I’ve just had an MRI scan. It should have been stressful – but I’ve never been so relaxed | Adrian Chiles

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I had an MRI scan recently. There I lay, strapped in, with a roof tile laid on my chest. Would I like to listen to some music? No, ta. Then I was told it would take half an hour and I changed my mind about the music, but the bloke had gone. Silence it was. Silence, that is, apart from the weird, irregular clanking and banging noises these things make. It was a feet-first entry, which felt like being loaded into a cannon for a daredevil stunt. There was also a lot of going in and out. At first I thought this was the bloke trying to pick the right spot but it turned out this was the nature of this particular scan – something to do with veins that I barely understood. In a bit, out a bit, all the way in, a bit out, all the way out, back in a bit, and so on.

It ought to have been stressful, but it wasn’t. It was the opposite. I was soon intensely relaxed, having no choice but to submit to this whole disorientating caper. And that was the point – I had no choice, no options. My life’s too full of options, with thousands of decisions, on matters big and small, necessary every day. Now, for an increasingly wonderful half-hour, there were none. I had one job: to keep perfectly still as I was slid in and out at random depths like some absurdist representation of uncertain sexual intercourse. Had they been available at the time, these scanners would certainly have featured in Woody Allen’s film Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid To Ask).

After about 20 minutes, the number of jobs I had to do trebled, but I was equal to the tasks. “Breathe in!” demanded an automated Japanese-American woman’s voice. Then, “Breathe out!” Again, no discussion, no decisions to be made, and mindful breathing guidance all in the price. The thought occurred that if an MRI scan is the closest I get to properly chilling out, I might need to rethink my life. Other than this, it was pure bliss.

  • Adrian Chiles is a broadcaster, writer and Guardian columnist

  • This article was amended on 24 November 2022. The original photograph showed a patient undergoing a CT scan. This has been changed.

I’ve just had an MRI scan. It should have been stressful – but I’ve never been so relaxed | Adrian Chiles

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