It’s such a strange thing to be shut into a room with the lights off, no sound, no smell, no taste, no light and very little to even touch. Your body suspended in zero gravity due to a bath of water so concentrated even the toughest ocean swimmer wouldn’t want it in their eyes. Luckily at Float Culture, it’s not for swimming in, it is meant to take a literal weight off your shoulders, off your whole body bring about change that even the deepest meditation can’t do.
Imagine taking it one step further? Imagine having a whole programme where you learn to become an ‘expert floater’, where you learn to use the time you have in the tank to be creative, to be free and to have the time to visualize your best life?
You can, and I’ve done it with Float Culture’s REST programme.
5 weeks, 10 floats twice a week and plenty of learning in-between. I jumped at the chance to take part in this programme as I knew just how much floats help me with my severe anxiety. I do them once every so often when I’m really sick, usually in the middle of a really hideous panic attack, because the tank means that I can be ‘unplugged’ and I can allow my body to slowly dissipate the cortisol and adrenaline levels that leave me completely drained, dejected and cut off from the outside world. So I jumped in, ready, open-minded and willing.
It’s probably worth mentioning that the first few months of this year for me were really tough. I found myself going back to old habits I thought I had conquered. Not even because I missed them but I was again self-medicating, and by February I was back to square one. With a low level of anxiety every day, all day and the occasional unbearable panic attacks in-between. This couldn’t have come at a better time.
For the REST programme, you are given a journal, to track your thoughts before and after the floats. You can write as much or as little as you like and you’ll have guide cards to help you focus and articulate what it is you want to achieve before you get in the tank and then you’ll have questions to ask yourself once you are finished the float. So, what happened to me?
“10 years of constant anxiety, and I still have a lot of work to do.”
My first float and it was time for a self-assessment. I sat in Float Culture’s waiting room and I scrawled and scrawled letting all of where I was catch up with me and I poured it out onto the paper. On reflection, my physical health and my relationships were good but, I could see I had some serious work to do on my mental health. I couldn’t help but write about my father’s suicide, my old partying habits, my inability to relax and my constant quest for mental peace. I knew then that I had my work cut out for me, but I was willing to give it everything.
“I can see my best self, she’s real in the tank but how do I get her out here, in the real world?”
I was excited, but I was also fed up. Fed up with living the life I was. A life that seemed so difficult to enjoy. Imagine waking up in the morning, every morning and having a fear in your body about the rest of the day that feels like the world is going to end. Endless nerves about going to work, fear of getting things wrong and fear of getting fired. Imagine this but really, really wanting to enjoy life, wanting to enjoy your job and wondering why everyone else has it so easy? I realise that’s only a perception but the tank allows you the time to realise that what was going was only thoughts, only what I think is true.
So, I wrote about what I really wanted and I went into that tank and visualized, hard. I had the space to do it, no interruptions and no-one pushing me around. By the end of float two, I had a clear picture of what I needed to do differently and how I could achieve it.
“I feel others pain acutely”
What’s wrong with me? What’s right with me? This wasn’t a bad thing to look at. Float Culture has an amazing set of cards for this one and you are encouraged to rate where you sit on several different scales and it’s interesting to assess your own results.
One of the great things about this particular exercise is the fact that the cards teach you what’s going on in the brain and why. For me, it has always been about knowledge. The more I know about the brain and mental health, the easier it is for me to find the right formula to get well. This was probably my favourite exercise of the whole programme, with a lot of lightbulb moments as I scribbled my notes in a post-floatation bliss.
“I feel like I’m making progress, but it’s not linear”
I remember this week. I was on the edge, I was being pushed around again and I had slipped right back into letting people do it to me. I was frustrated and quite honestly on float four, I had given up ever being able to have the life that I really wanted. I was broken-hearted at the thought of having to accept just how difficult my mental health was making my day-to-day life. I wondered then if floating, yoga, medication, and therapy – all of it was in vain. But, just as I got to that point Float Culture checked in with me, and I’m always so grateful to hear from them. They are a great bunch of people who really care about floating and the people who do it. We talked at great length and I realised that maybe at this point, it was normal. I was spending so much time in a very internal space that I had to open up and trust the process. Stop, breathe and start again.
“I know what it is like to lose someone.”
Compassion. For others, and myself…I spend so much time worrying about other people’s pain that it causes me my own pain. I couldn’t stop myself thinking about when a client might be angry at work that they were obsessing about it just as much as I do. I had the realisation at this point that my worrying was wasting energy. I was panicking throughout the float, dropping off almost into a sleep and then a shot of adrenaline would jolt me awake again. It showed me that even when doing nothing, I had to be busy, busy, busy. The only way to do this was to obsess. Recognising this meant that by float 5 I was able to have some compassion for my obsessive thoughts and defaults. I knew it was time to change on the outside of my safe space. I vowed to leave the tank and keep my phone off for another 2 hours. Kindness to yourself comes in many forms and being unreachable in this instance was exactly what I needed.
“Today hasn’t been a good day but I’m grateful to not feel alone”
Gratitude. At this point I was getting somewhere, I just didn’t know where. So I kept getting in the tanks and doing the hard part…doing the work. Change doesn’t just happen, you have to WORK at it. So, I grabbed my cards and shut myself in.
“I never want this to end”
This was how I started Float 7, this is where the walls broke down and the exercises started to make sense. This is the moment where everything fell into place and I knew why I was doing the programme and the moment when I knew it was working. I was supposed to be writing about what I could contribute to the world but looking back at my journal now, I spent a lot of time gushing about Float Culture and expressing my gratitude to them. And, it’s well deserved. This programme has so much to it yet, a lot of the changes that happen to you are so subtle that when you realise it, you feel clean – baptized even. I got out of that float and I knew I could do it. I knew that I could get my confidence back and I knew I wasn’t worthless.
I knew what I needed to keep and what I needed to throw away.
“I’m resourceful, I’m intelligent, knowledgeable, brave, different and even…confident.”
What would happen if I lost my job? What would happen if I made a mess of things? What would happen if I let my anxiety rule me? So many questions and so many answers I had never seen before. I would get a new job, I would get help, I don’t have to let anxiety stop me. By this time I knew, it was chemical.
This float, made me see that I’m free, that I can survive, that no matter what, I’m am always safe.
By this point, even I could tell that I was an expert floater, I was given free reign and I spent an hour reflecting back on the journey through the last 5 weeks. I revisited what I had set myself way in the beginning – to live a life that revolved around how good my morning routine was. I had felt that if I could deal with how hard mornings are, the days would flow easier. I got a buzz in thinking about how much had changed: I eat breakfast, I make my bed, I have enough time to listen to the headlines, I have music playing and I’m in the house long enough to sit in front of my heater before I leave. All small things, but they add up to something much larger. I was also encouraged to think about a friend I hadn’t spoken to in a long time and I imagined myself telling my best friend in Ireland just how much she meant to me. The whole thing, the 5 weeks, and the freedom to explore left me smiling from ear to ear when I left.
Revisiting my journal I realised this last float was all about me, what I needed, what I felt was right and there’s really only one last thing to say:
“Thank you Float Culture, for bringing me back to life”
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