I’m Angela, I’m an expat in New Zealand, I run a business here, I have an active social life, I’m in a band and the majority of the time I lead a fairly ‘normal’ life. I say the majority of the time because sometimes I’m not well. A family tragedy in 2009 has meant that for the past 7 or 8 years I have been dealing with poor mental health on and off. One day around 3 years ago I was so convinced that my liver was failing I stared at a reflection of myself in the supermarket aisle mirror for 45 minutes, pulling at my eyelids and crying uncontrollably. I was utterly convinced that the whites of my eyes were turning yellow and I couldn’t stop staring, panicking and melting down mentally. Eventually, a staff member helped me out and I made it home.
The next day I saw a psychiatrist and I was diagnosed with severe anxiety, OCD (in the form of hypochondria), panic disorder and depression, yes! Just one more than a hat trick, lucky me. It was at that moment that I had to start taking my mental health seriously and exploring ways to cope. With help from a psychologist I knew I had to fill a ‘tool-box’ full of coping techniques. I also wanted to do this naturally and hold off on taking any medication if I could. Not because I’m against it, I just needed to do it my way first, to know I had control over this.
For the year following my breakdown in the supermarket I filled my tool-box. I investigated so many ways to cope. I exercised more, I took up yoga, I stop drinking alcohol altogether, I read book after book on depression and anxiety, I took supplements, I went for massages, I meditated and I started a blog – Sergeant Calm. The blog was somewhere for me to put it all, to experience it and to start a conversation with people, normalise mental health conversations and to help other people.
Everything was good, I was better, I was coping…until it all fell apart again. Around Christmas 2016 last year I felt it rumbling in my body. I started to get paranoid about different diseases and I was starting to wander the house again in the middle of the night, worrying my partner. I also stopped eating and my fatigue during the day was debilitating. I was losing it again. After 3 days with no sleep I was marched to the doctor and this time I knew, this time I had to try something different. I was more comfortable taking the medication as I had done my research and, it was a low dose. I was prescribed 10mg of Escitralopram, ploughed with instructions and sent on my way. My research told me I was in for some trouble though. Very occasionally anti-anxiety/anti-depressant medication can make you worse before you get better so, I prepared myself for a very tough 4 weeks. Tough doesn’t even begin to cut it. It was excruciating, I was a mess. I couldn’t leave the house without having a panic attack, I still wasn’t eating and I STILL wasn’t sleeping. Insomnia is so dangerous, it is so unhealthy, and without it you can become very ill indeed. My anxiety was so bad I could almost feel the adrenaline and cortisol in my veins, coursing through me, keeping me up at night. But, I also knew it was temporary and so I looked for ways to get me through.
That’s when I made my first appointment with Float Culture.
It was a Saturday morning and I had been up for most of the Friday night before and I needed a rest. Yet, in the house I was agitated and shaky. I had read about floating before, long before my first breakdown and I wondered if it would help. I rang and booked an appointment, and the lovely Ken at reception made me feel comfortable with something that was still a little alien to me. He told me I really only needed a change of clothes and that everything else was taken care of. I got there full of anticipation and still running on adrenaline, I never in a million years thought I would be able to relax. And really, on my first float I didn’t. Not because I didn’t enjoy it, mainly because the first time is a little disconcerting and I was alone, in the dark with a brain that was for want of a better word ‘broken’. I was restless and I stupidly didn’t go to the toilet beforehand and broke my 90 minutes to crawl out and back in again. However afterwards, the hot shower, and lots of water I returned home feeling a little better.
I booked my next session on the Wednesday to help me get through that week at work. I left the office early and popped along to Float Culture once again. And, this time was different. For the first time in weeks, my cortisol leveled out, my brain felt like it moved into an ‘alpha state’ and glory be, I felt rested. In the tank my thoughts drifted into outer space, I felt a million miles away from the life that was causing me so much pain and chaos – it made all the difference in the world. I felt so rested, that I cried in the car on the way home. I sobbed and sobbed, so relieved to feel almost normal again that I was overcome with joy. It was from that moment on that I fell in love with floating and added it to my toolbox for ways of coping. Even with insomnia, floating for 90 minutes would get me through the next day at work, it was tough, but without the float it would have been so much worse. Even driving down the road towards the building made me feel calm. I love the fact that you are shut off from the world for 2 hours, not one person (apart from yourself) can disturb you. As the medication kicked in I started to float just for pleasure and every time, I’ve had a different experience. I find that I can make decisions easier when I’m in the tank, I can let go completely and I can really truly get into a meditative state. I also lose perspective on time, which at first was disconcerting and now I find it fascinating. To not know how long you have been doing something is a strange and weirdly amazing sensation, and every time I really don’t want the session to end. Even when it does, the selection of gorgeous Sukin products in the shower means that even washing off the salt at the end is a delightful experience. And, wait until you try sleeping that night too. Pure bliss.
While I will always struggle with my mental health I credit floating with single-handedly getting me through the first two weeks going on medication. Due to having a float booked in every couple of days, I managed to get to work, I managed to stay grounded and I managed to maintain a routine when everything I knew was out of control. Thank you Float Culture, thank you for everything.
You can find the rest of my story at Sergeant Calm.
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