Recently, I read an article about a veteran who suffers from PTSD. He wrote how he had trouble managing his symptoms and eventually tried an sensory deprivation tank. He found it so helpful that he built one in his house. Naturally, I was intrigued. Anything that can help I am willing to try. Here’s an article about what an isolation tank is an how it can help PTSD:
Weirdly enough, there was a place near me that offered sessions in a sensory deprivation tank. You could chose anywhere from 30 minutes to 90 minutes. I eventually decided on 60 minute session because I figured I would need time to get over my anxiety and panic and actually get into the tank. The day of, I was really nervous. I wasn’t sure what to expect or what to wear. When I got there, I was shown around the place and was surprised at what I saw. The room was private and you started out with a shower then you could enter the actual tank itself. But in my mind, I had pictured an actual tank, something made out of steel, almost like a vampires coffin but it was no like that at all. past the shower area, there was a heavy door and the ‘tank’ was actually a room that was walled in black, had a black floor and had several inches of water on the bottom. I did choose a tank that had an optional light and this was on when I peeked in.
They had given me earplugs and suggested I not wear anything so that I could fully experience the sensory deprivation benefits. They did have a small round foam flotation piece in case my neck needed support but that was it. There was a chair to out your belongings on and I sat for a bit biting my lip. I watched the door like something magical would happen. I could feel my anxiety spiking through the roof and was so afraid to enter that black room. Then I said to myself ‘screw this, I paid money, I’m going to give it a try’. I showered off, got naked and went into the room. The door was heavy and closed behind me with a thud. I panicked and splashed around a bit and then realized, there was no other noise besides my breathing and splashing. Of course, I splashed my face and it stung my eyes so I laid down on my back with my eye closed, put in my ear plugs and started to float. I said I would give it a few minutes and I could leave anytime. I was not trapped like I was as a child. I could leave at any time.
At first, I was so uncomfortable. I felt like my thoughts were getting louder and my anxiety more severe. I just kept breathing. I settled down and realized that I was safe, it was quiet and dark and I didn’t have to use any of my muscles. I floated. Just floated. My brain started to slow down and my anxiety decreased. I turned off the light and floated. Unafraid for the first time in a long time. I actually felt like I was in my body. I spread my finger and toes in the water and felt the water against them. It was amazing. I felt fully aware of my bodies movements and felt completedly in tune with my body for the first time in months or maybe even years. My dissociation is so severe and my numbness is so pervasive that to experience this almost felt miraculous. My thoughts slowed and then kinds stopped, I’m not sure how else to describe it. There was no stimulation, no noise, nothing. I could relax. I floated. I moved my body in the water, my arms and legs and felt the water against them. I started to get tired. Not the exhausted, overstimulated, I would need to take medication to settle down kind of tire. No. This was a honest feeling of being tired. Of feeling relaxed and safe.
Then some music started to signal my time was done. I was sad to be done to be honest. I got out and prepared to leave. I kept waiting for my thoughts and anxiety to start again but I stayed calm. I checked out and left. That calm feeling stayed with me for 2 days. Then the sh*t hit the fan and my symptoms came back but I treasured those 2 days. I was incredibly grateful to feel like my brain was not on fire and I could think more clearly and actually felt like I was in the present.
I’m definitely going back. I can’t believe how effective it was . I know everyone is different but if you have the chance to try it out, I highly recommend it. The hour was a good amount of time and it’s also recommended for people to have chronic pain which a lot of people with PTSD have as well.
Here’s a link to the history of sensory deprivation tanks: