Cutting away the fear.
I was 18. I had just given birth to a beautiful baby girl. As a single, new mother--I was scared out of my wits. I was terrified everyday of what the next day would hold. I was not used to feeling fear, I've been rather untouchable my entire life. People have often made jokes that I just lacked common sense and that's why I wasn't afraid of anything. I generally assumed, I wasn't afraid of anything because there was nothing to fear, there were only things I had yet to understand. But, in having a baby, this tiny little fairy of a girl, who depended on me absolutely--I learned what fear was very quickly.
I didn't even want to leave my house, in fear that she would get sick or we would have a car accident. I hated having to work, because I was leaving her alone with someone else--someone that I trusted fully, until it came to her. One day, jokingly, a friend of mine said, "You know, at one point in time, you would have stood up to Lucifer himself if you thought he was wrong. You could have been sent to hell, and would have came out swinging. Who would have thought a baby would have softened the hardest woman I knew."
I knew he had been joking, but I also knew that he had a point. There were so many occasions where I had scolded people for allowing the fear of something to control their lives, and keep them from doing what would really make them happy--but here I was--doing exactly that. I tried so hard, to just let go and not be afraid--to just trust that she would be fine. She was healthy, she was in good hands. She would be okay. But, I couldn't help but worry like crazy over it. I even consulted tribal elders from my home town, about what I could do to keep her safe. They sent me dream catchers, god's eyes, sachets and all sorts of things that were constantly surrounding my poor little daughter, and I still feared for her. It makes me laugh now, thinking of how crazy I was, but I had never felt fear until I was a mother. It was completely new to me.
During the same conversation where my friend finally called me on my cowardice, he was showing me these deranged little stick figures we drew as kids. He had found our old notebook, with these stick figures that resembled monsters and we laughed at our inability to draw anything cute or cuddly. I came across one, that was strikingly beautiful. We had once called it a grasshopper but, looking at it, it looked more like a horned warrior. My friend immediately began referring to it as Lucifer and laughing at how terrible I was at drawing, but I was completely taken by it. I told him right then, "I want that on my thigh. I want it now." He laughed and said I was crazy, but after a while, agreed to help me.
I was a self injurer, for a very long time. I'm by no means bragging or trying to glamorize a very dangerous lifestyle. I just feel that it's important, because I feel that's a lot of the reason I chose scarification, instead of tattooing. Through self injury, I came to appreciate sensations--pain was always just another sensation to me--and I've always agreed Bob Flannagan's point of view, that you should experience as much sensation in life as possible. (Within reason, of course. You shouldn't do things that are irresponsible or reckless, but I've never seen a problem with pushing your boundaries, forcing yourself to grow.) I wanted a scar because of every silly analogy that's said about scars, because a scar speaks much louder (in my opinion) than any tattoo or piercing. Because a scar tells a much more beautifully vulgar story.
So, we procured all of the utensils we would need; along with a large bottle of Green Soap and a lot of sterile gauze and other bandaging devices. We set a date for three months after I had so impulsively claimed to want it. If I still wanted it three months later, my friend said he would help. I spent those three months drawing, and re-drawing until I had perfected that little grasshopper and added a dream catcher, feathers, a spear and a shield. It was beautiful and perfect. Even my friend who'd been so amused with my decision about the grasshopper was impressed with what I'd come up with.
On the day of the procedure, I got a baby sitter for the entire day and began to worry if I would really have the nerve to do this. I began to worry that it would bring back my destructive habits and that I would fall back into the horrible state I'd been in years ago, when I used to find a sanctuary inside a razor blade. I quickly dismissed the idea and waited impatiently for my friend to arrive. Once he did, we got right to work. We used surgical markers to draw the outline on my leg and once that was done, I was a bit scalpel happy--and he stopped me asking a question I hadn't even considered. "What kind of scarification are we doing here?"
I thought for a moment, and then seriously stated, "skin removal." His face turned green. "You can't be serious," he looked so terrified that I laughed. "It will be okay. You'll see," I tried to reassure him. "You don't know what you're doing. You could seriously hurt yourself. What if you bled to death or something? What if you got an infection and they amputated your leg?" His concerns were real concerns, that I had so irresponsibly not even considered. I've been a piercer for quite a while, and I know all about infections and sterilization and such, but what would I do if I over looked even one thing and really did get a nasty infection? After much discussion, we decided we would do it on the kitchen table. It seemed to be the only area in my house where we could realistically sterilize anything. Oh, and we sterilized everything. We washed everything in the room with diluted bleach--the table, chairs, floor--even the walls. I washed my entire leg with green soap, and
then wiped it down with alcohol. We re-drew the grasshopper with the surgical marker, making sure we had perfect guidelines for each of the incisions. I decided that I would do it myself, until I got to the point where I couldn't realistically reach anymore without making a big mess. The anxiety began to build as I worried incessantly about picking up old habits and I choked them back, telling myself that I was stronger than that and made the first incision. I worked very carefully, trying to keep my hand and the amount of pressure I was exerting steady. When I cut away the first strip of skin, I began laughing uncontrollably. My friend was sure I'd completely lost my mind, and I was having problems articulating exactly why I was laughing. I calmed down, and continued until I couldn't reach anymore.
I leaned back and let him continue. He was constantly asking if I was okay, and if I needed a break, but I honestly didn't really even feel it. All I felt was a realization hit me like a ton of bricks that I had done it. I kicked drug habits, I kicked self injury, I went through a pregnancy completely alone, I gave birth completely alone--and I was going to raise my child completely alone--and I was going to be fine. There was nothing for me to worry about, my child was a healthier baby than I could have hoped for. I was strong. I was strong enough to handle anything and everything that would be thrown at me. If she did get sick, I would be able to nurse her back to health. Regardless of what happened--I was strong enough to handle it.
During the procedure, we decided it would be best to have a combination of simple cuts and skin removal. So, all of the smaller details are just cut lines, and the outlines and bigger details are all skin removal. After it was finished, I couldn't stop staring at it. I washed it with green soap and did the first salt scrub, then bandaged it.
Since that day, I haven't had a problem with fear. I know I'm strong enough to handle anything that's handed to me--and as silly as it may sound--that silly grasshopper I drew when I was seven, helped me realize that. It's been about two years or so, since then. And my poor grasshopper is in dire need of some touching up, which I'm planning to do pretty soon. My daughter just turned three, and as I knew from the beginning, she's never had so much as an ear infection. It's so funny to me now to think of how terrified I was, and how much that grasshopper helped me. Even now, looking at it I'm overwhelmed with the pure hope that little bug gave me.
I realize now that it wasn't so much the grasshopper itself, as it was the rite of passage that I needed so much. I needed a constant reminder that the past was gone. My childhood was over, I was an adult and it was time to grow up. I can't imagine a better way to concrete that, than in a scar of something so pure as a grasshopper I drew when I was a child.
I wouldn't encourage anyone to do this themselves. I would greatly recommend that you go find a qualified professional, and have them do it. Assuming I hadn't had any background in modification, I would have found a professional instead of doing it myself with the help of a tattoo artist with little to no experience in scarification. I think that my case was a bit different than most DIY modifications, but keep in mind that a trained professional is always a better option than DIY.
submitted by: Anonymous
on: 28 Sept. 2008