Yesterday, I received a stark reminder of just how vulnerable I still am, and how close to the surface my fears and anxieties yet reside. It was a simple MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) I was to undergo and I arrived at the radiology centre in a relaxed state with my 12 year old granddaughter in tow, chatting happily about anything and nothing.
I made the obligatory joke about how fetching was the gown I had to wear and how it complemented the colour of my stockings. The assistant, a lovely young woman, handed me earplugs and fitted me with ear muffs to deal with the excessive noise I was assured the magnets would make, secured my head in position, and instructed me to just close my eyes and zone out. At that point, the equipment began to slide me, conveyer-belt style, into the belly of something akin to a mechanical coffin. I’d been warned it might not be pleasant but I’m normally not claustrophobic, so was well-prepared.
Or so I thought.
Hero that I am, about three minutes into the procedure, I began to experience chest pain directly beneath my sternum, and then my facial muscles began to twitch uncontrollably…or it may have been the other way round – first the twitching and then the chest pain. Common sense told me I was probably having a wee bit of a panic attack and should use some breathing and relaxation techniques to ease my way out of it. Common sense, however, didn’t prevail for long, and within another minute I had convinced myself that my twitching face was quite an abnormal response and that perhaps the magnets were frying my brain. Now that’s a thought that doesn’t encourage relaxation in any useful way.
The conversation went something like this.
Me: “Dear brain, stop thinking these fearful thoughts.”
Brain: “But you’re letting them fry me.”
Me: “Magnets do not cook things.”
Brain: “Since when have you ever reacted in a normal way to medical procedures. Remember the intravenous flaggyl that nearly killed you?”
Me: ‘Yep! Thanks for the reminder. Hitting the emergency button right now!”
And so I did. Evidently, I’m not the only one who can’t handle the various sensations brought about by an MRI, hence the issuing of an emergency button – just for sensitive (or perhaps misguided) souls like me. I will ever be grateful for that panic button; I’m fairly certain I’d have been perfectly capable of scaring myself to death had I stayed locked inside that clanging beast for another 15 minutes.
Today, my inner conversation is somewhat different.
Me: “So where in the world were you, strong, invincible, powerful spirit that lives within me? Why did you abandon me to my imaginary fate?”
The still, small voice: “Remember what peace there may be in silence.”
Me: “It was anything but quiet inside that thing. Couldn’t you hear it?”
The still, small voice: “No, I couldn’t hear it. All I could hear was the wild beating of your heart and the piercing screams of your frightened mind.”
The still, small voice: “I waited for you to quieten and to listen so that I might help and soothe you. But all is well now. Breathe deeply. Try again. And remember next time, not to drown me out.’
Me: “Okay. I will try again. With valium!”
The truth is, my spirit did not abandon me; my connection to the Great I Am was still very much in tact; but my thoughts and fears short-circuited that connection. Sigh. Back to the old drawing board for more lessons. And if the use of an anxiolytic is part of the lesson, so be it. I consider it a blessing from God that such gifts exist to facilitate the learning of a recalcitrant child like me.