It was fall of 2015 and we were at the Float House in Gastown. My husband wanted to introduce my father-in-law, who was visiting us in Vancouver, to floating: a practice of entering a sensory-deprivation isolation tank solo and lying suspended, weightless and naked, for a period of time. Ted had been a couple of times and loved it. I had never had the opportunity and I asked to tag along. I had been feeling incredibly anxious and I was hoping it would chill me out.
We booked 90 minute sessions. I discovered that float tank businesses are similar to the tanning businesses that I frequented (too often) in my teens and twenties. I loved going for a tan before it became faux pas. I found my zen under the heat of the bulbs. At the Float House the individual tanks are sheltered in little cubicle rooms along with a shower and a space to change your clothes. The man at the front desk told us that the tank room is near body temperature and the tank water near body temperature. You should not feel the air and you should not feel the water. You should feel nothing.
I put my wax ear plugs in and got into the tank. It was pitch-black and I felt just ever-so-slightly cold. I could not focus on anything else. I was wide-eyed. Irritated. Wrestling with my position in the water, the salt water entered my eyes. I focused on the chill in the water and the burning in my eyes and I became angry. My anxiety roared. I was out at barely minute 20. I robed up, grabbed my iPhone off my pile of clothes and dove into my social media apps. Sitting criss-cross apple sauce in the corner of the cubicle, I ran the clock out watching YouTube videos.
The week after my float I booked in with a counsellor. I am not an anxious person and the fact that I felt so tightly wound, especially after the float, was weighing on me. Fortunately, through my husband’s work I had some free sessions with a specialist who dealt exclusively with doctors, residents, and their families. The counsellor was a maternal 60-something Iranian woman who reminded me of my favourite professor at University. Our first session we spoke in basic terms about who I was and what had been going on in recent times. My grandmother had passed away the winter before. My mother was ill with Multiple Sclerosis and alone, living in another province. My 18 month old son was not sleeping, incredibly fussy, and I had little respite from him.
I had been to a counsellor only once before. Chuck. He was a student counsellor at Queen’s University. Ted and I had gone in a last ditch-effort to work on our relationship growing pains. The first session we spoke in basic terms about who we were and what had been going on in recent times. When we arrived for the second session he had forgotten us and again we spent much time going over our personal information. I remember being very put-off by his poor memory and I don’t remember returning for a third session.
So arriving for my second session with this counsellor I had low expectations. I was surprised when she remembered everything about me and at how quickly she touched down into the very topics I wanted to explore.
I told her about the float. I asked her for help with meditative strategies. I explained that I was constantly anxious and that I could not meditate during the float. I asked her how then could I meditate to relieve my anxiety? Was it yoga? Was it guided audio?
She told me meditation would not relieve me of my anxiety.
I was stunned.
She explained that my husband is inundated with intense human connection as a busy surgical resident every day all day. And yes, he would find great benefit in the stillness of the float tank.
She told me that I, on the other hand, spend all of my time alone, save for an 18 month old, and that going further into isolation would increase my anxiety and fail to relax me.
Because I had spent much of my life intellectualizing, first as a student and then as a lawyer, she advised that I needed intellectual stimulation. She said I bet you that if the man at the front desk of Float House asked if you could help him solve a problem with the business you would have felt more relaxed. I needed to go back to work, she said. Working through intellectual problems again would relieve my anxiety.
It all made so much sense but I told her I did not think “work” in the formal outside-of-the-home sense was missing from my life. I loved my life at home with my son and was happier in many ways than I’d ever been before. I couldn’t imagine going back.
She told me if you don’t work, then you must create.
Her advice resonated with me and I knew immediately what I wanted to do. Videos. I wanted to make videos. I had been watching & loving YouTube videos for over 4 years and I now wanted to create videos.
Leaving the office I felt the anxiety melt away. I started my YouTube channel the next week. This was my first vlog.