It was the noise that got to me.
The buzzing, the rat-a-tat. The alarm pitch that made me think that something was wrong.
I could deal with the confined space: the ceiling of the chamber wasn't as close to me as I feared it was. I could exhale powerfully without having my breath come back at me. It was lit, and warm. And I could close my eyes and imagine that I was in an open space.
I don't like confined spaces. I don't like being packed in a large crowd. I become stressed, agitated. My heart rate climbs and I have a desire to flee.
I've panicked at concerts, moved to the back of the pack, sought higher ground.
My worst case of claustrophobia hit when I was trapped in an elevator. The compartment was between the two floors and I couldn't open the doors above or below. My friend, who was also claustrophobic, boosted me so that I could try to open the escape port on the ceiling. It was locked.
All the while, people came and went, but when they heard our nervous voices, would often stupidly ask, "Are you stuck?"
"Not at all," came my snappy comeback, "we're just taking the fucking scenic route!"
It took three hours for the elevator maintenance person to come and free us. He had been on another call and then couldn't find the right elevator. My friend and I exited our prison, visibly shaking, and headed straight to a bar, drank until our nerves were calmed.
Yesterday, I had an MRI scan of a mass that has recently been discovered on my liver. When it was originally found, it was about one centimetre in diameter. The MRI will see if it's changed in size, and, hopefully, identify what the hell it is.
I'm not panicking, yet.
I was warned that the scan could take up to an hour and that I would be in a tube-like chamber, head-first. Knowing of my claustrophobia, my doctor recommended that I take some type of sedative, to help me relax. She would write me a prescription, if I so chose.
I declined. While I don't like tight spaces, I knew that there was a purpose to being in the machine and knew there would be a set end. I would close my eyes, focus on my breathing, and go to my happy place, if need be.
I was hooked up to a line that injected a colourant into my system. In my left hand, a button that I could squeeze if the stress became to great, and the procedure would end, the machine would glide me out into the open room.
A headset spoke to me in a gentle, but slightly muffled, female voice. It would tell me when to inhale and hold my breath, and when to exhale and relax. Once, through the procedure, one of the technicians came through, in an even-more muffled voice, to tell me that I was doing great, that I had only about 10 minutes or so left in the procedure.
In my head, I wasn't doing great. I was stressed. But my anxiety didn't come from the close quarters, didn't come from my claustrophobia. Not alone, anyway.
It was the varying tones of further-varying duration. It was the rapid clack-clack-clack, like machine-gun fire. It was the alarm drones, the lamenting sirens. It was the accompanying vibrations. It was the noise that bled through the headset, echoed in the chamber, that set my teeth grinding, made my jaw clench.
I concentrated on my breathing. I went to my happy place. I thought about the people I love. I thought about sex. I felt a slight burning sensation, as the injected chemicals coursed through my arm, and I clung to that sensation, to numb the sensation in my ears.
It took a little more than 30 minutes, when I heard the technicians' feet and felt the tray, on which I lay, gently slide out of the chamber. I was told that they were able to get some great images, that they would send the results to my doctor in about a week.
I'm glad they got the images they wanted. I'm not going back into one of those devices. It wasn't as bad as that elevator, but I still left the hospital wanting a drink.
My colonoscopy's tomorrow. That drink will have to wait.