For the first time ever, I had a situational-induced panic attack. What I mean by that is that it came about because of something I was doing. That is to say that I had a similar experience many years ago, but it was, uhm, chemically induced. I had some powerful weed and I smoked a whole lot of it in one shot. I’ve also had similar experiences due to overeating edibles with high amounts of THC. Never have I been doing something completely drug-free (not that I do drugs often) and sober, and felt this level of panic and anxiety. This truly was a first for me and it was horrible.
For some context, I was on about 3 hours of sleep. I woke up at 5 am to be at the hospital by 645am. I was already feeling weird and hazy due to the lack of sleep and the change of scenery. The morning was going fine though, and I had no indication that anything would go wrong. This is my 6th or so MRI; I’ve never had any issues with claustrophobia or small spaces. Usually, I go in, and can even doze off while listening to classical music and the loud EDM-like sounds of the MRI machine.
This time though, when she put my earplugs on, I started to become a bit nervous. Next, she gave me the headphones, then she locked my head in place with some small blocks, and finally, she put the Hannibal lector mask on top to seal the deal. I opened my eyes and looked right at this thing and it felt like it was closing in on me. She asked if I was okay and I said yes and we proceeded. She rolled me into the machine and with my eyes open I began to have trouble breathing, I was shaking, extremely dizzy, and felt like everything was closing in on me. One of my biggest fears since seeing it in a movie as a child is being buried alive, it horrifies me. Anyway, I started to freak the hell out and I asked her nicely to please pull me out. She said are you sure I’m about to start, I said pull me out of this thing I am freaking the hell out right now. So she did.
Once she got me out, I apologized over and over and explained that I had never experienced this before in my life. I told her to allow me a few minutes to gather myself and I could try again. She said we could reschedule, but after the long commute and the effort it took to get me there, I wanted to get this done. I took a few breaths and began to calm down. I told her we could try again.
This time she offered me a blindfold I told her that would probably make it worse because part of the problem was that I didn’t have my senses as sharp as I’d like. I even asked if I could keep the earplugs off but she said it was way too loud and I needed it. This time when I laid down, I closed my eyes as she did the work, and kept them closed for the remainder of the procedure. This second round, I felt much better, but I still felt waves of panic come and go.
As those moments came, I continued to breathe in and out extremely deeply. Focusing on the breath, the same way I do every day when I perform the meditative breathing that I do with Open Mat Physio. I also thought about my family’s faces and that made me smile and calm down. Of all the images I conjured up to try and find peace, Peppa, my little pom was the one that gave me the most relief.
I felt myself smiling as I saw her cute face in my mind’s eye. Peppa is my savior. I also released the emergency button because I felt that holding it in my hand was making me even more tense. I focused on touch to keep me grounded. Whenever I felt a wave of dizziness and movement, I touched around me to tell my brain that there was no movement happening and that grounded me some.
All in all, considering the level of fear and panic I felt, I’m proud of myself for finishing the process. I can’t imagine what it must be like to have to deal with this on a regular basis in life. I suffer from anxiety, but never like this. This was definitely a first. Have you ever experienced anything like this? How do you cope?
Just a life long New Yorker sharing the journey through my lens. Please take note of a post’s date. The views I express here are subject to change and evolving as I grow and learn.