Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Deep, Full and Reverberating

I grew up dancing and the last two years of high school was in color and winter guard. So much of dance is stretching. In color/winter guard we had an exercise at the end of our warm-up routine where we would lay on our back, flex most muscles by stretching our arms and legs away from our body and then relax and simply lay there in a relaxed state.

In biofeedback, I learned how to focus on a set of muscles and relax them. You'd be surprised how much you are tensing yourself up until an electrode taped to that muscle is giving a tone that says "you're too tense" and it won't shut up unless you relax yourself enough to bring it below a certain threshold.

I had an MRA today. It is like an MRI, but looks at the blood vessels in the brain rather than the brain itself. If you've never had the pleasant experience of an MRI or MRA as I have...too many to count actually, you are missing out, my friend. In the background is a whirling machine going round and round. You lay on a moving table (like a moving sidewalk, but better!) that draws you into this huge machine. When on, it makes noises that are so loud your whole body vibrates. I could feel what part of my head or neck was being imaged by how much that part of me was resonating. They don't call it magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or angiogram (MRA) for nothing. Per the online dictionary, resonance means "The quality in a sound of being deep, full, and reverberating" which may not be the definition when technically describing an MRI. But in an experiential definition, it fits quite nicely.

The insanely loud vibration flowing through my body felt like when you hit a very low note on the piano very hard over and over again. And I happened to be the piano key that was being hit. I was trying to imagine I was getting a deep tissue massage, just with a really angry therapist. As the resonance changed, the frequency and way it sounded also changed. At one point, it sounded like a tractor continually being started inside my head. And yes, it is so loud, you wonder why they bothered to give you ear plugs and put headphones with music. Haven't they ever heard of bone conduction!? It is laughable that you might hear even a moment of the calming music.

Unfortunately I have a Migraine today that did not respond to any abortive or rescue medication I threw at it. No, not a headache where you say "it hurts...ouch." I mean a Migraine: complete nervous system dysfunction, empty energy reserves, nausea that feels it might bubble up to vomit at any moment, the weight of a mountain crushing me, oh yeah and headache pain too.  I didn't have a choice to postpone this thing as my second neurologist (yes I have two) is looking for a possible TIA or aneurysm given my current symptoms. 

I took some valium so that I would at least be calm during the torture otherwise known as MRA, but it didn't kick in until two thirds of the way through. So what do you do when your body is revolting and you're being assaulted by resonance? You tense up and panic a bit. At least I did.  And then I remembered those stretches we did in dance and color guard. Though I couldn't really move, I thought of each muscle in my body and paid attention to it. What was that muscle saying to me? Though the assault didn't change, I did and was able to handle it a bit better. 

When the MRA stopped and I was waiting for the tech to come out from behind her window and detach the elongated ecru football mask that was keeping me to the table, in my earphones, the "Mission Impossible" theme song was playing. I didn't think that was very funny. We're going to find some answers. I believe it...mostly.


  1. Man, I feel for you with the MRI/MRA thing...they're not fun, especially for us migraineurs that are sensitive to movement and sound! There's nothing as scary as experiencing vertigo while strapped into a claustrophobic box that's roaring loudly and shaking. Ick. Last time I got one, they forgot to do the IV first, so I got the non-contrast scan, then they couldn't move me until the IV was in for the contrast scan. It took TWO HOURS for someone to find a vein, then call another doctor to try. So I spent that whole time unable to move, strapped in, feeling the various pokes. So not fun! I have to get a follow up MRI sometime this next week, so this time I'll be sure to get that IV first! I'll try the muscle relaxing focusing, too, I bet that would help, so thanks for the tip.

    I hope you'll get some results and that these tests will show something. I know it's incredibly frustrating to never get an answer as to what's causing everything.

  2. Laci, I was browsing old comments that I had neglected to reply to and found one from May that you had written. I was literally looking at your blog and your professional website just before you posted this comment! That is so eerie!

    Thanks for your comment by the way. Your MRI experience with them trying to find a vein sounds horrid! Yuck! My worst experience was when I was hospitalized and they had given me phenergan IV (which my body hates) and I was extremely agitated the whole time. Agitation plus MRI equals a very unpleasant experience. I hope that this upcoming MRI goes *very* smoothly for you.

    I also focused on deep breathing. Going in, I thought I'd distract myself by thinking of my favorite story line. Nope. The MRI was just too much, so instead I decided to write the blog post in my head, kind of doing the "investigative report" thing. That was distracting.

    I have a friend that falls asleep every time he has an MRI. I am so jealous of that and wonder how in the world he does it!

    You'll have to let me know how your MRI goes. And as an aside, I love your work. My brother and sister in law are both artists! My brother works as an environmental artist in the gaming industry and my sister in law is finishing up her schooling in animation.

  3. That's very cool that you were looking at my site as I commented, isn't it crazy how the universe works sometimes? Yeah, I've been very blessed to be able to work in a field that allows me to work from home; when I can't depend on always feeling great, it's nice to know that I don't have to go commute into an office or anything. I love what I do!

    Wow, falling asleep in an MRI...I'm jealous, too! How in the world can anyone tune out that thumping? shudder....