Multiple Sclerosis & Cannabis: MRIs and Claustrophobia – My MRI Freak Out

I have had the “pleasure” of a number of MRIs over the years and have NEVER had a problem with claustrophobia… that is until the day that I did have a problem…and a big one at that.  Although it was just like every other MRI, same tube like machine, with a technician talking to me over a speaker, music pumped-in to make the whole experience more “pleasurable” (as if that is going to help me FORGET that I am in a tube, instructed to NOT MOVE while loud beeps and tones and a lot of shaking and vibrations take place….maybe I can pretend I am in a nightclub!?!?!)

And then….


Laying completely still for that long, the pain slowly began to increase, and although I tried everything; every meditation technique, breathing method, and thoughts of my “happy place,”  NOTHING worked. The panic set in and started to grow; became all-consuming! I tried SO hard to just suck it up, to be OK and make it through. After all, I had managed to get through all the other ones, being the “model” patient.  I didn’t want to fail; to not please the people on the other side of the glass, outside my little “bubble of magnetic forces.”

But I couldn’t do it.  I couldn’t be in there for even one more second…and so I did what I swore I would never do.  I squeezed that little “bulb” they hand you just before they say goodbye and roll you into the tube.  The “OH-SHIT” BUTTON. I had always held on to that little squishy thing, taking solace in the fact that it was there…that at any minute IF I needed help, magic would happen.  They would stop the agonizing sounds and shakes and get me out! Up until that very moment I had always prided myself in the fact that I never squeezed it – that I was strong enough to get through it, without moving, or doing anything to fuck up the scan.  

And then…

I SQUEEZED.  Over and over and over..  I squeezed that stupid little thing like I have never squeezed anything before.  (I’m tempted to make some inappropriate sexual reference here, but will refrain since I AM trying to convey just how scared I was.)  Guess what happened….NOTHING.  The sounds kept going and the machine kept shaking.  

Complete and utter terror set in!!!!

I had to get out and no one was listening!  Where the HELL were the people? All cheery and supportive when they left me in the tube; now NOWHERE to be found!

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity (but was probably more like a few seconds) the technician’s voice came through the speaker.  

I have just realized that I left out one small but IMPORTANT detail that will help you understand how, later, I could see the humor in all of this.  

The radiology technician’s name was….



I SHIT you not!!!!  I didn’t believe it either and so when the doctor introduced her, I had to ask that he repeat it…three times.  Which meant I had the doctor saying “poopie, poopie, poopie” just before my hell began.

Poopie (who was Asian, and I am pretty sure I have the spelling wrong, so my apologies) let me down.  She was supposed to be my savior. I frantically squeezed that “panic bulb” but she didn’t stop the machine and she sure as hell didn’t roll me out!  Instead, I heard

“yes, what is the problem?”

I responded with “I NEED TO GET OUT, I CAN’T DO THIS.”  She then calmly explained that there was only ten minutes left to the scan and told me to stay still.  


 I didn’t have the ability to last even one more second, let along ten minutes.  The pain that had now taken over my entire body was all I could think about. I had to move, to get out and stretch and try to make it stop!  But good ole Poopie didn’t have my back! She was determined to finish, and told me

“you lay still and we will be done soon.”

This is NOT what I wanted to hear, and I have to admit that in hindsight, I am embarrassed at what happened next, but I truly don’t think that I had control over my actions at that moment; I was SO panicked and in SO much pain, I did not have a thought for anyone or anything but me, and getting the HELL out of there.  I screamed, at the top of my lungs…



Guess what!  It worked!!!!

This was certainly not one of my finer moments, and I can assure you that the awkwardness that ensued once they did roll me out and came back into the room is not something that I would choose to ever endure again.

In my defense, the pain was real, and so was the panic.  My breathing was labored and because I had been still for so long, my legs did not work at all.  Eventually – I was able to pull myself together and allow then to put me back in the tube to complete the scan, but thoughts of what I had just done, and how incredibly scared and panicked I felt remained for a long time.  Even writing about it now and remembering, sucks. I have never felt that “out of control” of myself and my actions, and given the choice, I would NEVER want to “go” there again.


Wondering how in the world I will face the inevitable NEXT MRI?!?!?

You can bet that I will look to cannabis for help! 


**This is my personal blog and all opinions are my own.  I am not a doctor, nor do I play one here on my blog. The content here is for informational and entertainment purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of medical professionals.  Be sure to contact your doctor before trying any new medications/vitamins/supplements, physical activities or therapies **

35 Replies to “Multiple Sclerosis & Cannabis: MRIs and Claustrophobia – My MRI Freak Out”

  1. I am my own worst enemy when it comes to MRI’s and the MRI machine. I am fine until I am inside the machine, then my mind starts coming up with all these horrendous scenarios – the machine bursting into flames or exploding while I am trapped inside and there is no quick way out – I drive myself crazy. I remember when I was little seeing movies of people in Iron Lungs. The thought of living in an Iron Lung absolutely petrified me. Now I feel exactly the same way about the MRI machine.

      1. Hmm maybe I’m more cog fogged than I thought…yes flu is better…tysabri slump week now…boaton next week…moral of the story…one time I squeezed the panic button and they didn’t come…now I take Xanax when I even make the damn appt.

        1. 😉 Sedatives were never an option because I always went alone and they wouldn’t let me drive home if they gave me something – and for years that was fine – never freaked out…until the day i did:)

  2. Your story repeats itself over and over. It’s happened to many of us. I was so ashamed that I was that “weak” to give in to that obvious self imposed head trip freak out.

    Then I rationalized the embarrassing experience by saying to myself that my current state of the head/mind is not what it used to be so just deal with it and find away around the obstacle. I drove 50 miles to do an “open MRI”. No tube! See if there is one nearby you.

    In researching this I discovered that each MRI machine has their own cost structure that can also be negotiable. I did the “open MRI” for less than the tube of death!

    Combine the open MRI with some hippie lettuce to kill the anxiety and life is good for the 2 hrs I had to endure a couple of months ago.

  3. Oh I know exactly how you feel. I’ve had MRIs for years and have only had two issues (even though I’m claustrophobic). The first was when I was in the hospital right after being diagnosed. They took me down around 11 pm and gave me what was later called a “child’s dose” of Valium. They of course didn’t have any music so I got maybe 10 minutes in and had a complete meltdown. It was a mixture of bawling hysterically, shaking so badly that they couldn’t even use the images, and squeezing the hell out of the button while screaming for them to get me out of there. (Not one of my most proud moments.) The second was just a couple of weeks ago. I went to a new MRI center that was designated by my neuro but hadn’t been able to let my Valium (three of them… I know, it is bad) work because of delays at the neuro’s office. The tech got me settled on the table and I kept looking back at the mri thinking “that hole looks really small”. Now I completely get that MS has made me gain a massive amount of weight and I’m not the tiniest but I swear to you, my 5 year old niece would fill most of the hole. She started to roll me back in and it hit my shoulders. The lady just kept pushing! I don’t have fat on my shoulders! It’s just bone and it hurt! I didn’t even get all of the way in and started squeezing the bulb and loudly telling her to get me out. I believe my exact phrase was “Get me out, I’m not a Lilliputian! I’m going to get stuck and dye in this freaking tube of death!” The tech was really nice about it and openly said that it was the smallest MRI machine on the market and most people don’t fit well. Don’t feel bad about your freak out, I’m pretty sure that’s not the first time that’s been said there and probably won’t be the last.

  4. I hate MRI’s and have only been given a panic button once that I remember, my first one. I had take the ambien as instructed, got on the bed of the machine and made the mistake of looking up as they pushed me in and panic took over. She stopped pulled me out all the meds had flown from my system and I agreed to try again . Half way in my arm all on its own went up and I stopped the bed moving, said this is not going to work. Got out went down to the parking lot and burst into tears. I now take enough ambien to knock an elephant on its but and do not care on bit of anyone’s opinion. they complain and try to reschedule when I’m less stoned and my husband and daughter infrom them that I will simply return in the same condition! Suck it up! So hate MRi’s!

    1. I have NEVER opened my eyes when in the tube because I have always felt that IF I did, I would panic and freak out. Seems I can manage to do that without opening them:)

      Thanks so much for sharing!


  5. I also ”squeezed” for the first time in ten years recently and was met with almost the same reaction you experienced from Poopie. It was apparent that my technician was annoyed, as if I was an inconvenient interruption I proceeded to tell her exactly how she made me feel and I did not hold back one bit. It’s stressful enough but panic does set in as you lie there wondering if no one is there or if the bulb is not responding.I also let my neurologist and the MRI department know what had occurred. Needless to say, I made sure she was not going to be the technician at my next MRI months later. I was informed she was no longer working there as “she didn’t work out”. Imagine my surprise!!! 😏

  6. I’ve been doing MRI’s for almost 20yrs and I’m claustrophobic to start with, so I have a routine every time. I start with valium/xanax whatever the my nuero gives me plus sleep mask and ear plugs and now the only thing I have to do after my “tube time” is apologize for my snoring.

  7. My last MRI I completed it but had tears coming out the last 1/2 hour, I wasn’t in pain so I guess it was the buried alive at a construction site feeling is now getting harder to deal with,such an enjoyable time.

  8. Meg, my very first MRI before I was even diagnosed was pretty terrible and I have to say I freaked out a bit. At this point I did not even have muscle relaxers and my right arm was so stiff and painful. It was a 2+ hour one of head and spine. After being still for so long the pain in my arm felt unmanageable. Not to mention they had forgotten to put the thin little pillow on the head rest and my head felt every hole and divot in the rest. I pushed that little bulb alarm and told them I have to move. They too said just a few more minutes. I was crying in pain by the end. The technician so helpfully said as I was leaving, Um, you need to get some Lorazapam or something next time. For me I wasn’t feeling claustrophobic, I was just in so much pain. Fortunately they are much better now, and can actually fall asleep sometimes. I have one on Monday, hopefully it will go smoothly this time too. I definitely go to all the meditation tools I have.

  9. This must have been so awful for you, but it did really make me laugh. Sorry. It’s just like all of our worst nightmares! I’ve never pressed it, but I cling to that button in the safe knowledge that if I do, within a second, I’ll be out of the machine! I never thought they’d try and persuade you to stay in there! This is what I’ll be thinking about next time I’m clinging onto it. xxx

  10. I had many MRIs until one time all of a sudden I freaked out. And now I get a prescription of Valium so I can take them before I go into the tube. Much easier when I’m buzzed.

    1. :). Hey Megan! I was never “allowed” sedatives because they wouldn’t let me drive home and I never had anyone there with me- BUT I DID put a hefty dose of gin & tonic on my coffee mug a few times – and that led to blissful sleep – and since my procedures always include head and spine and contrast I am sure to be in there for at least 2 hours- at which point I would be fine to drive. Nothing like self medicating:). I DID tell my dr and the technicians. They all found it “entertaining”:)

      Xoxo –

  11. Back in ’94, I had my first experience with the tube. I was scared, young, and, had no idea what was coming When I was pulled out for contrast, I said listen, if I’m going to be in here much longer, you’re going to have to let me get up and stretch a minute. The response: that’s not our policy. It took 3 people to get my off that table and walk me to where I could change. I do really well with them now, but, if I ever did have a Poopie technician again and panicked, she’d be in a for a rude awakening! Your episode would make you like a choir girl compared to mine! 😉

      1. It’s not just lab technicians trying do the “sales upgrade” approach. This is rampant throughout the medical community. They are so focused on what they know, they really can’t understand the needs and experiences of others. Many times language ends up with as much understanding and usefulness as returning an item and getting your money back. The person hearing you just has no idea of the concept.

        Meanwhile you have the added layer of your particular MS symptoms to labor through to “re-educate” these professionals, whose only focus is getting their tasks done. Their mindset doesn’t want to know what you need to say.

  12. Dang! That is NOT the way it’s supposed to work! I hope you reported chicky to who ever signs her checks! I don’t think I’d be getting back in “the tube” with out clarifying the meaning of the panic button!

  13. Megan, I know your story quite well! Actually you sound as if I was writing your story. I’m supposed to have an MRI Monday evening at 8 p.m. and they told me it would be 2 hours it’s of the brain and the spine. Now I’m freaking out thank you! I think I have the ability to break them up into appointments. I’m going to call on Monday and see if I can do that. There’s no way with my chronic head pain I will be able to stay still for 2 hours. God bless you for being strong and getting through it.

  14. My last MRI was a nightmare too, LOL. Unbeknownst to me they had changed the dye. Forty five minutes in they pull me out, shoot me up with contrast and shove me back in. My face started to burn. My lips swelled. And I am frantically pushing the button. They wheeled me to ER. Put an IV drug reversal. I slept for 10 minutes and said “Lets finish this.” And I did. Like a boss 🙂 I am very fond of Nick my technician. I know he wont forget me.

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