Recently I needed an MRI. I’d suspected I could be claustrophobic, however it’s never been tested; until the MRI…..

A nurse greets me.

Do I want an eye mask?

No, I’ll just close my eyes.

I’m on a table with earplugs and earmuffs. I’m given an oblong ball to push, if I want to stop. Close my eyes. Deep breath. I’m ready.

The table moves into the machine. I feel it close around me. I have an immediate reaction and open my eyes.

“Are you okay?” she asks.

“Yep - but can you get me out?” I say with a surprising tremble. I’d started sweating. My heart was racing. I was panting through my nose, while pushing the end of the ball frantically.

She brings me out. I sit straight up. She sighs with empathy, reassuring me, normalising my reaction as one she understands. She says there’s little she can say that will make me feel differently. She suggests making another appointment where I’m sedated.

I ask how long the MRI (the tunnel of doom and terror) takes. Answer – 20 minutes.  

She suggests going in as far as I need to and straight back out to see how I feel. I agree. She also explains that the “out ball” is meant to be squeezed. I go in and out without incident.

Let’s do it; I can suck it up for 20 minutes.

I go through relaxation techniques I talk to clients about…visualisations…slow deep breaths. Mostly I reason with myself…it’s only 20 minutes, you have the out ball.

My lower arms are outside. Unexpectedly the table moves further in. I jump. My hands go up in panic. The nurse pats my hands, calming me down; saying she won’t move me anymore. I’m almost shuddering, my jaw is closed but trembling. A few involuntary whimpers escape.

I settle myself and refocus…”You’re okay….nothing is going to happen…relax.”

The machine does its thing. The nurse’s voice comes through a mike…”You’re doing really well. That’s the first one done. The second is about to start.”

“Just don’t move me!” I yell back twice.

Now and then the table feels like it’s moving. I feel I’m okay where I am, but terrified of moving further into the machine. I put the back of my hands on the outside of the machine to monitor this. Meanwhile reassuring myself if the table moves at all again, I’ll squeeze the out ball.   

I can’t swear on my life that the table moved, however, I’d reached the limit of what I could take; I was squeezing that ball in such rapid succession I should’ve been impressed.   

I was out….and a whole range of emotions followed. The experience affected me for days.

The MRI experience demonstrates being flooded with emotions. From that first emotional reaction I was no longer thinking clearly.

In my role as a Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner, I work with separated parents, who are sorting out the desolation of their relationship and time with children. This is emotional stuff without anything else. No wonder there are times that emotions are triggered or overwhelming. They’re human.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have an out ball? Something that identifies the parent wants out of this conversation, without any negative consequences.  

Parents (or anyone in a relationship) can agree to a word, which, when said, identifies they need to exit the conversation. Communication becomes problematic if either person is emotional or not prepared for the conversation. Importantly the ‘out ball’ word is activated PRIOR to emotions getting heightened and discussions can be attempted at another time.

Both need to know and agree with the “rules” for the out ball word. They don’t want to be pushing it instead of squeezing. J  


-- Carolyn is a Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner @ Relationships Australia Qld

** If you could like help with making arrangements and agreements following separation, please call us on 1300 364 277 to discuss your options.


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