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First Time Suspension Experience (4-Point Vertical Back Suspension)

I became interested in doing a suspension for similar reasons I'm interested in things like long-distance running, fasting, and meditation. When I looked for an artist, I wanted to make sure I wasn't going to be suspending for the first time as part of a show or anything like that. I wanted it to be a private experience with a trustworthy artist. I spoke to a reputable and widely respected piercer I came to know and asked her if she could refer me to someone in my area who was experienced with suspending. She gave me a name and I eventually phoned him.

The artist, Johnny, and I met once to chat for awhile before the suspension (about 10 days later). He wanted to know what my motives were for wanting to suspend, how I found him, what type of a suspension I wanted to do, etc. It seemed he was really evaluating me more than I was evaluating him. Anyway, I eventually decided I wanted to do a vertical back "suicide" suspension (he usually recommends a horizontal "superman" suspension for beginners because the weight distribution is less intense) because I was a bit leery of having my legs pierced, and I wanted to have more freedom of movement.

So, ten days later...

It was a 2.5 hour commute to the studio for me, and I spent the ride (I took public transit) listening to ambient music and music I associate with positive feelings/memories. I wanted to be relaxed and free of mental "white noise" when suspending, and this worked.

The process went like this: Johnny had autoclaved four 6g hooks for me, and had hung up a chain/pulley system to the ceiling. He cleaned my back with anti-bacterial soap, and marked me up with a sterile pen. He then had me lie down on a massage table, and pierced my back with the hooks. He first massaged the area for a few minutes (felt good ;) to loosen up the tissue, and then pierced them through by having me inhale and exhale 3 times (pierced on the 3rd exhale). By themselves, each of the four piercings was less painful than getting my nipples pierced, but after the fourth one I felt my face go white and I had to sit up, though I was fine after a minute or so. And there was no bleeding or soreness - I couldn't feel anything foreign in my back at all.

He had one of his tattoo artists assist with rigging me up, and everything was set to go, but then he discovered that the thing the chain was wrapped around was bent, and then the chain could not be raised and lowered smoothly. He was wicked pissed since the person who'd borrowed it from him hadn't informed him that it had broken, and I had to get unrigged while he found a different apparatus and ropes to use instead of a chain.

This meant that I had to sit for a good 20 minutes with the hooks in my back, and, while I didn't feel anxious, my body started trembling all over and my teeth were chattering. I felt jittery, light-headed, and cold, and I worried I was going to go into shock or something before I could suspend.

Once everything was set up again, I was ready to go. I still physically felt weird (cold, jittery, a bit sweaty), but I wanted to go ahead with it. Johnny then had me stand on my tip-toes so the flesh was just barely being pulled. I stayed this way for a few minutes and he had me breathe slowly with him. This was very calming. He then asked if I could bend my knees, and I had some kind of mental block about it. Like I couldn't get my mind to make both my knees bend at the same time.

Then he said, "That's okay, we'll walk into it." And he took my hands and pulled me forward slightly, so I'd barely come off the ground, and then he'd let me down flat-footed again. We did this perhaps 8 times, up and down, getting used to it. He still had me breathe with him. And after those several times, he asked if I was ready to go up, and I agreed, and when he pulled me forward, he let me go, so I was hanging by myself without holding his hands. (This is why I'm glad I went with the vertical suspension, because I felt more in control of how quickly I could go up, and holding his hands was very soothing.)

I think at this point I was raised up a few more inches (it felt like I swung back and forth a bit), and after a minute or two I ended up zoning out. It was really pretty sudden. I wasn't sure what to expect - I was just as ready to have an "experience" as I was to end up getting up and thinking "Oh shit, I'm hanging by the skin of my back and it sucks big time." I can only describe it as being similar to the exercise-induced reverie I get into when running long-distance, only much "deeper" and with total loss of perception of time and space. I'm not sure if that's a helpful description, but that's as close as I can get. It was more than I'd expected.

I had my eyes closed the entire time, so there was no visual sense of my being off the ground. After the initial head rush of knowing I was hanging, I felt like I could have fallen asleep there. The physical sensation was pretty damn intense (I don't quite want to call it pain), but then it was like my mind and body weren't quite so delineated. I am not a spiritual person, but I suppose I could say the whole mind/body/space fusion thing comes close.

Johnny pretty much left me alone the whole time. He took my pulse once, and asked me a few times if I was doing alright, but for the most part I felt pretty unaware of being in the room. It was kind of like I was floating above myself, if that makes any sense. I asked to come down once I started feeling like my mind was leaving my "zone" and coming back into the room, since then the "pain" in my back and my headspace were two different things.

And then I just plopped onto the massage table with my eyes closed (still hadn't opened them - he guided me up), and laid there for a few minutes and looked around slowly. He let me get up and have a juice box, and after a few minutes he removed the hooks. I asked how long I'd suspended (I guessed 3 minutes that felt way longer), and he said about 15 minutes. He could have told me 5 minutes or 50 minutes and I wouldn't have known better.

He then cleaned my back up, and then - this was really very unpleasant - "burped the tissue." There was air trapped in the holes, and he had to massage it out. This hurt quite a bit (not painful like a piercing, but more like pressure), and blood ended up spurting out and getting on my face and on the table. And the air coming out made gross/cool noises. After that was done (it took a good 10 minutes), he cleaned up my back again and put some kind of special tape over it (can't remember the name; it's like cling film), and that was that.

I then went from feeling very calm to feeling somewhat giddy. I'm sure it was just endorphins and such messing with me. I waited around a bit for the shop to close (one of the other tattoo artists was finishing up), and Johnny gave me a ride to a train station so I could get back. He was really, really wonderful and accommodating, and I was touched he went out of his way to give me a ride, on top of making suspending such a good experience. I can't emphasize enough how caring and attentive he was to me during the whole thing (about two hours).

All in all, I'm very glad I went through with doing this. I probably won't do it again for a long time, but I'm certain I will sometime. As for now, my back is pretty sore and it's still burping a little (I keep pressing on the area and still feel air), but I think it's okay. I heard some people complain of lower back pain when doing suicide suspensions, but that didn't happen to me at all. My neck/shoulders hurt, but that's it.

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submitted by: Anonymous
on: 12 Sept. 2007
in Ritual

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Artist: Johnny
Studio: +
Location: Illinois

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