A Float Delayed

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.


The Guacamole Creed

A year ago over Labor day weekend, I had the opportunity to float three days in a row. Note, this isn’t floating down the Comal river in an inner tube. This is what’s known as REST (Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy) – aka Sensory deprivation tank floating.

I had been floating ~4-5 times a month for about 7 months for PTSD anxiety from a childhood trauma. That anxiety had been greatly reduced (thanks unlimited float membership). On that Labor day weekend though, I wasn’t prepared for what was going to happen.

Day 1:

First time in the new fancy technology tank I had been waiting a few months to try (Yay). Once in the tank, that technology happened to fail (Boo), but I resisted getting angry (but there was a bubble of annoyance in my head trying to erupt). Since I was only in for an hour, I made the best of it by closing my eyes and floating.

Day 2:

I was back in an older model tank where the staff had to turn off the cleaning cycle manually. As I laid my head back and felt the cleaning jets still on, I laughed at the two float failures I had in 2 consecutive days (BooYay?). I again decided to just float. However, the water jet stimulation on my head seemed to really help me solve several long term problems (I later specially requested to have the cleaning mode left on many months later and, while good, it didn’t have the punch that the surprise failure had).

Day 3:

Old tank again, but more normal float experience – no failures (Yay). I had been trying to develop a floatation mantra that included compassion and gratitude. And since college, I always loved Steven Covey’s “Seek first to understand, then to be understood” so understanding would likely be a part of it as well.

I was amazed (and again laughed) when a mantra presented itself to me in the tank in the form of Guacamole:

Gratitude, Understanding, Awareness, Compassion, Acceptance, Openness, Love, Evolving.

I cheerished my mantra in and out of the float tank and shared with close friends and family.

I attended the conference for the Association of Applied & Therapeutic Humor (AATH.org) in April 2018 where I experienced my first therapeutic laugh session. Shortly after that, the mantra expanded to include “Laughter” as a shared “L”. And during the summer “Light” was added as well.

A year later, and the week after Labor day, I realized I had to make this more regular than just a float mantra. On top of that, I wanted to make it more active and so the Guacamole Creed was born (also in a float tank).

The core of it is:

I am grateful….

I am understanding….

I am aware….

I am compassionate…

I am accepting….

I am mindful….

I am open….

I am loving & lovable….

I am laughter….

I am light….

I am ever evolving.

I say it as needed – definitely during floats, but also as I face adversity of some sort or when start to become overwhelmed with negative feelings (with floating and laughter this doesn’t happen too often). I fill in the sentences with whatever I am feeling at the time.