I really didn’t think it would bother me. I’ve had many medical tests. I’ve been poked, manipulated, sutured, tractioned, specimen-ed, stuck with needles—and nearly bled dry.
No sweat. I’ve even had an MRI before.
But Monday afternoon, as I drove to the imaging center for my neck MRI, old conversations with friends rumbled around my brain:
“It was just awful.”
“I felt like I was being buried alive.”
“I had to be sedated ’cause I’ve got claustrophobia.”
Of, piffle. That’s just silly. I don’t have claustrophobia. I’ve got other irrational fears, but not fear of tight spaces.
But after I donned my scrubs and positioned myself on the sliding “tray,” a bit of anxiety spread through my torso.
“The test will take about twenty minutes,” the technician informed. She handed me the panic bulb, just in case. “You okay?”
I smiled and gave her a thumbs up. “No problem.” The technician snugged the shoulder stabilizers… “so your body doesn’t move.” Doesn’t move?!
Then she placed a neck stabilizer…so my head would stay absolutely still. Lastly, the headphones because the MRI sounds are so loud they could “potentially cause hearing loss. Want some music through the headphones?”
“Sure.” My voice came out kind of shaky. “I’d love some jazz.” How nice to drown out the MRI sounds by soothing jazz, I thought.
The tray move backward into the narrow crevasse. I closed my eyes. No way was I going to stare at a ceiling only two inches from my face.
“HMMM, BZZZ,” said the monster that had swallowed me, merely warming up.
Please give me the jazz, just gimme the jazz, I pleaded silently.
The MRI machine started to make its awful noises, and I listened in vain for any soothing jazz. After about five minutes, the technician’s voice came through the headphones. “How’s that music?”
Music? What music? “Uh, could you turn it up a bit?”
“Sure thing.” A faint saxophone melody burbled intermittently, vastly overwhelmed by the MRI pounding, rattling, and buzzing.
My neck and head vibrated as if I’d been attached to giant woofers and tweeters.
My heart pounded, my breathing came in little gasps, my arms tingled and my mouth grew numb. Now, stop that, I admonished myself. Breathe slowly. In, two, three, four. Out, two, three, four. In, two three, four…
Years ago, my husband and I and our two little boys played at a state park in New Hampshire. One of the activities to try was squeezing under and around giant boulders.
Squeeze. No, don’t think about that.
Breathe, two three, four. Out, two, three, four.
“Seven more minutes,” the technician encouraged. “Make sure you remain still.”
Seven more minutes to fight the battle with unreasoning fear. You big baby. Buck up! This is a test. This is only a test. Keep your eyes closed.
Finally, the MRI finished and the nice lady resurrected me from my tomb. I almost said, “Don’t I get a sucker?”
Driving home, I marveled at the wonders of the brain. We have this primitive part that responds to stimuli and warns us to “get the bleep outta here.”
Then we have this nice, civilized part that says, “Chill out, Mate. What you see and hear isn’t necessarily the reality.”
That’s what had nearly overtaken me inside the MRI machine. Primitive, unreasoning fear spread adrenaline throughout my body. My heart beat fast, my breathing got erratic, my arms tingled.
Then my reasoning brain spoke, “You’re cool. This isn’t a big boulder in New Hampshire. It’s all under control.
But even though the rational part of my brain reigned, I still had to fight the little insurrections launched by the other brain.
It made me think of the verse in the Bible, “We live by faith and not by sight.”(2 Cor. 5:7)
In our spiritual lives, as well, we fight the battle every day: what my eyes see tell me to respond accordingly. My primitive, natural inclinations urge me to be petty, spiteful, bitter, vengeful, prideful, grudge-holding?
But, by faith, the loftier Mind of God, whispers, “listen to my words instead.”
Like the panic-inducing experience in the MRI machine, it is a constant struggle to choose to respond to God’s Word and not my primitive mind.
Thank God, like the MRI, the struggle will be over one day!