Friday, August 23, 2013

Just a Little Bit More

I have been hearing about float tank deprivation therapy for a little while now. The Seattle area has opened 3 independently owned float and massage clinics and I have heard good things. My birthday was the 21st, and the agency I work for is gracious enough to provide paid birthdays. With all the powerful experiences I've had this year, losses for both myself and a serious onslaught in the community I work for, not to mention that between 2 hours of commuting every day and having zero time to myself, I really wanted to try this form of self-care.

I researched it and was curious and excited. But it's very expensive (though there is some movement to have it become insurance billable under alternative medicine). Each clinic had a "first time float" special, which gave a discounted rate of approximately 50%. To give you an idea, my float would have been $45. I tried to imagine liking this and being able to afford it often enough to be beneficial over time. It reminded me a lot of seeing a counselor.
But it was my birthday, and I needed it, so off I went to experience something quite spectacular.

The clinic was beautiful. There was a relaxation room encompassed in plush couches with a tea bar and snacks to purchase. I was given an iPad to watch a cute instructional video of the dos and do nots of floating. Then I was led to my room, which was gorgeous, dark and tiled in earthy rock. There was a shower, which I was to use before and after my float, with special cleansing products for hair and body, including after care for my ears because of the Epsom salt.

A float tank contains 10 inches of water saturated with 1100 lbs of Epsom. You become completely buoyant in the dark (or not if you choose) with earplugs to simulate a weightless, womb-like experience. Some research shows it's like flipping a switch in your neurology. There's evidence that supports healing from chronic pain and injury as well as mental wellness and trauma. Here is an interesting video and article: http://www.statesofawareness.net/dr-weissman-talks-about-the-sensory-deprivation-tank/

The unfortunate part about my experience was that the building was under construction in the basement. While the construction ended by request of the owner at the time of my appointment, the men working on the building continued with a conversation....right below me...for 45 of the 60 minutes of my float. The wood and rock floors carried their deep throats into my pod. My earplugs, which would not stay in for the life of me, kept getting slick with Epsom and would spontaneously jettison out of my ears rousing me from my experience. The pod carried the men's voices deep inside of me, as it became a giant speaker.

My float sucked.

Despite all this, I felt as though I had experienced a wellness massage. I had that stoned feeling and could only imagine what I would have felt like had I been able to get a true experience. The owner of the business was eager to hear how it was for me. Calmly....supremely calmly (which is not my typical MO)...I expressed my disappointment and stated that I was still excited to try again. Then something magical happened.

HE COMPED MY FLOAT. Then something even MORE magical happened:

HE GAVE ME A GIFT CARD FOR ANOTHER ONE FREE! He believed so strongly is his therapy, and had such kindness of heart, to do these things for me.

And this is where YOU come in, dear service providers.

The kindness of heart to provide healing is why a lot of us do what we do. We believe in art therapy. We believe, often, in alternative forms of healing. But by golly, it's not cheap. I remember just a couple of years ago trying to find an art therapist in Seattle that I could afford, or who took my insurance. There aren't many of us around, which is the first challenge. I felt defeated while for months I called and visited several therapists. None of them accepted my insurance, so that was the first challenge. (I do understand the insurance issue is bigger than this. Having to report diagnoses that follow you forever is something not many of us really like doing. But that's another issue for another time.) And the going hourly rate here ranged from $90-$120 for an individual session.

I work for an agency, and of course one day aspire to private practice of my own. But being from a low socioeconomic status historically, and quite frankly supporting 3 people on less than $25 an hour putting me in that category now, makes it difficult to be able to afford counseling out of pocket.

Now, I believe our time is valuable. But this brings me to the ethical issue of sliding scale and set gratis appointments. There's an expectation that those of us in private practice provide a certain amount of these appointments. Of the 12 therapists I called, all but one, the one I currently have--who is great by the way--said that they did not have room for sliding scale or gratis. I was in some dark places when I was looking for a counselor. I had little to no access to services because of the thinness of my pockets, and I was left feeling unimportant. Part of that is on me; my own internalized oppression.

Today's news is filled with images of unwell people behaving in extraordinarily violent ways. The world is a terrifying place to be in and this global PTSD we are in, with a severe deficit in supportive systems for all, is creating armies of unwell people who really need our help.

We believe strongly in what we do and its capacity for healing. I know it may not be so simple, but I ask you to think about this the next time someone calls you, is hurting and you seem to be out of their reach.

Can you not give just a little bit more? What can you do?

You may just be saving lives.

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