Preface

On evenings when I was alone in my house or apartment, feeling trapped in my own cycle of bingeing and purging, desperate for someone to rescue me, it was hard to hold onto hope. Hard to believe that things would ever be better. Impossible to conceive that “recovery” was more than a lovely idea.

On one of those evenings, I started reading Jenni Schaefer’s Goodbye Ed, Hello Me, and I remember feeling less alone. Her words might as well have been mine; she knew how I felt. She’d felt just as alone and confused once, but she didn’t feel that way anymore. She didn’t even hear her eating disorder’s (Ed’s) voice anymore. I was tempted to not believe her, but her story was too relatable to not be true. She was my first hope for recovery.

No matter what made you pick up this book, whether you’re currently struggling, know someone who’s struggling, or are perhaps connecting with this story in some other way, I come to you with the same message. It’s a truth that carried me through the 14 years that Ed tried to pull me under.

Full recovery is real!

And when I say full recovery, I mean it. I don’t hear Ed’s voice anymore. It’s what Jenni told me through every page of her book, and you were right, Jenni. What brought me to recovery, however, was different than what worked for her. Over a decade of unsuccessful treatment (inpatient, outpatient, group therapy, private therapy, dietitians, meal plans, self-help books, antidepressants, uppers, and downers) left me weathered, frustrated, and often more confused than when I’d started. I was feverishly using every external tool out there to help myself, not yet realizing that all the tools I needed were internal.

Drained and despairing, I made myself walk into the Float Shoppe in March of 2014, not intending to ever get into a float tank but, instead, to visit my former roommate and friend, Sandra Calm, who I hadn’t seen in seven years. She hugged and listened, and, when I had no more tears left for the day, she said, “I think I can help you.”

She encouraged me to float. Although a bit hesitant, I did so that Saturday morning. This book is about everything that happened after that Saturday and my deeper understanding of everything that happened before that Saturday. Floating literally quieted the constant noise and chaos, allowing my body to rest and my mind to wander through the caves and tunnels of my unconscious, my most valuable tool for recovery, happiness, and health.

What’s The Answer?

The answers you’re looking for…I don’t have them. Your answers are different from mine, and perhaps neither I, your doctor, your therapist, your family, nor your friends may be able to figure them out for you, but we don’t need to. You have the answers; I promise you! The rest of us, your treatment team, are here to support you and help you discover your own voice. If it doesn’t yet make sense what I mean when I say “your own voice,” that’s okay. It will.

Chapter 1

Your CEO

I had just walked into Sarah’s office, feeling completely exhausted of pep-talking myself through every hour of every day while trying to keep down enough food to have a little energy but not eat more than Ed would tolerate. I couldn’t stand the notion that this was how my life would continue to be. I couldn’t do it. Every moment was so painful.

I sat on the couch across from Sarah, my therapist, and cried because, after keeping up a strong face at work and at home with my now ex-husband, her office was one of few places where I felt I could let go and cry. “What am I doing wrong, Sarah? What am I supposed to be doing? Just tell me what to do, and I’ll do it. Is it my job? Should I quit? Is it my husband? Should we not be together? Why won’t my parents stop trying to make me feel ungrateful? I just don’t want to be around them.”

She got up from her chair and sat down next to me on the couch with a pad of paper and a pen. On the paper, she drew a large oval. “Imagine,” she said, “that Emily is a company, and you are the CEO of Emily. When the company isn’t operating properly, is having an issue, or needs to make a decision about something, the company holds a board meeting.

Imagine that this oval represents the table at the board meeting.” She drew a small circle at the top of the table and wrote “CEO” next to it. “You are the CEO of Emily, which means that, although you may listen to the many voices and opinions of the board members, it is you, the CEO, that gets the final vote on how Emily gets to operate.” At this point, I still couldn’t grasp what she was talking about. I would have loved to have a CEO making decisions for me and telling me how to fix my life. So, when she said that I am the CEO, I felt frustrated and disappointed. I felt like I was failing Sarah’s exercise just like I was failing at everything else.

“Who are the other board members that you’re listening to? In other words, who are the other voices in your head that influence your decisions?”

“Well, there are always about four voices in my head, and I don’t know where they came from. I guess one voice is a really disciplined voice, telling me to eat less, to purge when I eat too much, and to generally be perfect. Another voice is a really sad one that begs me to stop my eating disorder because my body can’t take any more damage and because I can’t stand to be in pain anymore. Another is a hopeful voice that wonders if things would be better if I changed something in my life. That voice is always quickly squashed by a voice that reminds me of everything I’ve done wrong and makes me feel guilty for thinking something better would be possible.”

As I talked, Sarah drew small circles all around the large oval, representing chairs at the table for each voice I described. She labeled them Disciplined, Sad, Hopeful, and Guilty.

“Now,” she said, “even though all these voices are heard at the board meeting, you decide which one or ones to listen to and you make the decisions.” What was she talking about?! I felt even more clueless than I did when I first walked into her office because I so desperately wanted to understand the exercise, but I was lost. What was she talking about…“my own voice”? Obviously, if I knew how to make decisions that would make me less sad and depressed, I would! If I knew which voice to listen to, I would!

I had completely forgotten about that day until just recently. Now, about three years later, recovered from my eating disorder, spending about 3% of my thoughts on food instead of 95%, an expert in channeling my own voice and making decisions based on what I feel is best for me, the memory of that session with Sarah popped into my mind, and it hit me that I finally understood the exercise.

Before discovering float tanks, I was never able to differentiate which voice was my own. Now, my own voice may not be the only voice I hear, but it’s the only voice I listen to.

Chapter 2

Thursday at 3:00pm

My first visit to the Float Shoppe, I didn’t float. I was visiting my friend and former roommate, Sandra Calm, whom I hadn’t seen in about seven years. When I walked through the door, I saw a long, comfy couch with large pillows, heard soft piano music, and was slowed down by the smell of lavender. Inviting chairs circled a foot bath around the corner where I could hear giggling. This was just like Sandra’s living room, only bigger.

Sandra is the Co-Founder of the Float Shoppe, but I’m fortunate to know her from a bit earlier, back when we were roommates in a noisy but somehow still “calm” condo. Back then, her shelves were filled with her heavy nursing textbooks, and that girl, disciplined, studied mercilessly to be ready for each coming exam. I found it surprising, of course, that you could never see the floor of her bedroom through the piles of dirty clothes. On days when I was feeling down, she listened, asked questions, and listened some more, tactfully guiding me to my own answers. There might also have been a time or two when she called me, laughing over the phone, to pick her and my other roommate, Jackie, up from the bar after having a night out with friends.

She always invited me along, but I could never say yes. I wanted to, but, as a someone who clung to perfection, rigidness, and self-imposed rules, Sandra was confusing to me. She was serious and silly. Focused and all over the place. Leading and still questioning. She taught me balance through example, even if I wasn’t ready to absorb the lesson.

Three years later, still not having learned the lesson, I showed up on her new doorstep after I saw her on Facebook as Co-Founder of the Float Shoppe. What was she up to now? I remember it was a Thursday at 3pm. I remember it was a Thursday at 3pm because, after texting Sandra to see if she had any time to meet up, she had Thursday at 3pm. That week, as Thursday at 3pm approached, I got the urge to cancel and back out at least one hundred times. I fought that urge at least one hundred times and somehow made it to the Float Shoppe on Thursday at 3pm.

Sandra and I walked to a coffee shop and sat down at an outside table with our tea. She listened attentively and thoughtfully as I poured my heart onto hers. I began by telling her how sorry I was for losing touch, how I’d meant to pick up the phone time after time but didn’t know what to say.

I told her how sorry I was that I didn’t accept her offers to hang out all those times while we were living together and how I wished I could go back in time and say yes. I told her that I was so mad at myself for missing out on all those memories because I’d chosen to stay in with Ed instead. He told me no one wanted to hang out with me, and I listened. He told me people would think I’m fat, and I listened. He told me I would gain weight if I didn’t stay in and purge, and I listened.

I told her that the regret of missing out on friendships like hers brought me pain every day and that, despite the regret I felt, I still kept making the same choices.

I told her that I didn’t know what I was doing wrong to make myself this way and that, every time I tried to be different and healthy, I always ended up going to back to Ed and self-destruction. Whenever I had tried to disobey Ed’s rigid rules of food-restriction, counting calories, and purging, he played a reel in my mind of my past mistakes, the people who I’d hurt, and the people who hurt me.

He reminded me how he saved me 14 years ago when nothing in my world made sense, when I wanted to be anyone but me. He gave me a structure of food restriction so that I had something else to focus on, and I was good at it. Thinness is the only thing I’d ever been good at. As much as I hated Ed, after all these years, I didn’t know if I had an identity without him.

Sandra asked about my parents. I told her that I hadn’t spoken to them in over a year and that, through working with Sarah, had come to understand that I didn’t owe them anything and didn’t have to interact with them if I didn’t want to. Since it was unusual to interact with them when they weren’t influenced by alcohol, whether over the phone or in person, I just decided not to and felt immense freedom since making that choice.

I was beginning to see my childhood as an impressionist painting; the further away from it I got, the clearer it became. My parents weren’t necessarily angry, mean, or vindictive people but, instead, just drank a lot. I didn’t know how to not be angry at that. I felt anger every day.

I told Sandra I wanted to be healthier but didn’t know how to stop feeling pain or how to get through the day without drugs, which, at the time, I was using a lot of. The drugs (mostly bath salts, cocaine, Adderall, and Xanax), after using them for so long, were taking their toll, causing water blisters, paranoia, and dissolution. The paranoia caused me to panic and cry whenever I was alone in any room because I would convince myself that a shadowy man would come out of a closet or from another room and hurt me. I worried, however, that without the aid of these drugs, I’d become even more depressed, Ed’s voice would get louder, I wouldn’t make it through my 60 hour work weeks, I’d lose my job, I’d let my boyfriend down, and I’d lose everything.

And there’s no way I would ever allow myself to financially need my parents again.

I remember pausing to look down at the worn, wood table where we were sitting, wondering what Sandra was thinking. I looked up, and, although she was smiling at me warmly, I could see in her eyes that her heart felt my angst.

I told her that she may not realize it, but she has helped me so much just by being who she is. When we were living together, I watched her, and she was the first woman I’d known who acted as though she loved herself. No matter what mistakes she made, she treated herself as she would a friend. She didn’t let anyone else define how she lived her life, not a magazine, a teacher, a family member, nor a preconceived social ideal. I’d never seen that before and told her that it just confused me at the time but that I finally get it. I just wished I knew how to do it.

My Ed Story

from my journal, written September 26, 2009

(edited to remove numbers of calories, weight figures, and other potential triggers)

When I was 14 years old, I pulled a muscle in my back in dance class and went to the doctor. As the doctor examined my back, he discovered that I had scoliosis (curving of the spine) that had advanced to a c-shaped curvature of 58 degrees.

I had surgery to correct the curvature and stayed in the hospital for monitoring for one week following the surgery, during which time I lost a significant amount of weight.

My doctor told me in advance that the weight loss would happen due to lack of appetite and doing more sleeping than eating while recovering, but, at that time, I never thought about my weight and was indifferent to skinny versus fat.

While slowly recovering at home after hospitalization, I also naturally returned to my normal weight. Again, I couldn’t have cared less about the weight; I just wanted to get back to dance class. Dance was my passion, my joy, and I didn’t want to waste any time not dancing.

It wasn’t until sometime later that I saw the film Center Stage. While the film is remarkable for its choreography and incredible dancers, there was a very specific part of the story that stuck with me.

In the film, one of the dance students at the American Ballet Academy, Emily, is obviously bigger than her fellow dancers. She isn’t fat by any means, but she isn’t as thin as the other ballerinas either. In one scene, Emily is encouraged by her instructor to visit the nutritionist for “some tips.”

In a later scene, a teary Emily is seen being picked up by her mom in front of the school. Her fellow dancers rush over to her, and Emily tells them that she has been sent home for “not respecting her body.” Wow, that stuck with me.

It didn’t help that she had the same name as me. She was about the size that I was at the time, and I wanted to be a professional dancer more than anything!

I knew that I had to do something. To make matters worse, the most successful dancer in the film, Maureen, is bulimic. Of course, I didn’t want to be bulimic. That’s ridiculous and gross, right? Oh, little did I know what my future held.

The messages settled into my brain, and Ed was born.

I remembered how I had lost so much weight after just one week in the hospital. How did I do that? Not eating. What was I determined to do again? Not eat. Brilliant. All I needed was the discipline to do it.

I decided that I would eat no more than a certain number of calories per day. I don’t even remember how I landed on the number; it must have sounded small.

I learned how many calories were in everything. Every piece of fruit. Every brand of yogurt. I ate only low calorie foods and avoided fats and sugars like they were poison.

My discipline was so strong that I didn’t even miss the foods I wasn’t eating. As they say, nothing tastes as sweet as being skinny.

If I could eat only that many calories in a day, was I disciplined enough to eat less? Oh, yes I was. I kept restricting my daily caloric intake more and more, feeling triumphant each time. Eventually, the feeling of being hungry was normal, such that it didn’t even bother me anymore. It was feeling full and fat that bothered me. Hungry = skinny. Full = fat.

As the weight fell off, unfortunately, I was flooded with compliments. Friends told me I looked great, guys were all of a sudden interested in me and flirting with me, and, most importantly, I received more compliments in dance class from teachers and peers.

In July of 2001, my dance group took a trip to New York City to see some Broadway shows and take a few classes. In one class, the instructor had finished teaching a piece of choreography and watched us perform the piece in small groups. She then selected a few of us whom she thought were exceptional to perform it again for the rest of the class.

She pointed at a few dancers, “You, you, you…”, and then pointed at me and said, “and you, the ballerina.” She thinks I look like ballerina! Wahoo!
Let me tell you what she was looking at that was so ballerina-like:


Emaciated
Pale, yellowish skin
Veins visible
Thin, brittle hair
No breasts
Purple lips from poor circulation

 

The sad thing is that I did look like what much of our society generalizes as what a ballerina should look like. I wish I had the wisdom at the time to know what a dancer really is.

A dancer is strong and powerful with every motion, even if moving softly. A dancer’s body is not any specific shape but, instead, is beautiful because of how unique it is. A dancer is true to oneself and does not try to imitate or resemble anyone else.

Although I may have resembled a ballerina with the weight loss, I certainly didn’t dance like one. Having low calorie intake zapped my energy level and made me a zombie in class. Because my body was eating itself in order to survive, I had no muscle strength. My leaps were pathetic.

Sadly, I loved the way I looked, and it really didn’t hit me yet that being this thin was a bad thing. I still thought that I was just doing what ballerinas do to look so ballerina-like.

My body tried to wake me up by ceasing my menstrual cycle. After a few months of not menstruating, I thought that something might be wrong with me, not thinking for a second that it could be related to low body weight. My mom took me to the doctor, who told me what was obvious to her: I had Anorexia, and my body was basically shutting down due to malnutrition.

She referred me to a nutritionist that I would begin seeing once per week. I went for a couple sessions and was told about the magical wonders of the food pyramid and given food planning charts so that I could be sure to eat enough of each food group every day.

Is this lady joking?! Does she really think that I don’t know what the food pyramid is? I was a polite patient, but I felt like shouting, “Hello! I am skinny, and I like it that way. Your food pyramid is going to make me fat, and then I won’t be a ballerina anymore and the guys at school will stop looking at me!”

These sessions with the nutritionist were not successful because we were trying to treat the symptom and not the issue. Being skinny was still way more important to me than this food pyramid thing.

Looking back, I can’t help but wonder why I sought society’s approval and validation so fiercely and didn’t value my own health…didn’t love myself.

Why was I the only dancer in my group to take thinness so drastically serious that I thought I would be nothing without it?

Sure, my parents expected a lot out of me in terms of achievement, but that’s how a lot of my friends’ parents were too. My friends saw the same glossy magazines and models on television, but they didn’t develop anorexia like I did.

I can’t see exactly why now, but I suspect my parents’ alcoholism had a lot to do with it. I’m only starting to see now that they were alcoholics at all and that their nightly routine of terror and verbal abuse, both to me and to each other, wasn’t something I deserved to experience.

And so, deeper down the rabbit hole I fell. I had no idea continuing to restrict would have long-term consequences. I thought that food was just for gaining weight and had no clue about all of the reasons that bodies need nourishment. I was going to find out the hard way.

I made a deal with my mom that I could stop seeing the nutritionist as long as she saw improvement in my eating, but I had no intention of eating more. And so, the hiding game began. This is what eating disorders turn into for most sufferers. When we know what we’re doing is wrong but intend to continue to do it, we become masters of disguise.

I would make sure that my mom saw me packing more food than I was going to eat, and I lied to her about what I had eaten each day. Being gone at school all day and at dance all night made it easy to avoid family meals. The majority of the food that I did eat was at night when I got home, which I made sure that my mom saw so that it appeared that I had eaten similar quantities of food throughout the day.

No one could make me eat. I was too disciplined. When you’re a teenager, you often don’t really see the big picture. I wasn’t thinking about long-term consequences. I was thinking about what I wanted right now.

I wanted to be a successful dancer, and I wanted to be skinny and model-like. I wanted to resemble the females I saw in magazines, movies, and TV. I wanted it so badly that I thought my life would be empty and meaningless without being skinny.

Plus, the obsession over weight, self-imposed rules, and calorie counting was a welcomed distraction from the chaos at home. It gave me something else to have control over and to focus on. It defined me, and I didn’t think that I would be worth anything without it. Once the hiding began, the eating disorder took on a life of its own.

At one point during my senior year of high school, I stuck my finger down my throat and discovered that I could eat food and then, as if through magic, remove the food from my stomach. I went overboard and, on some days, would binge and purge seven times a day.

My bulimia was a secret, and hiding it was just part of my daily routine. I was mortified and embarrassed by it. I knew that I didn’t want to be this person. Trying not to binge and purge caused me to resort back to anorexia starvation methods. If I didn’t eat food, then I wouldn’t have anything to throw up. Of course, I would often give in and binge and purge. And every time was “the last time.”

After high school, I went to Chapman University in Orange, California, hoping that immersing myself in a new place with new people would allow me to blossom into the confident person that I knew I could be. As it turns out, Ed followed me to California.

It was a very difficult transition. The dining hall was scary for two reasons: 1) It involved eating with other people and 2) The food didn’t have nutrition labels on it. I ended up not really eating anything except for what I threw up later in the bathroom of the dorm.

Although I had initially immersed myself in the dance program at Chapman, I decided that I was done looking at myself in a leotard in the mirror. Even more than I wanted to be a dancer, I wanted to stop comparing my body to other dancers.

I am so sad that I couldn’t see the dancer on the inside instead of just on the outside, but I was desperate at this point. With the help of my dear roommates and friends, I resumed eating socially on occasion but still starved myself and threw up periodically.

However, I still had a life outside of my eating disorder and became involved on campus, excelled in my classes, and worked part-time at a coffee shop. I loved my community at Chapman, and I regret that I allowed Ed to take up so much of my time.

In my second and third year of college, I was a resident advisor, and I loved it. I was the advisor for my hall of 40 freshmen residents, and I enjoyed every moment of getting to know them. It’s a role that suited me well because of how I related to their issues of homesickness, confusion, loneliness, and even eating disorders.

During this time, hiding my eating disorder seemed so seamless and easy that I didn’t fight it. My resident advisor dorm room was a single where I lived by myself, so it was easy for me to binge and purge on a daily basis. To everyone else, I looked pulled together and healthy, so it worked…unfortunately.

After graduating from Chapman, I moved into a studio apartment in Northwest Portland, thinking that that might be the place where I became so happy and confident that I wouldn’t need Ed anymore. Again, Ed flourished.

I was lonely. I didn’t have residents to help or friends to chat with. My bulimia combined with the loneliness often made me feel depressed and hopeless. I realized that it was a horrible idea for me to live alone and, through looking at ads on Craigslist for roommates, found Sandra.

She and her other roommate, Jackie, were looking for a third roommate for her condo. The three of us got along fantastically, and I loved living with these amazing women.

Of course, as I was still hiding my Ed, I avoided eating with them or going out on adventures with them, which I see now were potential memories that I’ll never have.

It was around this time that I started dating my husband. I rushed into marrying the first guy who told me he loved me, and I still feel so alone.

I’m married, sitting alone in a strangely beige apartment in the suburbs while my husband is at work. How did I get here? I don’t want this, but I don’t know what I want at all. I just don’t want to be in pain anymore.

Ed, every day for the past ten years, you have told me that I would be worthless without you, and I believed you.

I listened to you, and I followed your every command to be skinny, to neglect and abuse my body in ways that it didn’t deserve. My body has been good to me, and you convinced me that that wasn’t good enough.

You made me believe that I would lose everything and everyone I had if I wasn’t the skinny version of myself.

Well, I listened to you, and look at how much I’ve lost. Your control of me has made me socially isolated, ridden with anxiety, and weak both physically and emotionally. I want my confidence and my happiness back. I want myself back.

Chapter 3

An Opposing Force

“I think I can help you,” Sandra said as we finished our tea.

She told me that people have found incredible healing through floating for a variety of conditions and would be worth at least trying.

Okay,” I said, still a bit skeptical and afraid. She pulled out her phone and booked me for a float that Saturday morning.

Let’s go soak our feet in the foot bath.”

Are you sure that’s okay?” I remember asking, assuming that, like most places that aren’t your own house, you need an appointment or reservation just to be there.

Of course,” she said. I had already told myself earlier that it was okay to spend 30 minutes having tea and then I’d have enough time to rush home, start a load of laundry, and make a trip to the grocery store before picking up my boyfriend from work. I didn’t even realize we’d been talking for an hour already! My disciplined voice was feeding me excuses I could use to leave as quickly as possible, but another voice, one that often gets ignored, reminded me that I came here for a reason. I could do the laundry and shopping tomorrow.

The hot foot bath felt so disarming. I immediately let go of awkwardness and started talking to the woman next to me about the float that she had just come out of as if social anxiety wasn’t something I struggled with.

Leaning back in the chair and taking a look around, I remember thinking that this felt…wrong. This place, these people, and this snugly chair were begging me to slow down, but the force of my normal, rushed pace didn’t want to accept it. The Float Shoppe was and is an opposing force to the rush and scramble of what I had always known as normal. Clinging to control and perfection wasn’t working for me, so maybe this was okay. It was a start. I didn’t float that day, but at least I got my feet wet.

Chapter 4

The Fight or Float Response

That Saturday morning, I floated for the first time. I had no idea what I was getting into, why I was doing it, or how it could help, but I did it anyway. I trusted Sandra; she’d never steered me wrong before.

If it doesn’t help, I thought, my quick-fix coping methods will still be there. Anorexia and bulimia will still be there. Drugs will still be there. My tiny, body-size-affirming jeans will still be there. The mind-numbing routine of restricting calories will still be there. But why not see if something different is possible.

Sandra walked me up to my float tank, Tranquility. She gave me a brief introduction on what I might expect and how to operate the tank, but, since my head was so foggy, it was difficult to hold eye contact. I found myself distracted by how smooth and still the water looked. I caught the basics though…insert ear plugs, rinse off in the shower, and step into the tank.

She let me know that, in the tank, I had options. Dim lighting on or off. Lid open or shut. For me, it was a no-brainer. Lid closed, lights off, and go away, world! Leave me alone for just a little while, please.

Entering the tank truly felt like hiding away in a secret, protective cave where no one could find me, hurt me, or tell me what I’d done wrong that day. I let out a long, deep breath that I’m quite sure I’d been holding in for years.

After a few minutes, though, I started to get antsy. How much time has gone by? I wonder if my boyfriend has sent me a text message. Someone from work might be trying to get a hold of me. What am I doing in here? This is such a waste of time. Why did I think this would help? Why did I come here? How could I waste this much time on myself? There’s no helping me. I’ve always been depressed, and I’ll always be depressed. I’m just going to let Sandra down. I can’t get out now though. I at least have to get through this one float for Sandra.

I reached down to feel the pointiness of my hip bones. As long as my hip bones are pointy, everything is still okay. Between the lack of gravity and the slickness of the Epsom salt water, my body felt completely different. My hands slid right off my hips, and they definitely weren’t pointy. What? No! I quickly moved my hands up to my ribs to make sure that they were protruding and defined, just as much as they were the night before, but my hands slid right over the slippery skin of my rib cage. I panicked. Alone and scared, not even Ed was with me in there.

Why? What’s wrong with me? I started crying, and tears rolled down the sides of my face. My arms came down to my sides with my palms facing up as if to motion I give up.

After a while, I stopped crying. I still didn’t know how much time had gone by, but I had to pass the time somehow. I noticed my hair felt like mermaid hair, swishing back and forth over my head with a life of its own. I started swishing the rest of my body like a mermaid until I found some sort of back and forth rhythm in the water. This is kinda fun. I’ll just do this for a while.

The next thing I remember is hearing soft music. My float was over. I did it! I made it! It sounds a bit dramatic when I say it out loud (or type it on my computer), but, in that moment, I felt reassurance that I’d made the right choice every time I’d felt the urge to exit this world early, when that seemed like a good idea. Perhaps, I thought, if I hold resilient and keep fighting against those thoughts, the pain and discomfort I feel will indeed be temporary.

After I showered and got my clothes back on, I came down the stairs to find Sandra at the front desk, smiling. I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know what just happened! She looked at me, and all I managed to say was, “It was hard, but it was good.”

Let’s talk soon,” she said. I nodded my head in agreement, told her I would text her later, and slipped out the front door.

Later on that day, I made an appointment for another float that Wednesday evening and again the following Saturday morning. Although I wasn’t able to see at all how floating would help in the long run (it couldn’t make my job easier, it couldn’t teach me how to eat, etc.), I still longed to get back into that safe, dark cocoon where the world wouldn’t find me for another two hours. Plus, having gotten through my first float, I knew I could do it again.

Chapter 5

My Unaltered State

Wednesday evening came, and I walked into the Float Shoppe again, this time with the confidence of an adept floater. Yeah, it’s me. I know what I’m doing because I’ve totally done this one time before.

Soaking my feet in the foot bath, I noticed around the corner that a couple had just walked through the front door. With no one at the front desk at the moment, the two looked around and seemed a bit lost. I felt called into action. “Hi, do you guys want some tea or water?” I asked the couple, feeling so comfortable in my new sanctuary that I was able to welcome others.

Once it was time for my float, I got back into the Tranquility tank, lid closed and lights off. This was now a familiar space that I knew and trusted, so I let go more easily. I was safe once more from the scary, stressful world that I wouldn’t have to deal with for another 90 minutes. I didn’t think about much before I fell asleep and slept until the music starting playing, letting me know it’s time to get back out there and keep going…until my next float, of course.

Floating was like that for me for about two months. Every float was a peaceful, 90 minute escape from the world, and I would struggle through stressful days at work and anxious nights lying awake in bed looking forward to my next float.

I longed for each coming float so strongly that I started floating every day or every other day. Thinking that was weird and worrying what people at the Float Shoppe would think of me if I came every day, I started floating at another float center in town, Float On, on days that I didn’t go to the Float Shoppe. (It’s not weird to float every day, just in case you were wanting to try it!)

Chapter 6

Instant Relief

I soon recognized that I was looking forward to the relief of floating the same way I would look forward to the relief taking of drugs or the relief of purging food.

The most difficult part about eating food was not actually eating it. The most difficult part about eating food was sitting with the feeling of fullness, letting it digest, and resisting the strong urge to throw up. Since the feeling of emptiness was my normal and felt soothing and safe, the feeling of fullness was extremely uncomfortable, so much so that it was impossible to distract myself from how “fat” I felt.

If I followed a meal with a float, however, I could allow my food to digest without the discomfort of fullness. Lying in the float tank, free from gravity, pregnant woman don’t feel pregnant, and I certainly didn’t feel “fat” or feel the weight of my food.

After a 90 minute float, I’d made it over the hump of digesting and overcame the temptation to purge. Doing this over and over, floating after eating meals, reassured me that my body could digest meals and that everything would be okay if I just gave it the time to do so. The float tank was my training wheels for digestion.

I was only able to withdraw from the medications and other drugs I was dependent on by replacing them with the instant relief of floating. One day, it occurred to me that floating may be something I was becoming dependent on, and panic hit me that floating could be a bad, addictive thing. I immediately sent Sandra a text. I asked her if I was becoming addicted to floating, if this was just another dependency that I will eventually have to withdraw from.

Sandra responded by praising me for searching for a new normal that differed from my current state, which was one of sadness, guilt, regret, and fear. Why not, she suggested, continue to return to the meditative state of floating until it becomes my new normal. If my state of normal gradually became a more peaceful one, then I wouldn’t need the float tank as often to facilitate that feeling for me.

Whew, what a relief! What Sandra said made sense to me, but what sort of new normal was she talking about? What would that look like?

Chapter 7

Board Meeting

In a float soon after that, instead of shutting my eyes and sleeping, this question circled in my mind. What would my life look like if I was happy? It didn’t bother or worry me but, instead, sort of excited me. What would I want to have more time for? My job is consuming me, and I can’t handle the pressure of my current job. That’s not so terrible; there’s plenty of other jobs that I could be successful at. I can still be financially independent working a different job…and maybe work just 30-40 hours a week. It could even be a job that I enjoy. I could have extra energy and focus for other things! But what other things do I want to do?

As I processed these questions, I used my hands to push myself from side to side in the tank, back and forth like a metronome. Every time I reached one side of the tank with my hand, I would wait for my hair to catch up before pushing myself back to the other side. I turned on the light in the tank so I could stare at the details of the lid.

What other things do I want to do? I want more time with my boyfriend so that we don’t just see each other in passing. I want to go out for coffee with friends and be there for them when they need me, not feeling too exhausted after work to do anything.

I came out of the float with a rough game plan, certainly a push in the right direction.

I also noticed how different that float was compared to my previous floats. I wasn’t just using the tank to escape anymore. Although I didn’t see it this way at the time, this was my first board meeting where my own inner voice took charge.

Chapter 8

Into the Void

Putting my game plan into action, I started small. I began with working as little overtime as possible at my job at a doctor’s office so that I could have longer evenings and weekends with my boyfriend. He was happy to see me less exhausted, even if work still crowded the back of my mind. Nothing is changed overnight, I assured myself.

I met friends for coffee here and there, and when I would talk to them about floating, some of them were so interested that they wanted to come floating with me! Those days were undoubtedly the most rewarding. Although floating is a solitary activity, spending time before and after sharing the visions, discoveries, fears, and triumphs of our unique float experiences was not only fascinating but connected me further to the person I was with. I love introducing people to floating and hearing how they find it challenging, relaxing, or even enlightening.

For some of my friends, the experience of floating was difficult and, having had my own tough time adjusting to floating, I understood. It can be challenging to spend so much time in our own heads, especially for those of us who stay feverishly occupied during the day to avoid being alone with our own thoughts. Even though the float tank had become a safe haven for me, something I wanted so badly for everyone, I learned not to push it.

When talking to Sandra about this, she said, “Each person’s problems are their own, issues that we must confront and learn from. You can’t do it for them, but you can listen. You can encourage their own voice and, most importantly, you can continue to model self-care and mindfulness.”

Floating, I’ve discovered, is more beneficial for healing when the individual is ready to let go of what they already know and open to new possibilities, even if it’s difficult. If pushed or pressured into it, the experience may not be as fruitful. Change can be scary. Entering the void must be one’s own decision when they’re ready to be uncomfortable for awhile, knowing that their hard work and courage will be worth it.

Chapter 9

Being Present

Fixing people, I have learned, is not my job, but it was difficult to see my friends still hurting once I started to hurt less. What I could do, however, was be present. I couldn’t be in their heads, but I could be there in the moment as they talked, shared a cup of coffee, or just rested their frustrations on my shoulders for a while.

Never before was I able to be truly present for my friends as I was always too consumed with Ed. Too consumed with all of those voices. Being present for others was a quality that, as soon as I recognized it, made me love myself a little more. I liked being a friend. I started to see myself differently, more confidently, and started to feel like I was discovering an identity I had outside of being skinny.

Being present for others is something I found so special that I sought it out. Whenever I was at the Float Shoppe for my own floats, I would strike up conversations with people sitting around the foot bath. “Is this your first float?” or “Do you live around here?” or “How did you hear about floating?” I liked to pretend that I worked there. Sandra had let me know that she generally avoided hiring friends as that had ended poorly for her in the past, which I certainly understood, but she assured me that opportunities in the float community were bound to come up.

Sure enough, Float On soon advertised that they were hiring, and I was sure that it was fate that their need for employees was running parallel to my need for change.

I wrote a letter to them that detailed my float journey thus far and my eagerness to share floating with others. I was invited to a group interview barbecue, and it was the most fun I’d ever had at a barbecue, let alone an interview. It felt like I was meeting dear friends, and I was.

From the group interview candidates, I was one selected for a final interview and was honored to know that they saw potential in me. To jazz up that interview, I asked each of the friends that I’d brought floating to write a paragraph or so about that experience and displayed their pieces on a presentation board. I wanted to convey that, although I love floating personally, my experience is richer when sharing it with others.

The interview went really well, one of those interviews that feels more like a conversation then a series of questions. I wasn’t chosen for a position, and, although I was sad when I initially found out, my growing skill of mindfulness carried me through and above that feeling. I banked the memories of the most meaningful hiring process that ever was.

I still keep in touch with the people I met and float at Float On often. Plus, I was chosen for a final interview out of a group of really amazing candidates. Who could feel bad about that?! Sandra also assured me that great things were just around the corner if I just kept putting myself out there, and she was right.

Float On was also accepting applications to their Writer’s Program, and I jumped at the chance. I met with Marshall at Float On to talk about the program and sign a contract. The deal was four floats in exchange for four pieces of writing that they could publish in advertising or as a part of an anthology. I felt like a professional writer, and one of my pieces was even chosen to be published in The Portland Mercury as part of their Tales from the Tank series. Without that experience, I don’t know if I would have realized that my writing had any value, and I doubt I would’ve had the courage to write this book.

Thank you, dear friends at Float On, for every opportunity you’ve provided me and continue to provide to others.

Chapter 10

Self-Love

So, what was so different about me that made me more resilient and hopeful, flowing over each of those obstacles like a wave? Like when Sandra told me she didn’t hire friends or when I didn’t get hired at Float On? At any one of those points, a pre-floating Emily would have interpreted such obstacles as reasons to dislike myself, stop trying, and cling tighter to Ed.

The difference, I think, was loving myself. I used to hate it when people would tell me to love myself because I didn’t know what that meant. If I knew how to release past mistakes and past hurt, I would. The voices of guilt, sadness, and regret used to be so loud that I thought I deserved to hear them, deserved to hurt. After floating for a few months, however, I only heard one voice. The voice that remained was that of hope, and I began to love it.

Chapter 11

Fear Wears a Mask to Look Scary

Although I was loving the changes that were happening with my health, I still wasn’t loving my job at the time. I was the office manager at a doctor’s office, and, while I enjoyed the patient interaction, I didn’t enjoy the many hours spent on the phone with insurance companies.

It was fast-paced and required long hours. I was previously getting Adderall from a psychiatrist for “improved focus”, which I was heavily abusing, and, now detoxed, was finding it increasingly difficult to immerse myself in unsatisfying busywork the more I found enjoyment in other things. Distraction didn’t interest me anymore. I just wasn’t passionate about my job, which only became a problem when I discovered what it feels like to be passionate about something. My passion was sharing floating with others, but, since that passion was still a hobby for me, I had to either find peace at my current job or find other work.

I first attempted communicating with my boss about reducing workload, which was not successful. He had a lot to manage, and, despite his best intentions to help me, my requests were not at the top of his priority list. I daydreamed about quitting, quickly squashing that thought. I need this job.

It was then I realized that what kept me at that job was fear. I looked that fear in the face to see what was so scary. What am I really afraid of? Dipping into my savings? Canceling my phone plan? I can always find another job. Nothing, I decided, was more valuable to me than the freedom and serenity of less stress.

Confident that I had exhausted all efforts in making the job fit what I wanted and needed, I put in my notice. With that act, my boss, not wanting to lose me as an employee, found the time to make my needs a priority. We collaborated to find the best solution, and I took his offer to work part-time in billing instead of full-time in management. I was thrilled to not only still have a job, but a job that I knew I could do well while still having plenty of free time for the people and activities I enjoyed.

Change would never have happened if I hadn’t recognized my own needs and took action to honor them. I don’t believe we ever fall so victim to our circumstances that we are unable to have control of our own lives.

Chapter 12

Book Baby

I took every opportunity that came my way to be involved in the float community, including volunteering every Tuesday at the Float Shoppe and attending the Float Conference in August of 2014. I made incredible connections at the conference, especially Dr. Justin Feinstein from the Laureate Institute for Brain Research (LIBR) in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Dr. Feinstein had discovered the healing potentials of floating for people who suffer from anxiety-related disorders and was in the process of opening a float center at LIBR within the Eating Disorders Treatment Program. After talking to him about my recovery for about an hour following his presentation, he invited me to come with Sandra and Dylan to LIBR in October of 2014 to assist with the setup of the float center.

It was one of the best days of my life, right up there with the day that the Float Shoppe asked me to cover a shift one weekend while Sandra and Dylan were in Hawaii. Since I’d shown up repeatedly for volunteering, when they needed someone to work, I was someone they knew they could rely on. Covering a shifts here and there led to being hired on permanently!

It was then that I left my other job. I realized that whatever time I wasn’t spending working at the Shoppe or having fun with my boyfriend and friends, I needed to spend writing this book.

Chapter 13

Meditation

Has anyone ever said to you, “Hey, you look stressed. You should really meditate,” and you want to just slap that person because, obviously, if you could sit down and quiet your mind, you would! I used to hate it when people would say that to me. I found it insulting that they didn’t understand that my pain wasn’t something that could be cured with a deep breath. Or could it?

Although I certainly didn’t realize at the time what I was doing in the float tank, relaxing my mind and channeling my own inner voice, I get it now. I was totally meditating!

I didn’t see it that way until I heard Dylan, Sandra’s partner in life and in co-founding the Float Shoppe, call floating “facilitated meditation”, and I was like “Oh my gosh, I totally meditated.” I felt like I had entered a secret society of people like David Lynch and Bruce Lee who have an understanding of this meditation thing and reap the benefits of serenity and inner peace.

It’s true; the float tank does facilitate meditation. When I was unable to quiet my mind of the stressors in my life, the float tank did it for me. The float tank literally eliminates sensory input so that one can experience what that feels like, practice it float after float, and, eventually, facilitate that experience for oneself.

After enough of this meditation practice, whether I was in a busy grocery store, hanging out with friends, or in my haven at the Float Shoppe, if a stressor or uncomfortable thought came, I could enter a state of peace because I now understood what that felt like. It just took practice.

Chapter 14

Choose Your Own Adventure

Feeling like somewhat of a floating expert and loving being practiced in entering a meditative state in the tank, I asked Sandra, “What else can I do in there?” I had generally thought that it was best to go into a float without any pre-conceived agenda or expectations of what would happen, but I liked the idea of utilizing the freedom and safety of the float experience to its full potential.

She asked if I’d ever done a “choose your own adventure float”.

Like the children’s’ books?” I asked.

Sort of,” she explained. “As soon as you’re feeling relaxed in the float, decide where in the world or even fantasy world that you’d like to go. Then, go there.”

I had no idea what kind of adventure I wanted or where I wanted to go, but I figured I’d see what came to me in the moment. About 20 minutes into my float, I felt centered and calm. I was dreamy but certain that I was still awake. I asked myself where I would like to fly and unhesitatingly chose to go back to the kitchen of the house I group in.

I guess I felt like time-traveling.

What I saw was a typical evening at our house. The younger me that I was looking at appeared about 10 years old. My dad, purple-lipped from red wine, was a drunken terror. (Yes, dad, you can get drunk from wine. The article you read about wine being healthy was not recommending that you drink two bottles per evening.).

My mom, also a bit drunk, was bringing food to the dinner table, nodding her head in agreement as my dad yelled at the basketball game on TV from his seat at the dinner table. Noticing younger me glaring at him, he muttered something under his breathe. My brother, sitting next to me, told me to stop glaring.

Why did I fly here?! Hawaii or New York City would be way more fun, but, for some reason, I wanted so badly to go here. I guess I felt like investigating rather than laying out on a beach.

The next thing that happened was a common trigger for my dad’s rage. The loaf of French bread was not sliced all the way through. My mom liked to slice the French bread so that part of the crust was still connected. She thought it was very Italian for one to tear off a piece of French bread for themselves. My dad, however, found this enraging and deceitful since he had asked her repeatedly not to do it. Many nights were spent warring over French bread.

As younger me noticed my dad throwing the crumby bread mess down on the table, younger me immediately turned to my mom, wanting to yell, “Mom! Why did you do that to the bread again?!” My dad glared at my mom from his seat, ready for a fight.

I remember not understanding why I was the only genius among my mother, my brother, and myself, seeing the obvious, that we were in the presence of an abusive, scary man with nothing better to do but create a war-ending battle out of anything he pleased.

My dad yelled and raged, backing my mom into a corner. “Um, LET’S GO!” I yelled. My mother told me to shut up and to stop making it worse. She and my brother insisted we “stand our ground”. Dad provoked us, wanting more and more of a reason to explode. Chased us around the table and upstairs. Said hurtful things about us that absolutely weren’t true.

By this time, younger me hadn’t yet figured out what being “drunk” was. That it was the alcohol that impacted my parents’ behavior. That my dad didn’t mystically transform into a monster every night. Well, he did, but it was just the alcohol, not werewolf syndrome.

As I, adult me, watched this scene as an onlooker, I whispered to younger me that everything would be okay, that this was not okay behavior of her parents, and that she didn’t do anything wrong to cause it. I assured her that, someday, she would be surrounded by friends who love her. Friends who stick with her like glue until she learned what was true and valuable about herself and let go of the lies that had been told to her before.

I think I flew to this scene because I’d never had the courage to do so before, to revisit, examine, and relive. The isolation, freedom, and safety of the float tank, however, was the perfect environment to examine what lies within me. I was able to confront my past with the wisdom and mindfulness of my adult self. Finally, some closure.

Chapter 15

From Bath Salts to Epsom Salts

The mental and spiritual benefits of floating (meditation, centeredness, time-traveling) continued to guide me, but I’d be lying if I said there weren’t occasional floats where I couldn’t seem to shut my brain off and, no matter how much I wiggle and splash, never reach that meditative state that I so long to return to. 90 minutes go by, and I feel like a floating failure, as if I didn’t float right (no such thing!). Because of the dense Epsom salt water, no float is wasted float.

The first time I felt like I’d had “wasted” a float, I sulked home afterwards and went straight to bed. The next day, I noticed that I still felt different than I did the day before. I felt more energetic and more positive. After doing some research and talking to others, I learned that this experience is not an uncommon one. While my brain was busy feeling like a failure, the magnesium from the Epsom salt was doing it’s own thing.

Most of us are deficient in magnesium from our diets (especially those of us with eating disorders!) and so, in the float tank, our body happily absorbs it. We need magnesium, a key mineral, because it allows the body to bind sufficient amounts of serotonin, which we know stabilizes our moods and gives us a sense of well-being.

That glow that I felt lasted for at least two days and also served as an alert that I would benefit from adding a magnesium supplement to my routine, which I now take every morning. My body thanks me by rewarding me with more calm, relaxation, and focus than I ever thought was possible for myself. Thus, on the days when I feared I was “too anxious to float”, floating was really the best thing for me and gave me a boost in a positive direction.

The best part about all of this is that its rewards are natural and long-term. It’s not a medication or drug that will help for a little bit and then turn on me. It’s not a TV gimmick “miracle pill” that’s loaded with empty promises. It’s just basic, natural minerals that my body can always count on. I wouldn’t have fully believed it unless I experienced it first-hand.

Chapter 16

Ed’s Dead

It was around July of 2014, just four months after my first float, that I noticed Ed’s voice just wasn’t there anymore. Yeah, that’s it. He just got quieter and eventually went away.

I wasn’t even actively working on recovery, or, at least, not in the traditional sense. I wasn’t working with any meal plan, wasn’t in therapy, and wasn’t practicing any cognitive behavior exercises (if any of those things are helpful to you, keep doing them!). One day I just started to count calories like I normally would and then found it boring and exhausting. I would get the usual impulse to purge what I’d just eaten and then realize that I wanted the energy from the food and so didn’t throw up the meal. I remember getting a salad at the Vietnamese restaurant next to the Float Shoppe but, instead of getting tofu like I normally did, I asked for chicken…because that sounded better. Where did Ed go?!

Looking back now, I see what happened more clearly than I did as it was happening. The more I loved myself, the less I needed Ed to love me. The more I noticed and cherished the little quirks of my identity, the less I needed to cling to my false identity as “the skinny girl”. The more I filled my days with being present in every moment, the less I wanted to fill my moments with Ed.

Ed always told me that, if I wasn’t skinny, everything in my life would fall apart, and people wouldn’t love me anymore. Opposite! When I treated myself with love and respect, I was also showing others how to treat me. If that wasn’t how someone was ready to treat me, then they weren’t someone I wanted to keep close anyway, Ed included.

Chapter 17

I Like Pizza

One aspect of being recovered that took a bit of time was relearning what foods I liked, what foods made me feel energized, and which foods I naturally didn’t like. With no moral value on food anymore, there were no rules. This was really exciting, but also absolutely terrifying.

Grocery stores were a bit overwhelming, so I much preferred to try different dishes at local restaurants. Who knew I would love Lebanese food so much?! I remember eating pizza and, half-way through devouring a slice, realized that this was the first time I had eaten a slice of pizza without picking at the toppings and then nibbling at the crust to give the appearance that I was actually eating it.

It also took my body a bit of time to be cool with having a bunch of food in it, so I guess I would say my mind recovered before my body did. After restricting food intake for so many years, the feeling of emptiness in my stomach had become my normal, and the feeling of food in there was always uncomfortable and intrusive (hence, purging).

I assumed it would always be this way and that everyone felt awful after they ate, but, after about two months of eating regular meals and keeping them down, I noticed that my hunger increased. With my hunger increasing, the feeling of food in my stomach became soothing and relaxing. It didn’t feel like I was fatter; it just felt like I wasn’t hungry anymore. I think what happened there was my metabolism kicking back into high gear, which makes sense because my energy, focus, and stamina were normalizing as well. Our bodies are amazing. They can bounce back and heal, but we have to trust them.

Support Group

my blog entry dated December 9, 2011

…the day after I met Kendra

I was soooooo glad that I mustered up the courage to go to the support group last night. Yes, it was EDA (Eating Disorders Anonymous), and it was the best hour of my month!

It was a small group, just me and two other women, but it was actually kind of perfect because we all got a significant amount of time to share and to support each other with comments. I had never before sat next to someone who spends her days hiding in the same way that I do, who has the same fears and confusions that I do, and who needs support in the same way that I do.

We exchanged phone numbers, and I felt as I if I just made two wonderful friends. Kindred spirits.

Here were my two big take-aways from the meeting:

1) Recovery does get better. One girl said that she never thought life would be better until, one day, it kinda was better. That gave me a lot of hope.

2) As much I like to think that I can, I can’t recover alone. Yes, I need to do the hard work, but it’s the support and guidance from others that will keep me sailing through the rough waves.

I can’t wait for the next meeting in two weeks!! Maybe I’m just so jazzed about it because I haven’t been able to feel good about doing anything social in years, so it feels good to connect with other people.

Love,

Emily

Chapter 18

Keep Going

Kendra is my best friend and partner in recovery. I met her about three years ago at an Eating Disorders Anonymous meeting, and we’ve been supporting each other ever since through Ed stuff and life stuff.

Up until I started floating and feeling change for the first time, I, along with Kendra, feared that it may not be possible to recover from Ed. We both felt like we’d exhausted all treatment options, but, at least, we weren’t alone. Once I discovered floating, I brought Kendra with me to float twice, but she didn’t want to do it again.

Being alone with her thoughts was very difficult for her, even though I assured her that those thoughts were normal and that that phase passed for me. When I reached the point where I realized that Ed’s voice was gone, Kendra was happy for me but still had trouble believing that recovery was possible for her. I went over to her house to hang out one day in October of 2014, which happened to be a really rough day for her. She told me she didn’t think it was possible for her to recover, and that was hard for me to hear. I didn’t have the answers for her, but I assured her she would find them.

I hadn’t seen Kendra in about two months prior to us meeting for tea and a movie in January of this year, 2015. When I walked into the cafe, I noticed something was surprisingly different about her. She was glowing. Her hair was soft and shiny, skin rich with color, energy beaming from her eyes, and, most apparently, her face, once puffy and swollen from purging had returned to it’s natural structure. “You look radiant!” I told her.

She would usually respond to such a comment from me by looking down, covering her body with her arms, and negating my compliment. Instead, she looked me directly in the eyes, knowing exactly what I was complimenting, and said, “Thank you. I have been doing better than ever with eating and just being happy.”

Really?!” I was ecstatic. “What changed?”

I don’t know,” she replied, “I wasn’t working with any meal plan, wasn’t in therapy, and wasn’t really trying to recover at all. I just noticed one day that I got up to purge but decided that I didn’t feel like it.”

I laughed out loud (because that’s how much joy I had) and said, “It’s like that, right?! The voice just went away for me too when I wasn’t actively trying to recover! Was there anything else you were doing differently or anything that was helpful to you?”

“Yes, actually. Acupuncture.”

“I’ve been wanting to try acupuncture. What does it do for you? How does it make you feel?”

“Probably how floating makes you feel,” she said. Best answer ever.

As we talked and drank our tea, I continued to notice every small difference about her. She carried herself with more confidence. When she told me about receiving rejection letters from colleges, she did so with hope instead of worry and self-hate. When she talked about how dysfunctional her family was at Christmas, she did so with laughter and humor instead of pain and hurt. When she asked me questions about how things in my life were going, she did so with an energy that I hadn’t seen in her before. She was present with me. She was in that moment with me and nowhere else.

We talked about how fortunate we both are to have discovered floating and acupuncture, alternative therapies that impacted each of us uniquely. We talked about how glad we were that we kept going, kept fighting, and kept trying new things when other treatments weren’t effective.

I’ve discovered and been astounded by the many treatments and approaches that do work for me after years of utilizing traditional treatments that don’t work for me. Essential oils, for example, are blowing my mind right now. They aren’t just fancy smellies; they do crazy things. A couple drops of peppermint oil in water or tea helped my digestive system adapt to all the new foods I was reintroducing. I used tea tree oil to vanish the scars from water blisters related to drug use. If I have trouble falling to sleep, a couple drops of lavender on my pillow has replaced how I used to tranquilize myself with Xanax.

The most incredible discovery for me, besides floating of course, has been energy work. When Sandra first told me about it, I thought it sounded like some kind of insane voodoo or witchcraft. Then, she stood beside me, facing me, and, not touching me, placed one of her palms in front of my chest, and the other palm behind my back. A moment later, she asked me if I felt anything. “No,” I said. A moment later, very suddenly, I felt a surge of energy right in the middle of my rib cage, right next to where Sandra’s hand was. “Whoa!” I shouted, “What was that? You’re a witch!”

She laughed. “That’s energy. Although, it might have been the sort of thing that got someone hanged for witchcraft.”

“That’s nuts! I totally felt that!”

Needing to see what this energy work thing was all about, I made an appointment with a woman named Sarah who comes to the Float Shoppe to practice energy work one a month. She started by telling me about what she does, that she was only interested in my perfect part and that her energy was connected to my energy. Because of that, she could see where my energy is blocked and guide it to flow freely.

The session required little participation from me, and, as I lied on a massage table with my eyes closed, she hardly needed to touch me. The entire time, it felt like surges of light and energy were beaming from my heart, toes, and fingers.

After the session, the feeling I had was only comparable, for me, to being, well, high. Once I’d detoxed from all uppers (cocaine, Adderall, bath salts), I’d resolved that I was fine and okay without them but, secretly, was worried that I’d never feel that elevated level of energy again. But I was feeling it now! I told Sarah how I was feeling, and she laughed saying, “And this is a high you’re not coming down from.”

My point is this:

Keep going

If you feel like nothing you’ve tried so far has helped you, take comfort in knowing that there’s still many more options out there, even things that you’ve never heard of!

Don’t confine yourself to what you already know. Seek new knowledge and new experiences. Keep hope. This will carry you to recovery.

What works for me or somebody else may not be the thing that works for you, and that’s okay. Just as there’s no one right path in life, and there’s no one right path to recovery.

You will be able to enjoy things. You will be able to eat what you want and then move on with your day. Eating will be a thing you do and not a structure to your day. The feeling of fullness will be comfortable. Even if you don’t believe me now, that’s okay. Just keep going.

Chapter 19

Thank You Doesn’t Seem Like Enough

Although no words could encapsulate how grateful I was to Sandra for everything she’d done for me, I tried to tell her anyway.

Thank you,” I said to her one day by the Moberi smoothie cart. “I never knew my life could be this way. I never thought I’d wake up each day stoked to do things and have difficulty falling asleep sometimes because I’m so excited to do more things in the morning. I never thought I’d be able to cope with the bad things in life without Ed’s rules to guide me. I never thought I’d be a reliable friend to anyone.”

In response to that, she said, “But you’ve done all the work, Emily.”

“What do you mean?”

You’ve shown up everyday. You decided what changes to make. You decided what does and doesn’t work for you. I didn’t tell you to do any of that.”

But I knew you were supporting me,” I said.

Yes, of course,” she explained,”but I’ve just tried to listen and affirm that your thoughts and feelings throughout your process are valid. You did the rest, and, now, it seems like you’re able to find your own voice much easier.”

She was right. I made the choice to make more time for the people and activities I wanted and found ways to reduce stress so that it was all manageable. I found a sense of balance, the lesson Sandra had been modeling for me all along. Where did that skill come from? The skill of mindfulness and being in control? The ability to challenge my old believes and see what else was possible? The courage to look fear in the face? It all happened in the float tank.

Thanks, Sandra and Dylan, for creating the Float Shoppe so that I have access to float tanks. Because I have access to float tanks, I feel like I have the ability to stay healthy and, like, grow old! That’s something I never pictured myself doing.

Thank you for reading!

Please don’t hesitate to reach out.

Love,

Emily

emilykatenoren@gmail.com

5 thoughts on “Unsinkable

  1. Tim Worsham says:

    I first saw Emily speak at the Float Conference in Portland this August. Her vulnerability was compelling, and the impact of her journey to recovery, when put to words was very moving. I float for different reasons than her, but was still able to resonate with a lot of what she said. Today, I finally sat down with Unsinkable. It was every bit as moving as her spoken word. I read it all in one sitting, and can’t wait to recommend it to other people. Thank you Emily, for being humble and courageous, and for sharing your journey with us all.

    Like

  2. RabbitChaser says:

    Wow! Emily–Your ED experience is close to mine. I’m sure you can guess who I am as we’ve recently connected… lol. Thank you for writing the book and sharing your story… You’re the voice I’ve been lacking. Such a clear articulation of the ED issues and how floating is helpful.

    Like

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