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My DIY Pull

Before I get into this, I just want to state that this is merely a personal account of what I did and how I did it. This is not intended to be interpreted as the 'right' way, or even as a good way, to do any of this. I felt that doing it myself would be essential to how I experienced this particular event. If you feel that this is best left to the professionals, by all means, go to the experts; if you want to try something like this yourself, don't use this as a guideline. Do your research and be as safe as you can.

At the beginning of 2007, I had a list of things that fall under the BME umbrella that I wanted to do or have done. On that list was pulling. I had never tried it before and it sounded like it could be fun as well as challenging, just the sort of thing that I like to put myself up against.

My assumption was that I would have the opportunity to try pulling at the annual SoCal BBQ. They had been done at past gatherings, so I figured they'd be done into the future. Long story short, certain people weren't in town when the BBQ was held this year, so there was no pulling offered. Despite this, I still went and had a good time.

But the desire to try pulling and check it off of that list was still with me. Though BME, I have gotten to personally know some piercers in the area, and while procedural assistance was offered to me, I decided to hold off.

I had begun to think that this was something that I could do on my own.

Now, I'd never pierced myself before. Never so much as stuck a safety pin through an ear lobe or eyebrow. I figured that there are people who do this professionally for a reason, and I'm not one of them. The thought of doing it myself scared me a bit. What if I did something incorrectly? What if I ended up harming myself?

It's these sort of thoughts that both kept me from trying for so long, but also that got me thinking that this was a challenge that I could face head-on. I fancy myself to be quite self-reliant, yet I'd never been able to rely on myself when it came to putting my own body through this sort of physical challenge. I mulled on it for some time before deciding that it was time I try.

Not having the supplies at hand (and finding enjoyment in giving it my support), I ordered a suspension hook and an eight gauge hollow needle from BMEshop. My first thought at pulling that needle out of the package after it arrived at my doorstep was, "Good God, 8 gauge is huge!" I began to wonder if I was going to be able to pierce myself with that thing after all.

I held off a bit, waiting for the right time. I decided to do it in October. It's my favorite month of the year and I wanted to find a special way to celebrate that. October came around and went by quickly. Before I knew it, the end of the month was a week away. I'd do it on Halloween. It's my 'last chance' day, one of my favorite days of the year, and my day off. Worked out quite well. (I mention this mainly as an explanation as to why I'm dressed in a skeleton costume in the photos. I don't normally dress like this, though perhaps it would have been more amusing if I'd left it unsaid and let you all think that I did normally walk around like that.)

At any rate, Halloween came around and I gathered my supplies: needle, hook, Technicare, gauze, bottle of water, string, disposable gloves, music, and 'clamps' (actually BBQ tongs that proved to be, unsurprisingly, totally worthless). Not sure how bloody things would get, I decided to set up in the garage.

I spent a silly amount of time preparing. Actually what I was doing was putting it off. I was very nervous and found it difficult to just get down to it.

I'd decided to put the hook through the underside of my left (because I'm right-handed) forearm, figuring it would give me a wide range of mobility. I'd long wanted to do an arm pull, anyway. I tried marking my hoped-for entry and exit points by making fingernail impressions in my arm, but I think those proved to be almost as worthless as my 'clamps.'

After I'd finally run out of pre-preparation things to do, I finally got down to business. Gloves on, I used a square of gauze and some Technicare to wipe down my arm. I fit the hook and needle together, set it against my decided-upon entry point (feeling that point against my skin), took a deep breath.

And pushed.

It was harder to break the skin than I'd anticipated. The tip of the needle was hardly in. Blood was beginning to pool at the surface of my skin. I knew that I had to push harder, but it was so hard to make myself do that. Because it hurt. Because I knew that it was just the beginning. I could stop it now if I wanted to. No harm done, just a small cut.

I pushed harder. I could feel the needle going through, slicing through, "popping" through whatever was in its way. But there was so much resistance. The thought jumped into my mind – "Am I hurting myself? Am I doing the wrong thing?" I had to stop. I was feeling too hot, too much pain. Air was closing in on me and I couldn't breath.

I took a moment to get my breathing back under control. Deep, deliberate breaths. I gathered my focus and noticed for the first time that "Helter Skelter" was playing. 5,600+ songs for my music player to choose from at random and it chose "Helter Skelter." I figured that a more perfect song was not going to come along, so I should get this done.

I looked at my arm and found that the needle was mostly through. I could tell that I wasn't too far from bringing it out around my desired exit point. I just had to make that final push.

Still unsure if whether or not what I was doing was right, I put the heel of my hand against the butt of the needle and used my middle and index finger to push the skin of my arm against the needle's tip, doing what I could to finally get the needle through to the other side. Gathering up all the willpower I could and setting aside my fears, I gave one more push. The needle popped through more skin. Finally, there it was: the tip of the needle. Another push and it was all the way through.

I took a moment before trying to get the hook to exit. The ridge that formed where the hook was inserted in the needle's end snagged on its way out, but a bit a maneuvering and a turn around the bend, and I was left with a hook in my arm.

I'd done it.

I set the needle aside and checked out my handiwork, taking a picture or two. I set the camera aside and grabbed the string. I was surprised at how much putting the least bit of pressure on it hurt.

I was reminded of the mental space I've found myself in before a suspension. Only I couldn't tell myself that I was safely in the hands of professionals who know what they're doing. I had to tell myself that what was done was done and that I could only go forward now.

I pulled harder on the string, hoping that putting more pressure on it would get me more comfortable with it, lessen the pain. It began to subside and I looked for something I could try to lift. I figured that I would find a lot of things close at hand, being in a cluttered garage. I couldn't find anything appropriate until I saw my water bottle. (As an amusing/disgusting aside, I got that bottle at the NorCal SusCon ten months earlier and had used it [cheap, "disposable" bit of plastic that it was] to carry my drinking water every day since. I find it appropriate that it was my companion for this particular adventure.)

Filled to the top (as it was), the thing only weighs about two pounds (0.90 kilograms). I figured it would be a good first step. I wrapped the string around it and found even that slight amount of weight uncomfortable.

I grabbed the bottle in my right hand and slowly went about transferring the weight bearing from my right arm to the string. Again, I was reminded of suspension and how you slowly put more pressure on the line and less on the surface you're lifting from. And, like suspension, I was having a difficult time letting go. It got to the point where almost all of the weight was on the hook, but just having my fingertips making minimal contact with the bottle was enormously comforting, akin to having your toes still on the ground before lifting off during a suicide suspension.

I got to the point where I just had to have faith in the process and let go. So I did.

It felt fine. Good actually. I tried swinging the bottle around, but that didn't feel so fine. So I kept it steady and took a few more pictures. I raised and lowered my arm some, trying to make it a bit more fun that just standing static. Turns out there isn't too much fun to be had in raising and lowering your arm (even if a bottle is attached to it). I got a bit goofy (and thirsty) and started drinking from the bottle, lessening the weight that I had pulling on the hook while simultaneously quenching my thirst.

Figuring I'd gone as far as I could with the bottle, I took it off the string and started looking around for something heavier to hang. Again, in a garage. You'd think there would be plenty. I found a five pound (2.25 kg) weight, but after lifting it with my right arm, I decided I wasn't ready to put that much weight on the hook. I wasn't finding anything that appealed to me when I heard my roommate pulling into the driveway. Deciding I really didn't want to be caught standing around in the garage with a hook in my arm, I grabbed my stuff and headed back into the house, hoping I'd find something in my room to put on the string.

I got back inside and wasn't finding much. My arm was beginning to ache a bit at the piercing points and I figured I'd probably waited too long between finding things to put pressure on the hook, and sticking something on there now would probably hurt too much to be worth it.

I took the string off of the hook and got a few more pictures. I let the hook sit in for a few more minutes before getting tired of having it in there. It slid out smoothly. All in all, I think it had been in there about half an hour. My arm had a bit of dried blood on it which a bit of gauze and Technicare handled. Examining the entry and exit points, I found it interesting that the needle had made a very clean slit where it entered and a circular hole where it exited. The wonders of beveled needles. I stuck on a few bandages and went through the pictures I'd taken.

For the next couple of hours, my arm ached and I found it very difficult to get it into a comfortable position. I was worried at first, but the pain had subsided by the time evening set in. There have been no complications since then. I had hardly any bruising and any tenderness had dissipated by three days after. As of writing, I still have two small scars on my arm that blend in with my freckles. The entry point's scar is a bit raised, but the exit point's is not. I wouldn't be surprised if they fade entirely over the next couple of years.

I'm left wondering how much of the pain was "real" and how much was mental. I know that I was very nervous about harming myself and was second-guessing my actions at every step. I have no doubt that this contributed to some of the pain that I felt. It also kept me from trying to do more, especially when it came to adding weight. Already fearing that I'd done something wrong, I didn't want to push myself further.

I have no regrets about my trepidations, though. In this sort of situation, I believe that it's best to minimize risks. I felt that I was already taking quite a risk by doing this myself and unsupervised, and I wasn't comfortable with pushing it. Staying within my comfort zone was definitely a major contributor to the fact that I'm happy with the way it turned out.

That said, I'm very curious to try a professionally-assisted pulling now. I know that I can withstand more than two pounds of pressure, and I'm hoping that removing some of those self-doubting mental blocks will go a long way towards helping me in those regards.


submitted by: LotN
on: 11 Feb. 2008
in Ritual

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Artist: myself
Studio: +
Location: Los+Angeles

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