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My first (of many...?) suspension

Herein is my attempt at describing my first suspension. The specifics of the event are as follows: I was suspended Sunday evening, 7 November, starting at around 7pm, finishing up around 10pm. Nick Fletcher of Illicit HQ suspended me. He's a friend of mine who has performed all of my piercings.

So, first I'd like to preface this with an apology. I'm not very good at describing the things which I'm going to be attempting to describe. On top of that, my state of consciousness throughout the experience was pretty altered, so my perceptions and ability to write on them may be pretty limited. That said, here goes:

The day began nicely. We decided to go on a wonderful hike through some of the amazing Auckland wilderness out west of town. Nick later explained to me that he feels that suspensions go better if the suspendee is physically exhausted (or, at least: spent). So we did that for most of the day. When we got back, there was enough time for Nick to watch Akira, while I went to a park nearby and mediated for 2 hours. I did this both because I thought it would be a good way to calm myself before the suspension, as well as the fact that I'm trying to simply meditate 2 hours every day. After the mediation, we were ready to go so we gathered all the gear and went to the shop.

First we had to sort out the specifics of the suspension rig: getting it up, into place, making sure the bolt in the ceiling wasn't going to fail, having Nick stand on top of a ladder that was just tall enough for him to hoist the heavy setup to the ceiling of the shop. After that all managed to get sorted out, it was time for the piercings! All of the normal things happened there. Cleaning the area, cleaning my back, marking my back, etc. All in all, I was pretty nervous about the piercings. I can't really explain why--I guess it's because I had by back to Nick. I mean, I'd been pierced by him many times and I trust him, but there's something about the fact that I always could have punched him in the face if I wanted to that was comforting. Sitting facing away from him (and facing into the chair) wasn't the most comfortable feeling.

As far as the actual pain, there was very little. The back does not seem to be very sensitive to surface pain (though if anyone has ever pulled something in their back they know that there is definitely a lot of pain in those circumstances). The weirdest thing about the piercings was that I could feel is the blade punched through my skin. I felt like a piece of leather. Nick says I have pretty strong back skin (all the better to suspend with). All four hooks went in without complications. 8 gauge hooks, custom designed by Nick for doing suspension. Keen.

By the time the third hook was in I was starting to feel a little woozy. It was only the start of the adrenaline that I was going to get by the end of it. After that we made our way out to the front of the shop where Nick had me work on my breathing. It is apparently the case the the most important aspect of suspension is to remain calm and avoid panicking. I mean, come on, this is a totally reasonable thing to do, right? No need for panic. I consider myself to be a pretty calm person, and up until now I really hadn't gotten too worked up. I was less mentally concerned about what I was doing, and more concerned about how my body might respond (without my consent).

After I felt prepared, Nick put the finishing touches on: he closed the hooks, and hooked them into the suspension rig so that there was equal tension on each hook (for those keeping score at home, that makes it about 21 kg (or 46 lbs) on each hook). He is such a perfectionist, it's great. Nothing makes you feel more comfortable in a situation like this than to have the person in charge going over all the details a couple of times to make sure nothing goes wrong.

So with everything ready, Nick stood behind me and operated the winch (I guess it's a winch?). We went slowly, he'd lift up the hooks a bit and I'd tell him when it was too much and I needed a break. Then when I was ready, he'd raise the hooks a little bit more. One of the weirdest feelings came from the fact that as the hooks took on more weight, the skin the hooks were going through had to move from its initial position (some way up the hook) down to the bottom of the hook. Weird feeling--it wasn't smooth in the slightest. Everything would be fine, then all of a sudden my skin would slip and relax. Weird, but not painful. Don't get me wrong, there was plenty of pain, just not from the skin slipping part.

So we progressed slowly, but consistently. I was pretty pleased with how calm I was remaining. That was, until something snapped. Whatever it was, it hit me like a 10 ton truck. Everything was fine, and then, all of a sudden I felt kinda woozy, then dizzy, then I was really sure I was going to vomit. I told Nick and he came around in front of me so that I could steady myself on him and put some of my weight on him (rather than the hooks, or my buckling legs). I stared right into his face, felt nauseous, and the last thing I saw was him looking right at me.

I started hyperventilating and I couldn't see anything. Were my eyes closed? No, they were open, but blackness overtook my field of vision. I have somewhat low blood pressure, and I think maybe this was a contributing factor. I likened this to when I go swimming at a pool and jump out of the pool too quickly at the end. Sometimes I black out for one second or so. The only difference here was that my vision didn't come back. Needless to say, this was kinda freaky, and increased my breathing rate even more, aggravating the situation some. For some reason then all I could see was an arctic cave. In retrospect I think it's probably because of Fight Club. Yeah, I watch way too many movies, I know.

Rachel operated the winch and slowly let me down as Nick took a hold of me. My hearing was starting to go next: I could kind of hear what was going on, but I had lost most of my clarity, sense of direction, and frankly, ability to understand english. Nick kept on badgering me with questions, and I pretty much just answered "Yes" to whatever he asked. I'm not even sure why. Afterwards, he told me the "conversation" went something like this:

Nick: Danny, can you see this chair?

Me: Yeah

(apparently there was a chair there, I couldn't see anything... still)

Nick: Okay, I need you to sit in it like you did before, can you do that?

Me: Yeah

Nick: You're lying. You're not looking anywhere near the chair!

Nick: Rachel, get the massage table, quick, he's getting sweaty and he might fall!

So Rachel got the massage table with the intent that I would effortlessly glide over to it and collapse. I collapsed on to it, but I wouldn't really call my progress over to it an "effortless glide". Nick kept on giving me simple instructions like "turn to your right". That was too complex, so then it was "turn towards me". Like I said though, I'd kind of lost all sense of direction, so I aimed myself to a place somewhere to Nick's right. He ended up just kind of pushing me gently in the right direction and somehow my body managed to go with it. I got my feet wrapped around each other at one point, but the massage table was like half a meter away, so it didn't matter much.

Then I put my left hand on the massage table and finally I could see again. The first thing that I saw was: GREEN! It turns out that that's the colour of the table. But it's not very green at all in reality, just a little bit. That's all I could see for a second, and then slowly the world came into view. I dragged myself on to the massage table and Nick lay down beneath it so he could talk to me. I was drenched in sweat, and still quite unable to see various things.

I was given a strawberry flavoured Chupa Chup to suck on which tasted really good. Everything was exaggerated. What little I could hear or see (or taste) had many of its qualities exaggerated. (Everything was really colourful at first). I think it's because my mind hadn't been getting any visual data, and then all of a sudden it did, so it latched on to what little evidence it had of the real world.

This sounds weird, but I actually think I had some sort of extra sensory perception. When Nick first turned his head to tell Rachel to get the table, I couldn't see anything, nor could I really tell what direction sounds were coming from, or what they were, but I had a distinct visual image in my mind of the side of Nick's head (as he turned to talk to Rachel). I had a strong visual image, yet I couldn't see anything. Call it what you will, but it was an amazing experience.

After calming down sufficiently and going to the bathroom, regaining all of my sense, etc... It was time for go number 2! I got about "halfway off the ground" according to Nick. And we both reckoned that now that my body had some sort of reference to fall back on, it'd be better the second time around. We were right.

The second time went much like the first, only Nick was in front of me this time, looking into my face and breathing with me. It was remarkably helpful to hear someone else breathing slowly and calmly to keep me from hyperventilating. I was completely relaxed throughout most of my way up, and then I finally had my feet off the ground (though I was still pushing down on Nick's shoulders to keep the last bit of my weight off the hooks). Then I finally relaxed and had all my weight supported by the hooks through the skin in my back. Awesome. Then came the same feeling again. I didn't feel good, then I felt dizzy, then nauseous. I could have sworn that I was spinning on the suspension rig. I asked Nick to move out of the way so that I could stare at a wall and have a non-movable reference point. He moved out of the way, but it was all for naught--I couldn't see... Again. My vision failed in the same way, then my hearing went in much the same way as before. As far as my ability to feel, I could only feel a dull pain from my back, and an inability to breathe properly (my skin was tightening around my ribcage, making it harder to breathe). Then, all in one movement, I completely relaxed, rolled my shoulders forward and allowed my senses to shut down.

The last thing I remember feeling was the ground with my left big toe. I pointed my foot to see if I could feel the ground. I could, and then I relaxed and had the distinct feeling that the entire world was falling away from me as I stayed fixed in space. I couldn't see, I couldn't hear, and I couldn't feel anything except the dull pain in my back. I was conscious, but in an altered state of mind (thanks to the endorphins mostly, I reckon). Amazing. Even though I couldn't percieve anything, I didn't have a real desire to either.

Then, all of a sudden, my bliss was interrupted by tremendous pain. In my lower back of all places. As it turns out, the lower back is put in some weird pressure since the body is hung from a point on the back: the legs are being supported as a hinge forms from the hips, meaning that the lower back muscles are continuously activated. Ouchy. Compounded with that is the fact that my body was becoming hyper-aware of the few things it could percieve. In this case, it was pain in my lower back. Double ouchy.

Eventually, in what could have been seconds, or hours, I was brought down from the suspension and made to lie down on the massage table again. Much in the same fashion as before. It turns out that I was suspended for approximately 5 minutes before Nick decided that it was time to take me down. The same thing happened as after the first trial basically: drenched in sweat, spotty vision at best, exaggerated glimpses of reality. I decided that it was better to keep my eyes closed until everything became sort of normal again. After all that, we just had to take the hooks out.

I could feel very little of the hook removal. And then after that, the real fun began: back farts! As it turns out, small air bubbles get trapped under the skin after suspension, so you have to have them worked out through various weird pressures and such (both on the part of Nick, and myself). After that, it was time for some food. Then home for some rest.

It's been a few days now, and almost all soreness is gone. Most soreness isn't actually in my skin, but in various muscles in my back. I think it's because I kept using them throughout to try to minimise pain (subconsciously). But, the pain was there, and constant, and doing all that didn't really help at all. Interesting feeling. My back looks like I came out of the Matrix at the end of all that.

Wicked. I recommend it to anyone who thinks they'd want to do it/thinks they could do it. I'll summarise with two statements: Yes, it was painful, very painful. And yes, despite the pain (because of the pain?), it was an amazing experience, and well worth the trouble. I think I'll do it again sometime!

Details

submitted by: Anonymous
on: 10 Jan. 2005
in Ritual

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Artist: Nick+Fletcher
Studio: Illicit+HQ
Location: Auckland%2C+New+Zealand

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