Camille Pierson was an incredibly ambitious marketing director working in agencies throughout Surrey and London before she had her first child, Dali.
However when Dali was 11 months old, she became incredibly ill.
Pierson struggled to cope with balancing her demanding job and caring for her daughter. She found herself buckling under the pressure and was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
But after discovering the practice of flotation, Pierson drastically changed her life and set up her own business.
“My daughter was just very unlucky,” Pierson told HuffPost UK Parents.
“She had cold after cold after cold, however she was not getting over any of them and then she’d get a new one.
“I remember getting a worried call from my husband saying he’d collected her from nursery. We decided to take her to A&E.”
Camille and her daughter, Dali
Dali’s condition deteriorated fast. She was put on a life-support machine, and then transferred to St George’s Hospital in London.
The 11-month-old was under 24-hour care. Her immune system wasn’t working and she had a bacterial infection in her upper airway, croup and bronchilitis.
“Watching your child so fragile, with 11 canulers sticking out of her arms, legs, feet, nose, mouth whilst having a ventilator breathe for her – there are no words to describe how bad it was,” said Pierson.
Within a few days of treatment, Dali began to respond well. She was transferred back to a hospital in Brighton to continue her care and was released a few days later.
Unfortunately for Pierson, her demanding job meant her manager was on the phone instantly, asking when she was going back to work.
“This is where I completely fell apart,” she explained. “I felt it was my fault she got sick in the first place.
“I’d let clients down, at home I felt like I had let my daughter down. PTSD is difficult – I had never experienced it before and I wasn’t expecting it.”
Pierson said she spent that summer in tears, not being able to think straight. That was until her dad suggested she started floating – a practice where you lie in a pod of Epsom salt water.
Initially skeptical, she accepted after her dad bought her the book of Floating by Michael Hutchinson.
The Flotation Tank Association has researched the benefits of this therapy. Scientists Thomas Fine and Roderick Borrie found that during a float, your mind becomes still, allowing you to focus on healing and resting. The spine lengthens an inch, chronic pain is relieved, and your muscles are allowed to fully recover.
They also found that about 40 minutes into your float, there is a change in your brain waves, your brain stops producing the “Alpha waves” it usually creates and starts churning out “Theta waves”.
This is known as being in a “Theta state”, which is associated with meditative techniques and provides “clarity of thought”.
“After reading the book, I tried a few centres,” Pierson said. “And after the third session I was completely hooked.
“For me, allowing my brain to stop blaming myself, allowing my body time to adjust and come to terms with what happened was incredible.
“My daughter was alive and very well, having me crying all the time was stupid as I was wasting our time.”
After several flotation sessions, Pierson said her real recovery began.
Dr Jessamy Hibberd, a chartered clinical psychologist talked to the Huffington Post UK about the benefits of floating for recovery.
“We’re on the go all of the time. It can be hard to switch off. With any potential interruptions taken away from you, all there is to do is let your mind drift and slow down.
“There are far less opportunities for reflection in everyday life.
“Multitasking increases the production of the stress hormone cortisol and triggers the fight-or-flight hormone adrenaline, which can overstimulate your brain and make you feel on high alert.”
According to Dr. Peter Suedfeld, a pioneering REST (Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy) researcher, flotation tanks have been very promising in tackling “problems involving the autonomic nervous system, such as insomnia, stress symptoms, dysfunctions of the skeleto-muscular system, chronic headache, and the like.”
The practice helped Pierson tackle her own problems: “I soon realised my job was an issue, and not having an understanding employer was not an option. One thing I couldn’t get my head around was why there wasn’t there a float centre in Brighton.
“It had helped me. So I started to look to see if this was possible and whether I could open one. After years marketing leisure centres, spas and health clubs, I knew I could get the people in – but could I run one?”
Pierson’s dad is a successful businessman and helped her towards her goal.
“I gave up my job in October 2014 and we opened the doors at The Float Spa in February 2015,” she said.
Comparing herself to a year ago, Pierson said she is a “completely different person”.
“I am still moved by what happened, but my aim is to keep moving forward.
“I want to be a role model for my daughter – I want her to know that good things come out of bad situations.
“You need to take responsibility of yourself. If you put in hard work, if you put in time for yourself, then good things will happen.
“The fun part has been meeting all the customers. It’s truly amazing seeing how much floatation therapy impacts people for the better.”
And it’s not just Pierson who has been helped by The Float Spa.
Helen Blick is a regular customer at The Float Spa in Brighton. She initially visited after being diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a condition that affects the tissues supporting the skin, bones, blood vessels and other organs.
After discovering there was no cure, she realised she had to try to help herself: “I was pretty sceptical, but was willing to try anything at this stage.
“The first time I went I struggled to relax. As a mum of a three-year-old and a five-year-old, having one hour to myself to do nothing is very rare and I felt a bit anxious and guilty. Although I didn’t have any pain while I was floating.”
“The second time was completely different, I was able to relax as soon as I got in,” she adds.
“I enjoyed the darkness and drifted in and out of sleep, and most importantly the pain relief lasted for the rest of the day.
“I have now been eight times. This to me is like a miracle, I didn’t believe that something as simple as floating could help me this much. It is the most valuable self-help tool that I have discovered to date.”
Shelley Baker, 25, decided to try floating at the spa to relieve stress.
“It had been one of those frantic, busy weeks with lots of decisions to make and if I’m honest, before I went I was unsure I’d be able to switch my mind off,” she said.
“I feared that I’d be lying in the dark in the water for the whole 60 minutes having to think about all the things I needed to do and sort out.”
But Baker was pleasantly surprised.
“It was quite the opposite. I actually fell asleep twice, and emerged from the pod feeling like a heavy weight had lifted from my shoulders.
“I felt unusually peaceful but confident, knowing that I could take on pretty much anything the outside world would throw at me.”
For more information on floating, visit TheFloatSpa.co.uk. Pierson also offers pilates, yoga and other types of therapy to complement flotation experiences for her customers.
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