Before this week if you had asked me if I was claustrophobic (defined as a fear of enclosed spaces), I would have said: “Of course not, I was on submarines!” As a matter of fact, that is exactly what I said to the technician seconds before they rolled me into this very small tube known as an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) machine.
They had me lay down and place my left shoulder in this cup-like device on the table. Then they wrapped my torso like a mummy, not tight but snug so I wouldn’t be tempted to move. They then asked me what kind of music I wanted to listen to, and for some reason I blurted out “classical” (on retrospect I should have asked for something with words so I would have something to distract me). The last thing they did was hand me this little bulb and said: “squeeze this if there is a problem”. He didn’t call it a “panic button”, but that is exactly what it was. Then the table I was laying on started moving into the tube. For some unknown reason my heart and breathing started to speed up. Within seconds of being in there I wanted to push the “panic button”. Even as I type this, I can feel a bit of that in my stomach. My first thought was how embarrassed I would feel if I pushed this button for them to come get me out. I also thought that if I couldn’t go through with it how would the Doctor know what was wrong with my shoulder.
I immediately started praying for help. I said as much of the 23rd Psalm as I could remember. I thought of my wife and children. Baseball. Everything I could think of that would take my mind off of the fact that I was in a tube only slightly larger than me with this extremely loud noise screaming at me.
And I had to be inside for 30 minutes.
For the first 10-12 minutes I felt like I was standing on the edge of a cliff with a strong breeze blowing against my back trying to force me over the edge.
…and it was completely ILLOGICAL. There was absolutely no reason for me to be afraid. It was all in my head. I knew this, but it was taking entirely too long to convince myself of this fact.
Slowly but surely I started to settle down a little. The tech came over my headphones, asked me if I was alright, and to let me know we were at the halfway point. I vaguely remember saying “I’m fine.”
As I was getting dressed afterward, I was thinking how strange it was to feel fear or anxiety when there was no danger or reason to be afraid. Right then it hit me how many people feel fear and anxiety every day without any real or logical reason to be afraid. Fear of all sorts of things:
- screwing up (aka failure)…
- what will she/he/they think of me…
- what if I’m wrong…
- what if I’m right…
- and many many others.
And when asked by someone if they are alright, the canned response is just like mine: “I’m fine.”
The Bible says “Fear not” or the equivalent a few hundred times. Here is the one spoken by Jesus in Matthew chapter 10 that seems most appropriate:
“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” Matthew 10:29-31(NIV)
I think most of us (maybe all of us) need to be reminded every single day that we have no reason to be afraid….
….because we are each loved, without condition, by our heavenly Father, and He will see to our every need.
Has anyone else experienced a fear or anxiety that you knew was completely illogical? How did you respond? How long did it take to recover?