Shit I Have Done To My Body That You Have Probably Not Done To Yours

(Honorable mentions include bloodletting, that time we sewed buttons to my skin using medical suture, and that time I was branded with an Allen key we heated on the stove.)

Once I Put Some Big Meathooks Through My Flesh and Then Used Them To Haul Myself Into The Air

I’m kind of a geek when it comes to that crazy-physical-endurance stuff, whether it’s performance artists who self-harm or circus sideshow performers. Also, do you remember watching The Cell with Jennifer Lopez and seeing the bad guy hanging in the air from stretched piercings in his back? That blew my mind when I was 13.

I had attended a few days of suspensions, just to see what it was like; I had made some friends, held some hands, stuff like that. I had already been introduced to body piercing and stretching on a small scale, so I had a general idea of what kind of pain was involved. So I tried it.

My suspension was done with four hooks through my upper back, which was good because I just lay flat on a table and let the piercer have his way with me. I don’t remember much about the hooks being put in, although there are tons of pictures of my face contorted in pain and the table covered in sweat after I got up. I know the whole event took pretty long, because it was my first time and I’m a wimp. The hooks got laced up to the ropes and pulleys, and my friend stood to one side and slowly raised me up. The initial stretching of the skin takes the longest – your skin pulls out a couple inches from your body before the tension is enough to lift your full weight off of the ground. There’s actual science involved, but nobody wants to hear about that.

The first few moments of being airborne is like a cross between an orgasm and an extended sneeze: I think my whole body convulsed for a good minute or so. Apparently I was shouting, “it’s like shivering!”

I was up for about an hour, and would’ve stayed longer, but there were other people who wanted to suspend that day. My roommate and I were planning on setting up some permanent rigging in our backyard so we could suspend whenever we wanted. Shoving a hook through someone’s flesh is pretty easy, it turns out, and it’s not difficult to stay sanitary.

Afterwards I tried to do a volunteer bartending gig, but mostly sat in a daze handing out drink tickets. I went to a friend’s place and he ran me a bath and cooked me dinner and massaged all the air bubbles out of my back. That was gross. When your skin stretches out like that, air gets in through the holes and collects in the gaps created, and if you don’t push them out before the holes heal over, it can be pretty uncomfortable. Not that having someone manhandle your open wounds isn’t uncomfortable, but I think the alternative is worse. Also you can hear the air bubbles as they move around under your skin, and it’s weird.

Once I Let Some Dude With a Bleached Mohawk Carve Some Skin Off My Torso and Charge Me $400 For It

I’m not big on tattoos, because they fade and look shitty and cost too much and usually say something you’ll regret in two years. Then I found out about this scar thing, where someone literally slices off the first few millimetres of your skin and then the healing is delayed  long enough so that scar tissue builds up. It’s more subtle and it takes a long time to fade and, when it does, it still retains its clarity. I found a practitioner near me and bounced a few designs around with him. We settled on this flower from a William Morris textile that I love. The fact of it being a flower doesn’t really occur to me as something particularly feminine; a lot of people don’t recognize it as such. I’ve gotten “sunburst” and “jellyfish,” but most people don’t even ask.

It was a six-hour procedure. The outlines of the petals had to be done first, and then a topical anaesthetic was sprayed into the open wound. That was the worst pain: it was sixty seconds of serious stinging for each application, while the scalpelling was more like getting paper-cut. The whole area across the ribs was a dull ache after the first hour or so, and only regained sensitivity near the end, which may have been because I knew we were close to finishing. I slept on the couch and changed the bandages regularly for the next week or so; I limped, ached, and tried not to stretch my arms up too often.

After a month the scar tissue was mostly formed and looked fantastic. I had no idea I was going to scar so well. Now, after a few years, I get comments whenever people can see it. There was a period for the first year or so when it itched almost constantly, and was hyper-sensitive to other people’s touch. It was like a bonus erogenous zone. It’s still pleasant for me when people scratch or rub it. Definitely worth the money, the blood, the gooey healing phase, the time I took off work, and the occasional compulsion to wear a one-piece bathing suit when I go swimming in public.

Once I Invited My Ex-Boyfriend To My Place and Got Him To Beat Me Up

Rough-housing for girls is a lot different than it is for boys. Even during my tomboy-ish years I wasn’t the type to get into schoolyard brawls, and I’ve never done self-defence classes or anything like that. Only now, in my 20s, am I interested in toughness for toughness’s sake, whatever that is. I don’t want to get old and weak and not know if I could’ve defended myself against a rape or mugging or abusive lover. I’m sheltered enough to never have experienced it, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want the reassurance.

So I have this ex-boyfriend; he’s 6’3″ and probably 200 pounds and in decent enough shape. Also I really pissed him off by breaking up with him and then continuing to argue with him about it for eight months afterwards. So when he told me he hated me and fantasized about violent sex with me, I took him up on it. He’s one of those philosophically-minded types, the types who think saying is better than doing, that fantasy will always be better than reality, or at least will preempt and ruin it. So I should’ve known that it was going to suck. Only when he arrived did I realize that he was participating more for my benefit than his own vengeance or catharsis. Also he wasn’t in nearly as good shape as I thought. I wrestled out of his hold or threw him off me a handful of times, and got upset when he lay there panting and sweating. After a while it became apparent that he wasn’t able to dominate me, and that he wasn’t physically stronger or able to strategize properly.

I guess, given that the whole thing was a weird role-play for me (how do you pretend to not want to be tied up when you clearly do?); I was contributing to it by not just lying down and taking it. But it was more fun for me this way, and it was important to find out how tough I am, which is now, officially, Seriously Fucking Tough. We had vanilla sex the next morning and it was okay. Also I simply stood still at one point while he punched me in the face, so I got the black eye I wanted. And he got to knock me over and step on my neck, which was the one thing he wanted to accomplish. He told me later that it was actually pretty satisfying for him, so that’s good.

Once I Got Really Fucked-Up On Some Cough Syrup and Convinced Myself That I Was A Robot

Generally I don’t find drug-trip stories that entertaining. I’m not sure why I’m compelled to tell this one, except it was such a lame thing to be drinking Robitussin that to have an even remotely profound experience is just that much more absurd. I’m not really the drug type; most of them don’t do anything for me. But ketamine was a pretty good time. I don’t know what “dissociative anesthetic” says about my personality to begin with; I read somewhere that a ketamine trip is like synthesizing schizophrenia. So maybe I’m the opposite of schizophrenic and dissociative anesthetics make me normal? The dextromethorphan in Robitussin is like over-the-counter ketamine, according to Wikipedia, so I bought some and drank about 75mL and had a bath and then lay in my bed for about three hours without moving, staring at the ceiling.

It was pretty similar to the real thing — a lot of your thoughts seem really profound, like you’re finally able to prioritize things, look at yourself and your situations from a less cluttered perspective. I thought schizophrenia was supposed to be messy, complicated, like the mental equivalent of a hoarder’s house. But the drug made things very clear, in that way that main characters of movies drop their crappy jobs and going-nowhere friends in order to chase after the girl they love, or something. I wrote something down after the initial disorientation died off: “Everything was connected by shiny threads that were too bright for doubt. Now we’re back to those shady tenuous webs that are most likely paranoid delusions.”

Twelve hours later I was sitting in a cafe waiting for a friend, and I was still fuzzy. I guess this is the  “dissociation”: I know I ordered a drink and sat in a big chair and occasionally made eye contact with other people, but I had the distinct impression that all of those interactions were uncontrollable, like making jokes with the counter girl and saying “excuse me” to someone standing behind me was instinctive stuff I couldn’t have stopped doing even if I had desperately wanted to. When my ride showed up I remember making jokes in the backseat. I wasn’t in a good mood, or particularly interested in being nice to anyone, but no matter how much I wanted to tell someone how bad I felt, I couldn’t.  I was mostly just baffled that my apparently random behaviours seemed to be correct for the contexts.

There was also the distinct impression that I was trapped, that my consciousness was screaming to get out of the specific perspective imposed on it by my senses, by the feeling of being centralized in my brain and my body. I was upset that I couldn’t literally transcend my own physical boundaries, experience views from other places without repositioning my eyes. There are probably holes in my brain now. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

More From Thought Catalog