By Sara Holifield
I had been floating consistently for about a year when I started to consider giving up
on it. A deep need for quiet had brought me to the tank originally and after a shaky first
float, I gratefully soaked up the silence during my monthly appointments. I came out of the
tank feeling relaxed, well rested, and decompressed -- especially if I floated after a busy day
at work. But as time went on the self-doubt started to creep in. Shouldn’t I be spending my
money on something more practical? Was it really worth the time every month? Was it
really that great?
I started to question whether or not my float practice was “working” even though I
didn’t have a clear idea of what “working” meant to me. I had read up on the science of
floating and its therapeutic effect on muscle pain, migraines, depression, insomnia, etc. but I
only came out of the tank feeling like I had just gotten a really good nap. I never had a flash
of creative insight like some claim, saw colors dance across the darkness, or experienced a
dramatic increase in productivity. So I started to wonder if it was really worth continuing to
go to such a big effort just to have a nice rest. Couldn’t I do that at home?
It was particularly hard to keep my float appointment the day I had been riding a
wave of depression for about a week. I don’t suffer from depression frequently, but once in
a while it feels like a black cloud creeps over me, causing a hollow feeling to bloom in my
chest. My limbs feel heavy, and I find myself staring off into space in sadness, mulling over
every mistake I’ve ever made. I start to question the authenticity of my friendships, the
value of my talents, and the pointlessness of my dreams in a funk that’s hard to snap out of.
Normally, I spend the beginning of my float playing with different arm positions and
gently pushing myself back and forth through the water before finally settling into that
deeply relaxed state. Then after maybe an hour or so I wake up and wonder when the music
will start playing. But when I got into the tank on that day, I went right out. Nothing earth
shattering happened other than my customary nap, but I did feel surprised that my time
was over when the music started to play.
I climbed out of the tank but it wasn’t until I was halfway through my shower and
considering what to make for dinner that I realized something was different. I couldn’t put
my finger on it at first but then it hit me - I didn’t feel sad anymore. The hollow feeling in my
chest was gone and I felt different, lighter.
Ha ha, surely not, I told myself. Floating can’t do that. I tried to test myself and ask,
what about how I don’t have any friends, am terrible at everything, and am destined to fail
at everything I pursue? I waited for the ring of recognition and relapse into my moody
gloom… but it didn’t come. Those thoughts seemed silly and untrue. It was as if the dark fog
that had surrounded me for the past week was never there. A different person came out of
the tank than the one that went in.
The only way I could describe it later to friends was that something changed in my
brain. Whatever had been jiggled loose in my head to set off the depression bells had
righted itself in the tank. It was as if a reset button had been pressed for my emotions and I
felt like me again. No chemicals, drugs, or therapy required.
Now I have no doubts about the importance of my float appointments. Depression is
a complicated beast and what works for some people may not work for others, but for me
floating is one item in my self-care toolbox that will not collect dust. Even when I feel like I
don’t have the time and the results aren’t glaringly obvious, I know that something much
deeper is going on. And for that, I am worth the time it takes to get there.