Every now and then, an opportunity arises that lets you know just what you’re made of.  What you’re capable of.  It’s nice when you can come out of those situations on top, with confidence and a little sass in your step.  It’s not so fun to find out you are not, as you previously believed, impervious to fear.  You are not made of steel.  Shit.

I just happened to have a few of those opportunities lately, and, for the most part, I am pleased with my abilities.  I’ve done a few things I’ve never done before, and of those things I can be proud.  I’ve also attempted something I’ve never done before and wasn’t quite able to go through with it.  Let me explain.

Just for fun (and the cash), I recently signed up for a little psychological study at Vanderbilt.  They do this sort of stuff all the time:  they pay participants for various tests and studies for various projects.  The particular study I joined was to test the ability of a person with OCD to concentrate and focus.  Part of the study was doing various questionnaires;  the main part was to do a series of tests while in an MRI machine.  So they could take photos of my brain.

Yikes.  While I’d like to see what my brain scan looks like, I’m not in any hurry to crawl into an MRI machine and stay there for 2 hours.  I do have mild claustrophobia, and really am not a fan of tight, enclosed spaces.  So why did I sign up for this?  To test myself.  To see just how strong I was;  to see how bad my claustrophobia actually is.

And really, I didn’t think it’d be all that bad.  I asked someone who’d had an MRI before, and he told me that I’d have space above my head and an outward view.  So really, it didn’t sound all that bad.

I met the research people at the appointed time, and went through all the tests and questions.  So far, so good.  We walked down 21st Ave.  in the middle of the day, in the 95+ degree heat, to the imaging center.  We met with the MRI folks who had me take off all jewelry, my hair-band and belly ring.  They propped me up on the sliding bed-like contraption and began putting all sorts of things on me.

ON ME.  A  hockey-like mask, a large set of headphones, earplugs, an emergency squeeze thing, and what looked like an 80’s era mobile phone.  The mask smelled as if the previous occupant had day-old breath;  it was also heavy and not quite see through.  Once they placed all these things on my head, I began moving backwards into the MRI tunnel.

STOP!  This was me, yelling, as soon as my head was completely in the tunnel.  It felt like suffocation.  We tried again a couple of times, but it was pretty clear that I was not going to be able to stand being inside the machine for nearly 2 hours.  I couldn’t even get halfway in the damn thing.

I am not disappointed in myself for that;  I wish I could have finished the task and the tests but I’m not upset that I didn’t.  I know I have some limitations.  I also know I have to test and push those limits.

One point I’d like to make to researchers:  maybe don’t put folks with anxiety issues and claustrophobia into loud, tight spaces?  Just a thought.

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