Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Give me an M, Give me an R, Give me an I - M-R-I

I'm cheering because it's over. I spent a week with my stomach in turmoil anticipating going to get an MRI on my neck - to see what has been causing pain over the years. I had previously had an X-Ray, at least I think that's what it was, and found that I could be claustrophobic when a large box camera is over my head, for a fairly long time, about 3" from my nose. I had never suffered from claustrophobia before then. But something about the feeling of a kind of wall almost pressing against me, while I was not able to escape it, caused feelings of panic and shortness of breath. I manged to get through it, but just barely. Therefore I was afraid that I would not be able to complete the MRI and I really did want to find out what was bothering my neck. I couldn't help thinking of those mysteries in film and print where somebody is accidentally trapped in a coffin-like box and buried alive, to be rescued at the last moment. The horror of that idea struck me. I'm not sure I could ever write that into a story - my poor protagonist might go insane, or maybe I would.

What I did to get through the MRI was to go to-----the Internet! Of course, there were people writing about it. Needless to say, there were horror stories of people who would never do it again. But there were also good tips from people who became proactive and got through it. So when I arrived at the doctor's office, I informed the attendant that I suffered from claustrophobia to some extent and he gave me a blindfold, one of the Internet tips. I must note that the MRI machine was one of those open on all sides and it didn't actually look all that bad. But I took no chances and placed the blindfold over my eyes and didn't even peek to see how close the machine was to me. The only thing then was to get through the loud noises produced by the MRI. That I could handle. Also, I realized that focusing my mind on something else helped a lot. I didn't let myself even think about being trapped and breathed evenly.

This may all seem silly to some people, but phobias are real to the people they affect. This particular one is dealt with by feeling in control. And trying to compose the next chapter of your book.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A Titanic achievement

The sinking of the Titanic occurred a hundred  years ago. For some reason, there seems to be renewed interest in this ship. I suppose a lot of this is due to the recent movie. However, stories about the sinking have been ongoing over the years since the tragedy. The story has all the elements of drama, famous passengers, the huge iceberg and the doomed maiden voyage. My grandfather worked on the Titanic, my mother thought. She was a small girl then and lived near the shipyards. My grandfather was an engine mechanic for Harland and Wolff and other family members were fitters or had other trades.  In fact, I myself was born on Queen Victoria street, not far from the yard and I remember many times passing it on the bus going into downtown Belfast when we moved into a more suburban location. Huge flocks of starlings flew overhead in the evening to roost on the gantrys.  My father worked as a foreman in the Belfast Ropeworks which was near Harland and Wolff. They, of course, made ropes and cables for shipping. My mother's older sisters, going to America, told of seeing bodies in the water as their ship crossed shortly after Titanic's sinking. It is only now though, that I realize how terrible the loss of this ship was to the ship building community in Belfast. It was hardly mentioned there and this was the way it was dealt with. No doubt they felt that somehow they had failed and the loss of life was unimaginable.. Also there was some mention of divine retribution for the boast that the ship was "unsinkable." 
Now I understand that the area where Titanic was built is a tourist spot and there is a museum. At least something positive has come out of the tragedy in the sense that it is bringing people there and what they are concentrating on is what an achievement it was for the everyday workers and craftsmen.  For, after all, it wasn't the fault of the workers that the ship sank. If it hadn't, it could have been one of the wonders of the world, the pride of Harland and Wolff. This was not to be.  The sister ships of the Titanic, the Olympic and the Britannic experienced disasters also. Were they unlucky ships? Sailors in the old days were very superstitious and definitely worried about this kind of thing. Who can say now why these three ships had such a tragic history - when they were supposed to be the very opposite?