I think I was in 7th grade when the movie Altered States came out. I’m pretty sure I never saw it, but I recall the previews and I was intrigued and really wanted to try it. But in 1980, float tanks were way more scarce.
Why was I intrigued though? William Hurt changes into some beast in the movie, but I knew that was very unlikely to happen to me. I think some part of my brain knew that it would be very, very good for me.
Flash forward almost 40 years to my overhearing a co-worker telling me he had just floated. I flooded him with questions and quickly had my first float booked.
It was winter in Texas and I think that prompted a little higher humidity in the tank. Plus winter means Cedar (aka Juniper) allergy season and I was a little congested. As I eagerly laid down, I had a strong smothering trigger. This stems from a childhood trauma (mentioned briefly in My Story Spine post). I quickly sat up (there’s lot’s of room in there). I took some calming breathes, cleared out my nose and slowly went back down.
For the most part, the float seemed fine. However, if I touched my side or my legs, I could feel this electricity (I’ve sometimes likened this feeling to a spider-sense). When I got out and tried to converse with the hostess, I could barely string a sentence together. Later I would think I might have been in some state of shock.
The float did not turn me into a monster like Altered States, but I think it was the beginning of the end of the PTSD monster I had carried for 40+ years. Now that monster both protected me and made me miserable. I think it helped contribute to my resilience.
Gradually that “electric” feeling I would get from my own touch would fade with each float until finally it’s just me. That anxious bundle of nerves was finally gone. The electric feeling did also remind me of my first full body massage about 20 years earlier. My whole body was literally buzzing/vibrating for almost an hour after. This set me up for some disappointment as it never happened again. I think in both cases, there was a deep release of tension in the nerves – tension on overdrive because of the PTSD.
Now when I float, it’s mostly an escape and a meditation and also a place I can reassure my previous incarnations that they helped get us where we are now and helped us release that PTSD monster. And EMDR and laughter therapy both came along the next year and helped stomp out any remaining embers of the monster.