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. TC mark

More From Thought Catalog

  • Scytle

    Absolutely amazing…Its like you are the girl version of me, only I am gonna guess a lot more badass…Were you ever on BMEzine in the late 90's, early aughties? I think you would have fit right in.

    The body is a temple, and you can decorate it any way you like. The feeling you get after a particularly intense physical experience is every bit as addictive as any drug.

    thanks for sharing something so personal.

    ps. also don't take any shit from anyone, its your body, do what you want.

    • Allana Mayer

      Yeah, I was on BME in the mid-00s. I wouldn't know where to find quality practitioners if it wasn't for Shannon and his work.

  • http://pleasureiseasy.info math

    wow, that scar thing is so cool
    well written piece

  • mindset

    permanent jawdrop while reading this article

  • guest

    I've decided if the third part of this story happened the way you said it did there has to be something emotionally wrong with you. Thats some seriously fucked up shit. Also why does it come across that your trying in some sick pretentious hipster way to prove to the reader your cool. Hey you like to hurt yourself. If thats cool then I dont want to be cool. At what level do we make a distinction between her and a teenager that likes to take her dad's razor and cut herself.

    I'm all for body adornment and decorating yourself as you see fit. After story 3 I decided there is a difference between that and intentionally hurting yourself.

    Is getting raped considered cool? If it was would you walk down dark alleys until someone did it?

    • guest

      Thought Catalog are you actually looking at the social impact of the things your writers say? Are you sure this girl doesn't have a personality disorder? I usually find your articles pretty thought provoking. This kind of discredits those. Can just anyone write for the Thought Catalog. If I had a younger sister with an eating disorder, could she write some pro anorexia articles?

      Ryan are you actually the editor of the Thought Catalog or are you just watching reality shows all day and occasionally phoning in a paragraph about it? I'm really disappointed in you guys. I've been reading these articles religiously for months and now I just don't know anymore.

      • guest

        Also Thought Catalog, I seriously doubt this is one of the articles you can point to and say this is our view the future of journalism, badly written articles by journalists that don't have any idea how precious their lives are.

        Also Allana, you proved it. You're tough. Sadly thats not what life is all about. Life should be about something more than the biggest person you could beat up or bragging about how much stupid fucking cough syrup you downed one day. Allana meet someone with cancer. Then you will know what it means to be alive.

      • Scytle

        You might want to consider that your views are not always shared by everyone else, you might also want to consider that there is a difference between expressing your opinion and being a condescending jerk…nothing in this article made it seem like she was doing anything other than expressing her own personal will, effecting no one else but herself. Its her body, if she wants to put holes in it, get it hit with fists, or hell shoot bullets through it or pour poison into it, thats her choice. She is an adult,, and doesn't appear to have any mental illness, just because its not your cup of tea doesn't mean its wrong.

      • guest

        Yes but she is also a writer for a an internet blog with an impressive following. Writers, artists, anyone with a job in the public eye has a personal responsibility to the common good. By promoting risky behaviors and placing too much importance over ridiculous things like how big a person they can beat up… is Allana acting like the person she wants to see in society? I think Allana's society would be the movie Fight Club. By the way, the main character in that movie does have a mental disorder.

      • Scytle

        Are you serious? Have you been reading this site? Most of the articles are about drugs and sex and over consumption of pop culture (all of which are dangerous), and you freak out about the one in which a girl puts some holes in herself?

        If I wanted to get up on my judgment platform I could make the exact argument you are making for just about every damn thing on this site, and for that matter just about everything I see on TV, read on the rest of the internet and hear people talk about on the street.

        Because your arguments lead to such absurd conclusions I can only guess they are not the real reason you wrote that stuff. I am going to guess you had a gut reaction to something way outside your comfort zone. People sometimes like to hurt themselves, sometimes they like it when other people hurt them. Sometimes they use needles and knives, sometimes they use words, sometimes they use big macs, sometimes they use their DVR, sometimes it leads to scars, to heart attacks, or to depression.

        Its OK to not agree, and that is what we are doing right now. I would just suggest you spend a lot more time thinking about what you have written, and think about what that says about you. What kind of society would we have if we didn't let Allana do what she wanted to herself.

        Her body, her choices, her consequences. Human beings are very complicated, very.

      • madison

        Its the woman choosing to be beaten up by a man and being punched around that hits me on a personal level. I could care less about the skin hanging or scarring or even the drugs

      • guest

        Also I see a difference between body modification and allowing someone to beat the shit out of you.

      • guest

        Its like when Britney Spears, a teen idol with a huge following started going bad shit crazy in front of the world. All the kids that looked up to her were disappointed (yes I was a child who had her poster in my room). Thats how I feel about the Thought Catalog. It is sort of this revolutionary way of journalism that can talk about anything but its the responsibility of the editors to make sure their writers are responsible journalists

    • CC

      It wasn't rape. Duh. She called him over. She wanted it. Do a little research about BDSM or women with rape fantasies or really, just anyone who enjoys rough sex before you comment. There's nothing emotionally wrong with her, it's just one of the many ways in which we complicated human beings can enjoy a sexual encounter.

      • guest

        I didn't say she was CC. I said if it was, would she do it? I also think there's a difference between what she did and the types of sexual encounters you're talking about.

        I dont know. Maybe its just me, but it makes me sick to think that someone would get off to one of the most horrible things that can ever happen to a woman.

      • guest

        I guess from now on I'm going to research the authors I read articles from to make sure they have some real life experience and aren't some rich rich kid looking for new ways to piss daddy off

    • guest

      Allana please get help because right now after reading the 3rd part of this story you really come across as one of those rich kids who never had anything bad or serious happen to them and instead goes looking for stupid shit to get into cause their bored. If thats not the case, I'm sorry for judging you but if you really had something real eventful and tragic happen in your life I really don't think you would be writing articles about the times you enjoyed hurting yourself. I'm sorry for judging you Allana, I just feel like you need some self awareness in way your coming off to me as a reader.

      I'm not saying every article in the Though Catalog should be the most though provoking thing thing I've ever read but articles with negative social impacts. Come on.

      • captainpenishelmet

        PROBLEMATIQUEEEEEEE

      • Mary

        ugh are you kidding me? so what if she WAS a 'rich kid' who has never had anything 'bad' or 'serious' happen to her. who are you to judge what validates anyone else's actions? are you trying to say that if she had had something 'bad' happen you would be OK with it? why? because there's a psychoanalytic explanation that you can gesture at to explain everything, and you can go on living your life?

        and why are 'we' supposed to distinguish between her and a teenager with her 'daddy's razor'? is the angsty teen stereotype easier for you to consume because you've seen it portrayed in the media? and so you can catalog it in the 'dumb shit' bin in your brain and scoff?

        seems like you are having trouble explaining the motivations behind this post, and so you're grasping at straws for flawed explanations to calm yourself down. it's easy to say 'get help' and blame a psychological disorder. it's harder to accept that chaos exists.

      • guest

        So teenage girls who cut themselves should just continue doing it…..

      • Mary

        i was responding to madison's comment, where she said “at what level do we make a distinction between her and a teenager that likes to take her dad's razor and cut herself.”

        her point was that the poster is trying to sound 'cool,' but she is no different than a teenager with dad's razor, which is supposed to come off as pathetic or petty. (that was the impression i got, at least)

  • erin pea

    from rural ontario? not surprised.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1363230138 Michael Koh

    blood ~~

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1183680010 Samuel Walker

    This is not boring.

    • Allana Mayer

      Thanks; that's what I was going for.

  • http://twitter.com/kyleangeletti Kyle Angeletti

    this was interesting. the comments generated equally so.

    i think a lot of people wonder about what kind of pain they can endure.

    • linda

      usually people who have felt real pain don't wonder. Not that I'm looking down on people with little experience in life, I just wouldn't take life advice from them.

      • http://twitter.com/kyleangeletti Kyle Angeletti

        fair, but i disagree. no one person has experienced all the unending types, and degrees of pain. also, define real pain.

  • ellie

    Body modification, suspension, etc- obviously not for everyone. Kind of makes me feel queasy / fragile while reading this but seriously, to each their own.

    However pt 3 seems obvious as well. You are looking for pain in another form. You are looking to feel something, to feel anything- and the fact that your 200 lb ex didn't overpower you is not because he couldn't, but because he wouldn't. Try getting the living shit kicked out of you UNintentionally and it will be a different sort of pain. The kind you can barely digest, let alone write about for (again) obvious controversial shits and giggles.

  • Madison

    I guess this article makes me sad. The Thought catalog can be so much more than this but it makes me sad to see you guys loose credibility with irresponsible journalism. You seemed like the shit. That article about what it means to be in your 20s and the one where you talk about how to be happy in 2010 I copied and saved to my hard drive and I look back at from time to time. Now I don't want to read anymore things you guys have to say. This sucks

    • Cristina

      whats the one on how to be happy?

      • Myfavoritefrosh
      • Oliver Miller

        I don't think anyone likes reading about someone who wants to hurt themselves, and therefore, this article made me sad too. I still think it can be published, etc. It just made me feel sad.

  • shoehorn

    i acknowledge the right of other commenters to be horrified by this
    i certainly am.

    on the other hand i did some things in my late teens / early twenties that would surely disgust sensitive readers
    and they were nowhere near as interesting as this.

    on a certain level i think this is “thought provoking” (contra horrified commenter madison) because i was unaware of the existence of this “suspension” subculture so this article slightly changed the way i look at how people get off.
    and it's not like every TC article is about BDSM now.

  • meh

    I think I read this article in Vice a few years ago. You know, the article about the girl who hired men to beat her up? Way to continue the trend of substance-free shock value tripe as journalism.

  • Jezebel Walkabout

    Who hasn't drank Robittusin?

  • neek

    I stopped reading the other comments after the one with terrible spelling that was all complaint so excuse me if I'm repeating something others have said already.

    Though written somewhat poorly and in a manner I find boring, a lot of what you write here is a useful reminder that we do not know pleasure without pain. More to the point: some of us can only feel “pleasure” through what others call “pain.” The piercing and scarring and desire to take a beating reminded me partially of Stephen Elliott and the moments within his work in which he discusses BDSM.

    What I feel most people find so “disturbing” about all of this is your searching out all this “pain” when, really, what you seek is a fuller, more developed experience of life. That's never a bad thing. What is bad about it is the way in which you write it. It reads so “neener neener look what I've done”–but maybe that's just the title.

  • http://twitter.com/goutspleen victoria trott

    your robotrip sounds sweet

    “look at yourself and your situations from a less cluttered perspective”

  • Nanaimo

    no one has mentioned the word “unchill” on here yet.

  • Jeff

    just want to point out that all of these negative comments and their bullshit paternalistic moralism absolutely fucking reek of sexism and patriarchy played out as some sort of liberal savior-ism.

    any sexual fantasy is legitimate, to call one of hers wrong on the basis of your male-centric lady-protective bullshit is not remotely progressive, its fucking reactionary and disgusting.

    • Lani

      … someones trying to prove they went to college

  • madison

    For the record I had a point. I found the fact that this girl didn't care about her life offensive. I felt like I backed it up well and told you in the mean time how much I usually enjoy your articles. I just don't like the idea that some girl allowed her ex boyfriend to beat her up because he was angry and she was bored.

    Why don't you do a piece on what congress is doing with the rape laws/abortion. Something important maybe. Just don't let this girl write it.

  • eroguro

    I'm 4/4 on the things discussed here and am still bugged by this article. Wicked boastful.

  • Arthur

    As I started reading the article Ichi the Killer soundtrack started playing on my shuffle, so weird…

  • RooRaaah Crumbs

    Allana is the bee's knees, as is her writing style and general outlook on life (if an outlook on life can be the bee's knees).

    There's absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to feel something, it's the people that put others down for wanting to feel something that are wrong.

    Yes you can disagree, point fingers, cast judgement and worry about people for what they do to their body, but for me happiness tends to follow new feelings, whether they're feelings of pain, confusion, love or bewilderment. Therefore, I (we) win.

    Aye, it defintely wasn't boring. Result!

    (Where's the bit about the Allen key though?)

    Just a

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    […] has what harmed you been what has turned you into the person you are today? Is suffering actually harmful or is it the source of […]

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