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A basic home-made brand

I've been a cutter since I was 14, and while my cutting began from emotional outbursts, as I've gotten older I've become more deliberate and concerned with creating artistically appealing scars. A couple years ago I decided I wanted a largish brand on my inner right calf. This particular decision was part deliberate, but part emotional: I was working a crappy 3rd shift job and needed to release some stress. At this job I also had access to box cutters which I used cut when I was alone during my break periods, if I was particularly upset. One of my biggest motivations for self-injury has been an attempt to re-establish control. My work situation and my emotions there were definitely out of control and I wanted to do something to normalize myself.

I did a series of small brands on my left arm when I was about 19, and they came out well even though I was doing it rather haphazardly. I became more interesting in burning as a form of self injury for several reasons. One reason is the scarring. That first series of brands made nice raised keloid scars that I usually didn't get from cutting. Another reason was that branding seemed a lot cleaner to me than cutting because you didn't have to deal with all the blood. Of course, since I'd only done small burns before I didn't know how annoying it can be to tend to a larger wound that's not yet closed -- as I definitely learned later. The reason I hadn't pursued brands further is because I was worried about the pain being more intense and prolonged that incision cutting. As I considered making the brand, though, I was more determined to make myself deal with this pain.

At the time I didn't have either a large piece of metal or a steady heat source. I ended up using a small piece of metal from a pen that was no larger than 4cm long. I heated the metal over a lighter, pressed it to my skin, and repeated the strike three times at each interval so that I gradually formed a thin crescent-shape burn across my calf from on top of my ankle to under my knee. This took from 45 min to an hour -- I actually did it while watching TV. The pain was more intense than I was used to with cutting. Intense in a good way, actually: a series of little jolts that I came to enjoy. Branding, I think, gives a much more satisfying kind of pain than cutting -- if you're into that, which I am.

Afterwards I kept the area bandaged and did not irritate it except to rinse it in the shower. It has since healed into a slightly raised, ragged-edged scar that has already begun to fade. The raised part of the scar isn't rounded but has a puckered-looking surface. It's been kind of interesting watching the scar change over the last two years. When it was fresher, the skin around it was pinker, and now it's faded to more of a brownish color. I've considered correcting the edges or adding to the extent of the brand but I don't think it's worth it. I wouldn't use such an unnecessarily complicated method again.

I wouldn't recommend doing a brand "freehand" like this, especially in such a painstaking, piecemeal way, if you want it to look good. Also, I should have been more concerned with sanitation when using an open flame as a heat source. There was definitely some carbonization/soot on the metal that I just ignored. When the brand finally began to scab over I was terrified for a while that I was going to get some massive scary infection, but fortunately that didn't happen. I was surprised at how long it did take the burn to heal closed, which is the only thing that would make me hesitate to get another brand in the future.

The pain afterwards was pretty manageable, mostly soreness, although my leg stung for about a week and sometimes made it hard to walk. The curved area of the calf is also awkward to keep bandaged. The brand is now virtually invisible on my hairy legs. I have a problem that I think a lot of emotional cutters have, where I am compelled to hide and/or lie about my scars even if I'm no longer ashamed of them. In this way I'm glad the scar is less noticeable, but it still is a bit disappointing.

Mostly I enjoyed watching the healing and scarring process rather than the finished product, as well as learning how my body and mind dealt with this particular kind of pain. Now I think of the whole event as a useful learning experience. If I do another home-made brand I'm going to use a stencil!

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submitted by: Anonymous
on: 28 Sept. 2008
in Scarification

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