Category Archives: Health

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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Challenging Myself to a Healthier, Thinner Me

What does a 9 hour desk job plus 2-3 hours on the couch watching TV, combined with the more than occasional quick bite at the fast food restaurant along with an adult beverage or two from time to time added to new medications that cause fatigue and lack of desire equal?  About twenty pounds added to a frame that was already a little too heavy for my liking.

I have always struggled with my weight.  My family falls into 2 categories – the half who seem unable to keep weight on no matter what they do and have metabolisms like hummingbirds, and then those of us who just smell food and gain 5 pounds.  It was really hard as a child, and when looking back, I was by no means obese or really overweight, but because of theater and dance, I was always around these lithe little girls who seemed to have shed their baby fat at the age of two.  From the age of 4 I was always aware of being the chubby one.  Many fad diets and an under active thyroid during puberty didn’t help, so I never was the one you saw wearing the short shorts or skirts.

My obsession with dieting and my yo-yoing weight gave me stretch marks by the time I was 13 years old.

When I was living in New York, working as an actress, I did buckle down, join a gym and combined with my daily walking commute, did manage to get down to a healthy 135 lbs – just right for my 5′ 6″ frame.  After moving to Atlanta, though, back in 2000, stress, and an unhealthy relationship that (in retrospect) really messed with my self esteem, I became an exercise junkie and borderline anorexic – eating only salads and the occasional piece of fruit.  My weight, plummeted down to 110.  Finally I was as thin as my sisters!  I could fit into a size 4 jean!  It didn’t matter that my hair was coming out in clumps, and I barely had enough energy to stay up past 7:00 pm – I was skinny!  Then one day in 2004, something strange happened.  I was walking from my car to my office, and my legs went completely numb.  It was as if suddenly they had fallen asleep.  I shrugged it off as a pinched nerve and went about my day.  Later that afternoon at the gym, as I stepped on the treadmill, I found I could barely pick my feet up to jog, and tripped on the treadmill.  I made an appointment with my doctor who referred me to a neurologist.  At the time I was diagnosed with Transverse Myelitis.  A lesion was found on my spinal cord, and I was told that often it is nothing, and that I was lucky to catch it early and treat it with steroids before permanent paralysis set in – but I should get the occasional MRI every few years because folks who experience TM, often develop Multiple Sclerosis.

Soon after this attack I left my job with the cushy medical benefits so, it was a good 7 years before I had insurance again, so, no doctor visits to follow up on this fluke attack.  I broke up with the unhealthy relationship, and jumped into a healthy one with a guy who loves me, and unfortunately my cooking.  After settling down into a comfortable marriage and taking a break from theater, exercise also took a bit of a back seat to spending time snuggling with my new husband and Furkids on the couch.

Then in June of 2011 I began to be plagued by headaches and double vision.  After many months of mis-diagnosises, it was finally determined that I had Multiple Sclerosis.  The treatment of steroids, and the following medications to treat the lingering nerve damage, fatigue and to stave off future attacks has left me feeling tired, unmotivated, flabby and  gross.  And 165 pounds.  That’s right.  I just publicly announced my weight.  That gives me a BMI of 26.6 (Overweight).

So along with 99.8% of the population, I have committed myself to losing weight in the new year.  One of my goals on the Big Adventure List is to lose 30 lbs by April 24, 2014.  This will put me at 135 lbs and a BMI of 21.8 (Normal) – A very reachable goal in my book.  But it isn’t just about looking good.  It is more about taking control of my health.  I want to eat cleaner.  I want to get out and enjoy nature more without being winded.  I want my joints to feel better.  And yes, I want to look good.

So, my short term goals for this long term challenge are:

  1. Drink at least 8 glasses of water a day
  2. Bring homemade meals for lunches – No more BajaFresh, 😦
  3. Workout 3-4 times a week (Cardio and strength – Planet Fitness Membership already done!)
  4. Morning yoga / stretching
  5. Multivitamin every morning
  6. Cut back on alcohol consumption
  7. Smaller portions at dinner time and no food after 7:00 pm
  8. Go to sleep by 10:00 pm and get 8 hours of sleep

I’ll be using the SparkPeople and MyFitnessPal tools plus a million othe apps on the iPhone to help me out.  Any other suggestions will also be greatly appreciated!!

Wish me luck!

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