This past weekend I had one of the most incredible experiences of my life! I tried a sensory deprivation tank, otherwise known as a float, for the first time. A float is a light free, sound resistant, isolation therapy where you are immersed in shallow water filled with such a high concentration of magnesium, or epsom salt, that your body floats effortlessly in the water. If you have heard of floats before and have a predisposition about them, whether positive or negative, I encourage you to put all that aside and hear what I have to say with fresh ears.
I had heard of floats before and they always sounded fascinating. But it wasn’t something I had really prioritized doing... at least not until my husband, James, received the experience as a gift from our business mentor. When James went for his float he had trouble relaxing immediately, but as the minutes went by he found himself having a simpler time organizing his thoughts and his body began to readjust. For reference, my husband has had 38 broken bones not including re-breaks from his years in football, so the fact that his muscles began to relax enough for his body to realign is in and of itself a huge feat. And the days following, the clarity of thought he found stuck with him. Needless to say, now I REALLY wanted to give it a try! I have read amazing things about how magnesium has been shown to have an effect similar to lithium for bipolar and my body had been so tight from aerial training that I had no doubt the float would benefit me in one way or another. It was now just about making the time. Luckily for me, I had a bit of assistance in that arena.
Last week James left for New Mexico for 4 days and he took my being alone as an opportunity to spoil and surprise me with a session at Float Lab! However, he prefaced this gift with, “Make sure you are in a good frame of mind when you go in because all you can hear are your own thoughts.” Quite frankly this scared me and made me quite nervous going into the experience. But there was a piece of me deep down that knew it was going to be helpful, so I swallowed my fear and I went.
Despite all my efforts I was definitely an anxious mess when I arrived at Float Lab. I was already a bit nervous, so I was listening to meditation music on the way there. But, of course, the LA traffic was so awful that it almost made me late. Then I had trouble finding the front door 2 minutes before my session was set to begin, and as I was walking from the parking structure I was harassed by a man on the street. Needless to say, being in a “good frame of mind” was finding itself to be more difficult than I had anticipated. But I’ll tell you what, as soon as I laid back into the dark silence and could hear the sound of my own slow, steady breath, all of my pent up anxiety, nerves, and fear went away.
As I floated there effortlessly I felt an overwhelming sense of calm rush over my body. I was completely comforted, like a child in the womb. To be 100% honest, it was the first time in a long time I felt safe and free to be everything I am with zero pressure to be anything else. There were moments where I simply laid there and listened to my breath, moments where I moved my body as though I was dancing to nonexistent music, and moments where I bopped from side to side of the tank like a small child floating in a pool. My float was what I made of it. And what I made of it was fun, childlike fancy. I was like a mermaid at rest in a vast ocean, completely at home.
Each float session is 2 hours, though many leave before the time is up. But to me that time was too short! It flew by! I honestly could have stayed in there the rest of the evening and been completely content. I left feeling rejuvenated in my mind, body and soul. My stiffness? Gone. My fear? Washed away. And my skin? Soft as a baby's bottom. But even more importantly, I was able to reconnect with my inner child and feel a sense of wonder for the world again.
Floating is something I would recommend for EVERYONE, not just for those with bipolar [Though the magnesium absorbed through the skin can have added benefits for the bipolar brain. But I digress]. If you live a high stress life, have trouble silencing the voices in your head, or just need a physical and mental reset, make some time to give it a try, ESPECIALLY if the idea of it makes you nervous. Take my personal experience as a testament. It will be what you make of it.