Today I had an MRI for my back. I have always have back problems and am used to walking around in a minor bit of pain. About two weeks ago, things changed. The pain increased to the point of distraction. I have leg numbness or shooting pains down my right leg while I drive. After a lot of walking, my toes go numb. So, it was MRI time. I’m hoping it’s just a pinched nerve that can be fixed with physical therapy/massage instead of something that need surgery.
The place itself was nice. However, the MRI machine, not so much. I never realized I would be claustrophobia in tight, confined spaces. They started to put me in and my Lizard Brain when “Whoa, WTF?!” When I expressed discomfort, they gave me something to cover my eyes. I have a great imagination. What could go wrong?
I am a large woman. The MRI machine is a small tube. As they put me in, I was okay until we got to my elbows. As soon as my elbows were squished against me and it was clear I was helpless to get myself out of the machine, the Lizard Brain turned on again and what it said was “No.” Over and over like a mantra. I went from rational thinking brain to get-me-the-heck-out-of-this-thing-must-escape Lizard Brain.
The technician, for her credit believed me as soon as the first “No.” erupted from my mouth. I didn’t even know I was speaking until the tray was in reverse. Really, all higher function got shunted asside in that terror I didn’t know I’d feel until I was out of the tube. I apologized and admitted I wasn’t sure if I could do it.
The tech told me not to worry. We’d just put me in feet first. That would leave my head mostly out of the machine. In the end, it was my head, shoulders, and arms out of the tube. I was much more comfortable. The MRI started. It was 7 periods of 1-3.5 minutes long when they would take pictures and need me to keep still. While this happened, my Writer Brain and Lizard Brain had an argument.
Writer Brain: Wow. I didn’t know you were claustrophobic.
Lizard Brain: I’m not. I’m just afraid of being trapped and helpless and feeling like I’m being buried alive. As soon as my elbows got pinned to my sides, I realized how much danger I was in.
Writer Brain: Wuss. But what a feeling. Now you know what real terror feels like.
Lizard Brain: Fuck you.
Writer Brain: No, seriously. It’s harmless. There’s nothing to actually hurt you in the tube. No moving parts. I can so use these sensations in writing horror. There’s lots of things I can extrapolate out of this.
Lizard Brain: Goodie for you.
Writer Brain: We should ask, after the test is done, to go back in, head first. You know, to really get a sense of that confinement and fear.
Lizard Brain: Fuck you and the pen you rode in on. I’m not going back in there for nothing.
Writer Brain: But…
Lizard Brain: I will kill you while you sleep. You’re already going to have nightmares about this new terror you didn’t know existed. So, just stop. Seriously. No.
This whole argument happened while I was listening to gorgeous classical music. In retrospect, I realized I was so much more comfortable in the second position because my arms were out of the tube, I could see light, and if needed, I could pull myself out of the tube. Head first, I wouldn’t have been able to do ANYTHING if something went wrong. It’s a control freak thing.
And I don’t even get into the noisiness of the machine.
However, Writer Brain is correct. I really can use this new, unexpected terror in my writing. The sudden discovery of being afraid of something intellectually I know I shouldn’t be afraid of. The sensation of being buried alive. The sensation of my arms pressed to my sides with no way to move or control my body. It is great writing fodder.
But dammed if I’ll willing go back into the MRI tube head first. I’ll think about it real hard if I need to have another MRI for my back. And only if I can go in feet first.