnel of Terror and I was like “Nope. Can’t do this. Nope. Get me out of here.” The sensible part of my brain took over.

“It’s twenty minutes. He said twenty minutes. Just keep your eyes closed and breathe. He promised music, twenty minutes is like four or five songs. You have to do this.”

Full Panic Mode was all “No. Nope. No. Can’t. Just let me out of here.”

Sensible Brain said “No. If we leave now we’ll just have to go back in. It might be worse. Breathe and keep your eyes closed.”

Full Panic Mode decided to pop the eyelids open, as if seeing what was around me would make it better. Full Panic Mode realized we had made a terrible choice and no, it was not better, that nope, it wasn’t actually bigger on the inside, it was way narrower than I thought.

Sensible Brain didn’t say “Oh for feck’s sake, I told you to keep your eyes closed.” She said “It’s okay, just keep your eyes closed, oh, the music is on…what’s this song? Focus on the song.”

And then it was all WRRRRRRHHHHHHHHRRRRRRRRRBANGBANGWHRRRRSCREEEPSCREEP for a bit. And Full Panic Mode was all “nope, gotta push the button on the cord that the dude gave me. I’m not going to make it.”

“You will NOT push that button. We can do this.” said Sensible Brain.

“I don’t think we can.” Full Panic Mode said.

“Yes, we can. Because we are not going to start this all over again. Now suck it up. Five songs, just five songs. Ooo…is that Depeche Mode playing?”

“Oh, it is.” Full Panic Mode said. “Okay, I’ll try to concentrate more on the song than the fact that we’re in this brightly lit tube of doom.”

(There was an option to turn off the light and I was like ‘AW HELL NO’. Because what’s worse than a brightly lit tube of doom is probably being in a really dark tube of doom. Of that I am certain.)

Sensible Brain sighed. “It is NOT a tube of doom. We are not trapped in here. There’s an opening on either end. We could easily scootch out of here if need be.”

“Are you sure about that?”


“Should we try it?”

“No! Then we’ll have to start all over again. Look, we’re through the first song.”

Now, at this point, because full panic mode had been triggered, I realized I was actually kind of vibrating. Because when I get really really ridiculously nervous, I tense way the fuck up to the point that my muscles start to quiver.

“Calm down.” Sensible Brain said. “Focus on breathing and the music.”

“Can’t. Stop. Shivering.” Full Panic Mode said. “Also, kind of hard to hear the music over the WRRRRRRHHHHHHHHRRRRRRRRRBANGBANGWHRRRRSCREEEPSCREEP-ing.”

“Fine. Then keep the shivering to the lower extremities.” Sensible Brain said. Because the legs weren’t being imaged. Just the right shoulder. All I had to do was keep the right shoulder still. And remember to breathe.

“OMG don’t hold your breathe!” Sensible Brain said. “Come on, in with the good, out with the bad.”

Full Panic Mode breathed. Shallowly. While thinking “Gee, it would totally suck if I got so nervous I vomited. OMG, what if I have to vomit????”

“You are soooooooooo not vomiting.” Sensible Brain said. “That just isn’t allowed.”

“I’ve never been so nervous that I threw up.”

“And you’re not starting today.”

“Glad I didn’t eat dinner before I left.”

“Me too.”


Then the MRI Guy announced we only had thirteen or fourteen minutes left, and I was all “Hey! That’s not too bad. I can do this.”

Full Panic Mode calmed down a little, but I was still so friggen tense that I was still trying not to have a nervous shiver. Different muscles just kept twitching. “It’s okay as long as the shoulder stays still.” Sensible Brain reminded me. “Hey, The Cure’s now playing. Focus on that.”

And I tried.

Until Full Panic Mode whispered…”You know what would suck? Is if an earthquake hit while you were in here…”

Yes. My brain went there. And then Sensible Brain went “Nope, we’re not going to think about that.”


“God, wouldn’t it suck if, as MRI Dude pressed the button to get me out of here, if my hair got caught…would my hair just rip out, or would I end up scalped?”

“For Christ’s sake! If your hair could get caught, MRI Dude would have done something about it, given you a cap to wear. But it’s not going to get caught.”

“Okay. Back to vomiting in the tube…that would make a mess…I wonder how many people get so panicked they vomit?”

“Shut it already! Didn’t you hear the man? We’re down to two more pictures. We’re not quitting this close to the end. Now go back to pretending that we’re just laying out in the sun, in a wide open space…”



And that, my friends, is how I got through my MRI. And how I learned that maybe….just maaaaaaaaaaybe…I’m a bit claustrophobic. Or maybe my anxiety can’t handle brightly lit tubes of doom.

My consolation prize – a CD of images of my shoulder. I can totally read them and diagnose myself, right?







10 Responses to “And then I learned that MRI’s freak me out”

  1. franhunne4u October 28, 2016 at 10:12 am #

    Brave woman you! If they ask me if I was claustrohobic (if I ever have to undergo this procedure, that is) I think I would ask them to slide me in for a test, and if I could not stand it, we would know. Since I am REALLY fat, it would be really tight for me …

    • Phoebe October 28, 2016 at 10:37 am #

      A test run sounds like a reasonable request

      • franhunne4u October 28, 2016 at 10:48 am #

        Doesn’t it? Before I bother my system with a strong narcotic I’d rather see if I can stand that without.
        I know the fear-tremble btw. When I got my first full anaesthetic in August I was quite cool about all, but my system decided no, I was not – and while I was lying there (for a minor gynaecological surgery, nothing serious and no, NOT an abortion, just to clarify that) first my belly started to tremble and influenced my breathing and then my arms shook – so strong, that even the people busy with all their preparations could not fail to notice. So I know exactly how you felt fighting that tremble.

      • Phoebe October 28, 2016 at 10:58 am #

        fear-tremble. That’s such a perfect way of describing it.

      • franhunne4u October 28, 2016 at 1:31 pm #

        Oh, that is just my German way of doing things – we here in Germany are infamous for our long combination of words. Oberweserdampfschiffahrtsgesellschaftskapitänspatent … (Higher Weser – river in Germany – steam boatride society capitans license … ) If you are used to combine words at will, you do it in English as well – and that is how fear-tremble was created.

  2. Amanda S. October 28, 2016 at 12:08 pm #

    I found out I was claustrophobic in an MRI tube. I went in fully expecting to do what I usually did when put in a dim room and told to lie still for a long medical test – go to sleep. Instead I found out why the Buddhists talk about “monkey mind” – because while my sane mind was saying “This is probably the safest place in town, if a hurricane blew through, you wouldn’t even know it,” the little monkey was swinging through the trees screaming “Eek eek eek” at the top of its mindless lungs. To make matters worse, it’s like once that door got cracked open, the flood roared in. Not only can I not have an MRI now without full anesthesia, but I’m really uncomfortable in elevators, and puddle-jumping airplanes make my skin crawl.

    • Pamela Hendricks October 28, 2016 at 2:26 pm #

      I asked what would happen if I was in the tube and a zombepocolypse We’re to happen. Lol, they said no one had ever asked that question before. That I would just have to crawl out and be on my wqy

  3. Giana Tankersley October 28, 2016 at 7:52 pm #

    I recently had my first MRI and I was terrified going in. I know I’m claustrophobic (and I suffer from anxiety in general, yay), so they gave me Valium to help with that. It didn’t help. It was like being in a loud white coffin. It took 3 tries to get me in and then I cried almost the entire time. I basically spent the first 20 minutes shaking and the rest of the time paralyzed in fear. Super fun times! Thankfully everything on mine came back clear, it was a brain scan. I hope yours gives you some info to start the steps towards relief of your shoulder pain, it’d suck to go through that terror and still be at square one!

  4. murals2go October 29, 2016 at 3:23 pm #

    Still haven’t gone in for a colonoscopy at the age of 57 (I think; I still have to do the math). My reasoning? My husband is one year older, and I said he has to go get one first; it’s only fair. If you have a story about one of those, please pass it on.

  5. Josephine November 17, 2016 at 8:24 am #

    Hmmm, I have a somewhat reverse story. I had been putting off the MRI for years – I mean years. I know I am claustraphobic. I used to have a lot of nightmares as a kid, and second (in terror levels) to being snatched out of my front-yard by kidnappers, was having to crawl through/under tight spaces to save myself, (third was our house being surrounded by dangerous animals). When, not so long ago, as very much an adult, I had to retrieve something from under our guest cabin, which is less than 2 feet off the ground, I discovered that where I could sort of sit, or be fully on my hands and knees was kind of bearable, but when I had to go off my hands and knees to kind of slither under a beam, was total panic stations! Even just thinking about it now …it’s too much. So, I arranged to do it with the meds, and turned out it wasn’t anything that strong – not something I hadn’t ever taken (over-the-counter) – maybe codeine? (I am not sure now). I remember I had to go in half an hour early to take the meds – but I had to be driven in, so I was like “I could have taken that at home”, and was also like “You think that is going to stop me freaking out?” But it wasn’t that bad. Now I am wondering if I should do the follow up (which I am overdue for) with or without meds, but after reading this, I think I might stick with the meds. [PS colonoscopy, under twilight anaesthetic, is a piece of cake – it’s the prep. you have to worry about!]

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