Salt Water Coffin of Doom

A few years ago I was having a lot of problems sleeping. It just wasn’t happening. As part of trying to figure out why I couldn’t stay asleep, I learned that I had a magnesium deficiency. Since then, I’ve been taking a magnesium supplement. I used to take a bath with magnesium flakes, but now that I share a bathroom with multiple people, the thought of taking a bath in a shared tub makes my skin crawl (even right after I clean it).

Image result for yuck gif

I also made some lotion with magnesium, but the peer-reviewed jury is still mostly out on magnesium absorption through the skin. Anyway, MAGNESIUM. Also, ANXIETY. While I know that I am very lucky because a lot of people have anxiety too severe to survive without medication, I try to take as little as possible because it makes my brain feel like it’s in a fog. My anxiety isn’t so severe that it typically significantly impacts my ability to carry out my daily responsibilities, and I understand that not everyone has that luxury.

Anyway, magnesium and anxiety. In part of my efforts to find options that don’t include increased medication, I stumbled upon floating. The “salt” in the water (that keeps you floating) is actually Magnesium Sulfate which is why magnesium is relevant to this story. Supposedly, it is best absorbed through your skin in this type of set up. After a lot of reading (and some wine), I signed up. And then I spent an entire night unable to sleep over it. I kept seeing tanks that looked like this in pictures:

Float tank epsom salt

I am extremely claustrophobic to the point that I struggle to keep both legs under the blanket on my bed because I start to feel trapped and freak out (even if I am freezing). Most of the time when I am awake at night it’s because I’ve spiraled down into some completely ridiculous scenario of being trapped and unable to get out. For instance, I spent WEEKS fretting late at night about sliding down into the hull of a kayak and having my arms trapped beside me, then just being stuck there until I died. TOTAL PANIC over something that I am don’t even think is possible. In the light of day, it feels so ridiculous.

The nights preceding a road trip are always accompanied by my imagining every single way I could get into an accident and be trapped inside my car. It gets so severe that I have cancelled trips because I am so frantic over it. I almost didn’t go to Yosemite last month because I was afraid I would slide off one of those winding roads and be trapped in my car while I slowly died from exposure. I would have been SO MAD at myself for cancelling, but claustrophobia haunts me.

Anyway, the thought of being in a tank with a lid was horrifying and I called to cancel my appointment. The man I spoke to told me that they have walk in tanks that are about the size of a closet, then you would close a door once you’re in. I could completely stand up in the tank and open the door at any point. That sounded a bit better to me, so I kept the appointment. I decided not to be a chicken and to force myself to do it despite my level of discomfort and sheer paranoia that an earthquake would happen while I was in the tank and trap me in there forever while I slowly died from desiccation. For the record, there have been zero earthquakes since I moved to Sacramento.

I made an appointment for last Friday to float for 60 minutes. I arrived 15 minutes early and was given a tour of the facility. I was shown a “common reflection space” to use after. I asked what people do in the “common reflection space” and was informed that they typically use it meditate on their experience in “the chamber” (that term makes it WAY WORSE) or for journaling. Journaling. About floating. I almost couldn’t handle it. I know a lot of people journal about various things, and I am not making fun of that as a practice, but what does one ruminate on after laying in salt water for an hour? I am not the most introspective of people and I don’t particularly care to spend much time examining how I think I feel about anything, but I readied myself for a truly transformative experience that would turn me into a real California person.

He left me in my room (with a locking door) where I undressed, rinsed off, took out my contacts, put in ear plugs, then stepped into the bath. The water was about 10 inches deep and tepid. I thought it would be hot water, but it was barely warm. I had a button to turn a blue light on, but I was worried that having the light on would continue to illuminate the fact that I was shut in a closet of water. There was also a button to turn music on and off. Since I can’t imagine why I would want to float with only myself to focus on, I keep the music playing. I shut the door, laid down, and turned off the light. And then I just floated in the total darkness.

I wiggled a lot in the beginning which caused little waves that made me float towards the side, so I spent a good chunk of time panicking about touching a side in the darkness. I tried to focus on panic attack breathing (big breaths pushed out through pursed lips) to calm down, but my heart was pounding. It also took me a while to figure out what to do with my arms. Letting them fall by my side hurt my shoulders because of the buoyancy. Lifting them above my head also felt weird. So, I ended up folding them across my chest like I was in an actual coffin. When in Rome. I also kept causing myself to jump because I forgot a hair tie and my hair was just creepily floating about. I kept thinking of the dead woman with her creepy hair floating underwater in What Lies Beneath. I highly recommend NOT thinking about dead people underwater when floating in a tank of water in total darkness.

One of my mental exercises to help me chill out is to list the rulers of Russia or the monarchs of England backwards, so I focused on that which sent me down a mental rabbit hole of what would have happened if certain people had lived longer or died earlier (things to journal about!). At some point I started to believe that something (like a shark or water monster!) was below me which would have really been incredible in a mere 10 inches of water. I tried to get the light back on, but it was one of those damn “air buttons” where you have to push through the a giant silicone cover to actually hit a button. I have super weak hands (thanks, arthritis!), so I got into a bit of a panic when I couldn’t get it on. Then, since that didn’t happen easily, I decided that I was also TRAPPED.

I was sitting up, and when I tried to push the door back open, I just slid back across the floor of the tub (the salt water makes things super slimy). I was then grossed out that I was touching so much of the bottom of the tub and also freaking out because I couldn’t get the door open. I finally had to push against the opposite side of the tub to get the door open.

I got out of the tub completely just to convince myself that I was not in fact trapped in a salt water coffin of doom. I took some deep breaths, made myself get back in, started counting kings, and forced myself to chill out. I eventually relaxed enough to almost doze off, but my body would randomly twitch which caused waves that would jerk me back awake. This happens at night, but it rarely actually wakes me up (restless body syndrome!). One of these times I realized that there was no air movement on my face (I can’t sleep without a fan) and I decided that I was in fact trapped again and that there was also NO AIR. I got the door back open and got back out again. The cold air of the room never felt better. I got back in, but left the door cracked. And then a few minutes later the light came on and it was over.

Despite all of my self-induced hysteria, I felt really relaxed and in a bit of a fog after. I rinsed off and again regretted my lack of hair tie as my salty mop was gross feeling and completely unwieldy. I got dressed, but realized I should have bought a pair of loose-fitting clothes to change into. Getting back into my work slacks and silky blouse after was not great. I left the room and tried to chill in the “reflection zone,” but a guy kept trying to talk to me about “meditating on gratitude” and “nourishing your heart root” (wut), so I had to get out of there.

I went home and was kind of out of it for the rest of the night. My lower back hasn’t ached since, so that has been nice. The man who owned it said that as with most treatment types of things, you typically need to do it several times to fully realize any benefits and get used to it. I am not sure if I could ever get used to it, but I wasn’t completely closed to trying it again. But, then, someone commented on my Instagram that she had heard about guys taking care of business in there and had not been able to go back. I can’t believe I didn’t think about that and I totally believe it’s happened. Why do men have to ruin everything?

36 thoughts on “Salt Water Coffin of Doom

  1. You are so brave! I am not being the least bit facetious here – I think it’s crazy scary to get into a big vat of water and then be IN THE DARK. I am someone who is convinced that sharks are going to come for me when I’m swimming laps in the very small pool at my local YMCA, so I feel you on the unfounded fears thing.

    Also, my husband recently learned he has really low magnesium, and has been getting IVs after he tried juuuuuuuuuust about everything else (he’s a triathlete and would have insane spasms during races). I get texts from him during his treatments and he’s all “…I think I’m drunk? This is weird.” No idea if they’re helping yet, since it’s not quite triathlon season in Canada, but we’ll see.

    Well done on your floating!

    • Oh yikes for your husband! That’s not fun. I used to get really bad spasms at night, but they’ve mostly gone away now. I can’t imagine getting that during a race!!! Hope he gets that sorted out soon. And yes, sharks ABOUND. You are not alone.

      • Ok I can trump (ugh why is this phrase ruined for me now?!) both of you. I remember being in college, watching shark week, and refusing to get off my bed cause a shark would bite my leg off if I put it over the side of the bed! I think I sat all huddled up in the middle of my bed until someone came and knocked and I screamed out COME IN!!!!! – lol!

  2. Our sleep issues sound very similar. I went through a period of time last year where I was not able to sleep regularly to save my life. It’s gotten a lot better but now every time I have a random bad sleeping night I absolutely PANIC. I convince myself that I’m going to go back to not being able to sleep and that I’m going to feel terrible again etc etc. As you can imagine this high level sense of panic is a great way to continue not being able to sleep.

    I also found out I have a magnesium deficiency but I don’t take supplements even though I should (I hate pills and struggle to swallow anything larger than my tiny birth control pill). I’ve always been curious about trying a float tank and you’ve inspired me to look into it more. I don’t have issues with claustrophobia so it’s something I could see myself enjoying and being relaxed in. Depending on the price I don’t know how sustainable of a solution it would be though. I should just suck it up and start taking supplements probably.

    • It’s definitely expensive, but you might be able to find a groupon in your area. I could see how it would be far easier for someone to relax when they’re not also dealing with claustrophobia. I totally understand the panic over not sleeping. If I miss my “window” to fall asleep, then I start to panic which ultimately keeps me up longer. Now I try to just start reading again once I realized my window has passed so that I keep my mind busy until I feel sleepy again.

  3. I tried floating once and want to go back and try again with some ‘lessons learned’ – like use a pool noodle or inflatable pillow to support my neck (because I had the pain you’re talking about in your shoulders. weird how proper alignment can hurt!), and music would be great. while not totally relaxing in those 60 mins, I’d give it another go. But skip the meditation after. *side eye to nourishing your heart root*

    • My place had a little circular support for your head, you might ask if you place has them. It made my neck hurt, so I didn’t end up using it. Good luck next time!

  4. So, it seems you and I have several things in common: arthritisy joints, claustrophobia, and anxiety. I do not have the words to thank you for trying this because you have convinced me I NEVER WILL.

  5. I just wanna say A++ on the gifs today.

    I actually thought this all sounded pretty awesome at first. I don’t get claustrophobic. I actually have fallen asleep, unmedicated, in an MRI tube, so… I’m weird, I know. But then you said the thing about the dudes and the ruining and ewwwww. I’m out!!

  6. So Evan surprised me with a three-pass float in these pods for my birthday – surprised as in he took me out for dinner and then when I was about to explode from eating an entire pizza he took me to a salt water pod place with a change of clothes and toiletries and said this is what we’re doing now! I was pretty surprised. The good thing about this is I had zero time to worry about it in advance. I’m guessing this would not be a good surprise gift for you? I had mentioned I had been intrigued by it, so I think he knew I was up for it, and also I don’t really get claustrophobic (mostly because I don’t ever think about it, but actually reading your descriptions of claustrophobia kind of made me feel claustrophobic).

    Anyway, I LOVED IT. I totally could not even feel the water after a while, I felt like I was just floating on air. It was probably the most relaxing experience of my life, and I think I could have moved in. It did cross my mind that guys have been doing their gross thing in there however I figured it was so full of chemicals it didn’t matter. Either way my skin was the smoothest it’s ever been for days afterwards, so…
    I still have two passes I need to use!

    • I am 0% surprised that you loved it. Teach me your chill life loving ways.

    • From their website:

      After each float, all the salt water in the tank is cycled through our specially designed Evolution Filtration System.These filters are fully effective to one micron, which is 70 times smaller than a human hair. In addition, the 1,200 lbs. of Epsom salt that are dissolved into the water acts a natural disinfectant. On top of this, we maintain a safe level (100 ppm) of hydrogen peroxide, a powerful disinfectant. We pride ourselves on safety and cleanliness and maintain a strict water testing regimen.

      Having been a pool manager for several years, I am pretty sure those things are far cleaner than any public pool on earth.

  7. If you decide to give it another go, try the pod with the lid on top! You can leave it open (though it does get a little cold), but I found it to be much less claustrophobic feeling than the other tanks because you get fresh air from the room.

    I’m not into holistic things, but someone reccomend floating to me after a bad breakup and after going every other week for a month or two I saw a signficant difference in anxiety and depression and slept way better. You really do have to go a few times to get used to it, I haven’t found the results to be long lasting but they do usually last a few days and are great for temporary relief.

    • But what if the lid closes and you can’t get up or out??????

      I bought a two-float package, so I really need to psych myself up to go again. It just may take a bit. Maybe I can get in the habit after Christmas. Anything to not feel batshit.

      • Float loving person here to say that the lid is super sensitive to touch (even if it looks like it weighs a ton) so you don’t have to use much strength to open it.

        • But, what if there is an earthquake or something and the roof caves in and it traps you in there under the lid?? THEN WHAT.

  8. I’m not as claustrophobic as you and there is NO WAY I could have done that! My little bit of claustrophobia actually has more to do with doors than just being enclosed so I personally would choose that other design and leave it open a good amount. I definitely couldn’t get in the one you had with the traditional door and no lights. I’m all anxious now just from reading this post.

    • I’m sorry! You could totally leave the door open if you wanted during the float. Maybe we should just go to the Dead Sea and do our floating there since it’s WIDE OPEN SPACES.

  9. I just did this over the weekend! I did the pod one and spent the first 5-10 minutes (guessing since I have no way of knowing how much time passed) freaking out about lid closing on me and other disasters. I left the lid open about 6 inches which helped and counted sheep to calm down. I nap-jerked awake so I must’ve fallen asleep. I was relaxed but I don’t know that i’d go back, mostly because of the cost, i’d rather get a massage for my time and money. Do you have any salt caves nearby? We have one about 40 minutes away I want to try.

  10. I read about these supplements last night and was thinking about trying them – I know I sleep better after I take Advil, so maybe this is a better alternative? I also have anxiety that I’ve tried to decrease without medication (although, medication has been effective when I’ve tried, just too many side effects). Exercise is always a key for me, sufficient sleep, and I think decreasing dairy would help too (I’ve heard that, but haven’t tried it myself).

    • Thanks for sharing that! I hate having anxiety, but I REALLY hate the side effects of the medications for it.

  11. My husband and I tried our first float session a few months ago. My experience was bothersome from holding my bladder the whole hour, but he had a worse experience – since we ignored suggestions about not coming in after “frictional activity”, he hopped into his tank after running 10 miles, letting the salt sear into where he was chafing. An hour of feeling salt burning into raw flesh ruined the experience for him. Learn from us, always read the dos and don’ts!

    • Holy crap!!! That is horrifying! I had a tiny cut on my neck and that was painful enough!!! I can’t even imagine.

    • I must have a dirty mind…because running 10 miles isn’t what I thought about after reading ‘frictional activity.’

      • Haha! I was afraid it may come off that way, but THAT frictional activity probably shouldn’t be done before entering a float tank either. 😉

        • That is not what I thought of at first either! I had to reread it twice! I’m sure one frictional activity would have been preferred over the other.

  12. You have to try NFuse Deodorant- its a healthy alternative to actual deodorant. Its roll on magnesium! I prefer the citrus scent!! Give it a whirl!

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