My hairdresser recommended flotation tanks to me two years ago, but I only got around to it this week.
I say recommended. She actually told me about the panic attack she’d had in one, but that other people had said they were great. And now here I am.
The sign on the door says expect nothing. Which I suppose is funny if relaxing puns are your vibe. I don’t know whether to lower my expectations significantly or raise them to the point of hoping for total oblivion and it takes the first ten minutes of my sixty minute float to stop deciding.
You get in the egg-shaped pod and close the lid on yourself. At first there is light and music. The light goes out after a few minutes, then the music fades and you are left with nothing. Nothing except salty water, your naked body, an egg coffin and all those screaming thoughts.
I actively stop myself from panicking. I stop myself from thinking about Jaws. I stop myself thinking about the scene in I Still Know What You Did Last Summer where Jennifer Love Hewitt gets trapped in the sun bed. I try and try to stop myself thinking at all.
It’s darker than anyone who grew up in a city is used to. I try to relax my jaw and shoulders, to un-tense my neck. The water is set to body temperature so you’re not supposed to be able to feel it against your skin, but I can’t stop concentrating on it. My body feels slippery with the salt and there are little crystals forming on my stomach.
I think about all the things I’m not doing. I think of ten new ways to format my CV. I think about how vulnerable I am and whether I actually locked the door to the room and how actually kinda boring this is.
Then something happens. Or, more accurately, nothing. Nothing at all happens. And suddenly, there is nothing left to think about. And the boundaries between body and water and pod slip away.
When the light comes back on I discover that in the darkness my eyes have been open, perhaps for some time. And, though I would have sworn I was swirling about, I have in fact, not moved at all. I know that the light means the end. That it’s time to push up the lid, to re-emerge into daylight. But as I try to raise my hand from the water, I find I no longer know how.
A version of this post was sent by email on the 7th July 2019 as part of Internet Care Package – a weekly memoir project in the form of a newsletter. It also includes links to the best things I’ve found on the internet each week and occasional updates on my theatremaking. This blog is a select archive of those emails. Subscribe to get them right in your inbox.