I’m sort of proud of myself this morning.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I have an extremely sore and stiff right shoulder. This began about two years ago, and even now nobody has a freakin’ clue what’s wrong with me. So far many diagnoses have been made, but each has been eliminated due to medical tests. This morning one more test was setup – an MRI.

I’ve had an MRI before on my neck and spinal column. That one was a simple procedure – a sort of doughnut shaped machine that scanned down my body. Easy stuff, no stress whatsoever. This morning however, I was startled to find that they were putting me into the full MRI device – a coffin-like enclosure.

I’m claustrophobic. Kind of stems from when I was a young child and was temporarily locked in an unused freezer by one of the foster children at my Grandparents. Most likely was for only 20-30 seconds but it felt like forever. Since then I’ve never been too keen on any enclosed space that I can’t envision an easy escape. I remember being drawn to hysterics on one of those orange plastic tube slides at the age of six because the bigger kids would go halfway down and then block the tunnel, so that all the other kids were trapped inside. Trauma at its finest.

Even more recently, when I was in the dark comedy “A Good Man”, there was a part when my character had to get into a casket, the lid would be closed and then I would be wheeled out. I had to demand that they had to get me offstage and then open the lid within 14 seconds or I would be kicking my way out. Suffering for one’s art, indeed.

For those of you who suffer from the same phobia, I know you’ll all understand where I’m coming from here. For those of you who don’t, suffice to say that the panic and shortness of breath we suffer is almost impossible to control.

That’s why I’m so proud…I did it today.

After the usual Q&A about whether I have any metal plates in my body, etc; the technician got my up on the table and strapped me in. He then placed my right arm in one spot, gave me a sandbag to keep it in place, and then handed me the panic button and a pair of headphones to block out some of the noises the machine creates. Then he said quickly that it was going to be a tight squeeze on my left side because they needed to place my right shoulder at center mark and then pressed the button to slide me into the machine.

Within 3 seconds I wanted desperately to hit that panic button. A surge of panic welled up. No clearance at all on my left side, less than 3 inches clearance above me. This was a tomb. My finger slid onto the button, but then my rational brain asserted itself. ‘I’ve been trained in relaxation…I’ve been trained in deep breathing. Use these skills….relax! You’ll get through this’. So, I closed my eyes, shut out everything I could, and focused on keeping myself calm.

Amazingly, it was easier than it sounds to do. I focused on different muscles on my body, I thought about stuff I was going to blog that day (including this post), I thought about dialogue for my show. By twenty minutes into the exercise I was so calm that I was able to open my eyes and glance around (without moving my body of course). ‘This wasn’t so bad. I wouldn’t do it eveyday for fun or anything, but I can handle this if need be.’

At thirty minutes it was all over. I had defeated a mental conditioning. The tech let me out and informed me my results would be ready in a week. Now, I hope they find something…anything that would give an answer, but the reality is – at this moment I don’t care either way. I faced something today that was just as big if not bigger than a sore shoulder and I won. The visit was well worth it no matter what.