When I first moved here a few years ago, every time I walked by the Float Shoppe’s sign, advertising “sensory deprivation tanks, acupuncture, and counseling services”, I would always joke about how convenient that was, since I would absolutely need those things in that order if I ever took a dunk myself, which I never, ever, ever would. The inside of my head is a loud, confusing space that keeps me up at night and has kept me in a constant state of seeing and looking for therapy since I was a little kid. I can barely stay in my apartment for more than an hour or two, let alone with the lights off. I would almost definitely go insane in the most over-the-top, insensitive-portrayal-of-a-mentally-ill-person-in-a-horror-movie way possible, 100%, no questions asked.
So, obviously I had to do it when given the chance last week!
The staff was extremely friendly and patient, their calm and kind demeanor helping to usher me into what all this was actually about. The person who debriefed me on how this would go down, Abraham, shared his personal experience with the tank, in an honest and open way that helped ease me into the idea of this being a real thing real people did in real life. This was integral to me enjoying my session; stripping all the extreme ideas I had down about the process to something tangible that would “meet me where I was at”.
I let them pick my room, so I got a pod with a lid with little light up stars inside. I popped in earplugs, took a shower, smeared some goo on a few scratches I had, and climbed in. As a creative person, I was expecting my mind to just go haywire, to go into a frenzy of lights and pictures without the distractions of the outside world, but what I got instead was pure, inky quiet like I’d never felt before.
It was like my subconscious and active brain reached a stalemate. My active brain had nothing to remark on and my subconscious wasn’t ready to offer its two cents. After the first few minutes (?) the ability to track time ended, the urge to run away and tinker with things and fidget subsided, and there was a heavy, thick state of existing that I have trouble putting into words. I felt nothing, not even boredom, and every small sensory experience, like feeling the cool air spill in like a liquid when I cracked the lid, was new and raw, like I’d never actually Felt It before, which, in a way, I hadn’t.
The 90 minutes FELT like 90 minutes, not in a bad way, not in a good way, just in a way. Being honest, the tank itself wasn’t particularly enjoyable- I much prefer things with a little nudge behind them, but the way the world felt after I left was extremely nice.
I took a shower and headed outside, where the everything was full of beauty and color. I felt the ground under my feet as I walked, the softness of my cat’s fur, and had a newfound sense of peace. I had been so sure that getting into the pod would be a jarring experience, like getting into a cage with a wild animal, but it wasn’t. My time in the tank forced me to do a thing I had been so afraid of for so long – being completely and entirely alone with my thoughts – and showed me that I didn’t have anything to be afraid of. Since then, my ups and downs are still there, they always will be, but that edge of “what if?” is so much lesser, and I’m extremely grateful for that.