Float Away the Pain

In my journey to coming off of Cymbalta to control my headaches I have been experiencing some severe withdrawal symptoms. Chief of which is nausea and what I like to call “Shocky Brain”. They are these zaps that happen about 20 times a minute where it feels like my brain is pulsing, my hearing becomes very acute and I feel dizzy. Sounds like a party, right?

So while surfing the Interwebs for relief, I came across a suggestion to try a sensory deprivation float tank. Intrigued, I searched for some place local, and came across MindSpa in Sarasota (an hour away). First off, the name MindSpa immediately had me thinking of MindHead in Bowfinger (this connection may have colored my experience, as you will see).

I decided to book a session and convinced my loving husband to take me on the 1 1/2 hour drive to Sarasota. He agreed begrudgingly, but at this point he would have done anything to get me out of our dark bedroom where I had been for a full day.

So Sunday afternoon we set off for Sarasota across the iconic Sunshine Skyway Bridge. Already being dizzy, this bridge was not helping.

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We arrive to MindHead, I mean MindSpa, which was located in a small professional office block with a chiropractor and an Insurance Company. Cross referrals anyone?

We are greeted by a lovely young girl (seriously, she was about 16 years old). I can’t remember her name, so we will call her Harmony. She gives us a tour of the small office starting with the first room where they have a couch with a giant Spaceballs helmet at one end.

Apparently they flood the helmet with all kinds of colors that align your chakras. Oooooh Kaaaaay. Then we pass the acupuncture room into the Sensory Stimulation room. Harmony invites me to try it, saying it often enhances the brain’s reaction to the deprivation process after have been oversaturated. I was hesitant, because A.) I was trying to rest my brain from stimulation. And 2.) I wasn’t entirely convinced this was an off shoot of Scientology, and this was where the subliminal programming would start. But hey, this is called a Big Adventure, so what the hey.

Sitting in a cushy zero gravity chair, Harmony puts some Oakley shades and headphones on me. I’m looking very 1989 at this point. Then she flips on the machines and my chair starts a lazy clockwise rolling from side to side and vibrates a white noise vibration I can feel and hear. There is some discordant music and chanting in some language (Thetan, maybe) coming through the headphones and lights flashing on the glasses. Here we go.

Maybe because of my heavy skepticism, the brainwashing didn’t take, but I did find myself relaxing, as if I was on a cruise ship, being serenaded by monks. Ten minutes later Harmony returns and unhooks me. I’m feeling a bit dizzy, but I’m about to have an hour to sleep it off.

The tour continues past the Nexalin room where they basically perform shock therapy. What the hell have I gotten myself into?

We finally get to the Float Room which consists of a very ugly large white cabinet. The entire room is coated in salt from the 800 lbs of Epsom salts that are in the tank. Harmony shows me where the shower facilities are and gives me a brief spiel about how to get in and out, setting the timer, some comfy positions, etc. I’m eager to get this over with started so I shoo Harmony and Matt out.

After a quick shower, I open the door, climb in and shut the door. It is dark. Very dark. I lay back and immediately float to the top like a cork. I take a deep breath and get ready to relax.

The deep breath may have been a mistake because the inside of the tank smells a little dank. Like changing rooms on the beach dank. I try to put that out of my mind and concentrate on the lovely laser show patterns of light I see above me. Wait, what? There is no light in here. Great, I’m already hallucinating.

I realize this is probably my mind just coming off my little sunglasses/rocking chair/headphones session so I continue to relax and sure enough they soon fade away.  I start to enjoy the feeling of floating free in space.

5 minutes later…

WHAT THE HELL??!?  Oh, whew, its just the side of the tank bumping against my elbow…  then my toe, other toe, elbow.  How does one keep still in this thing?  I’m keeping perfectly still.  Wait, what if some creepy ass, Epsom Salt Monster of Death has spawned in here and is disturbing the water?  Okay, calm down.  That’s highly unlikely.

10 minutes later…

GRAAWWWWWWWP!  Crap its the Epsom Salt Monster!!  When was the last time they emptied this thing anyway?!  It probably is nesting in my hair right now.  Graaawp, gurgle, gurgle.  Or, maybe it is my stomach.  I wonder if Matt will want to go to lunch in Downtown Sarasota after this…

Some unknown time later…

Snorg! Uh wah?  Oh, I actually did fall asleep in this thing, and woke myself up snoring.  Hmmm, I wonder how long I was out?  Ahhh, this is quite comfortable.

At this point my mind starts racing and ideas are coming at me.  Getting back to writing, of course, is the first thing I thought about.  Then about how I am so happy to be with a new Neurologist who is getting me on a new MS medication that is not an injection and how excited I am about that.  About how there are no shocks going through my brain right now.  It’s working!  These thoughts circle round and round my brain on a continuous loop.

236 minutes later (it seems)… 

I’m bored.

2 minutes after that…

Still bored.

2 minutes later…

Still bored, and now I have to pee.  I lay there, listening as hard as I can through my submerged ears, filled with wax earplugs.  Was that humming noise there earlier?  Is that the filtration system that Harmony said would be my hint to get out?  Are they sitting in the lobby, wondering what happened to me?  Do they not care because the sacrifice to the Epsom Salt Monster must be made and the longer I’m in here the more marinated I become?  Then I see 3 glowing green lights up above my head.  I was pretty sure they were not there when I came in this tank, so I figure I have somehow slept through the filtration system going off.  I feel around in the dark by my feet for the hatch and open the door back to light and safety.

I look at the timer perched by the open door.  Eleven minutes left. Oh, okay, I can hold out for that.

I climb back in and resume floating.  The first 5 minutes is me trying to remain still and stop bumping against the sides.  The next 45 minutes is me waiting for that damn timer to go off. I doze off again and wake myself up snoring again.

Finally…

The bubbles start blowing at my head, and my time is up.  I feel my way out again and make my way to the shower.  Dang it is cold out here!!   All the blood flows away from my extremities as I fumble to get the hot water flowing.  The shower is slippery and I shampoo my hair 3 times to get the Epsom Salt Monster Eggs out of it.  I dress and return to the real world.

It’s all very normal after that.  I pay the bill, Harmony gives me some information on package deals and other therapies.  I thank her for coming in on a Sunday for me and we are on our way.

Over lunch I relay my experience to Matt and laugh because while he was waiting, Harmony let him try the Color Dome Color Therapy (Spaceballs Helmet), but he kept his eyes closed because he too was afraid of being brainwashed.

So, would I do it again?  Possibly.  I was a little squicky about the hygiene factor.  I enjoyed the sensation of floating, but I can drive 5 minutes to the beach here and float for free.  I guess the whole experience was tainted with paranoia from the beginning, but I am happy to say that I have done it. I was feeling very relaxed and calm and the shocky brain is gone for now.

 

-Epilouge-

Got home after a lovely lunch and took a nap.  Woke up feeling well enough to start to write this post and take the dogs for a walk.  Sally REALLY wanted to say hi to a loose dog in the neighborhood and dragged me along with her.  Skinned leg and arm later and all the restorative effects of my float have been negated.  Guess I’ll have to go back (AFTER the scrapes have healed – ouch!)

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