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Diathermic Branding

So I decided to get seamed stockings branded or scarred onto my legs: the line down the back, plus two bands around the top of each thigh. The first problem was deciding what method I wanted to use. I was really enthusiastic about skin removal, because it aesthetically appealed to me (the getting-it-done part – yum, blood). Aside from this, the idea of burning my skin away with heat was absolutely terrifying for me. Skin removal was a method I felt I could deal with best- healing scabs from cuts is something I'm fairly accustomed to. However, I was worried firstly about the scale of this project – stockings are quite large – and secondly about how the backs of my knees would fare with this method and put this project to the back of my mind.

Anyway, Samppa arrived unexpectedly back in the country, and this forced me to get myself into gear. I trust him above pretty much anyone else with this kind of thing, and so decided to take this opportunity. He suggested diathermic branding to me as a possible method. This involves using a pen-like "cutting" tool wired up to a machine giving out electricity. The current involved "burns" the skin away from the body, but in an electrical way rather than a heat way. This method's pretty neat because it cauterises the wounds instantly, so they aren't open. It's apparently also easier to get neat, even lines, without the same problem with spreading as branding with heat. It is also somewhat faster than branding. As well as this, it's nicer for the person performing it than cautery branding, because the pen does not get hot at the tip.

So I made my decision to go with this new and exciting method, of course not at all influenced by the fact I didn't know anyone else who'd had this procedure and was pretty curious! So with my friend-to-hold-my-hand in tow, Samppa and I trekked down to Worthing (near Brighton) to Kalima, where Samppa can use the studio. I was pretty nervous, but really excited as well. Once we arrived at the studio, we spent at least an hour marking up precisely where the lines were to go, making them straight, symmetrical and so on and making sure I was perfectly happy with them. It was quite good that this took so long, because it really helped to calm me down.

And so we began at the front of one of my thighs. And man, that first touch of the diathermy pen hurt. The pain from this is really hard to describe: like a thousand tiny pinpricks, electrical, sore, and like nothing else I've ever encountered. And the smell! It smelt like cheesy wotsits to me, or glue factories. Mmmm burning animals. Yeah- we burnt some incense to try to drown that one out. I went through the whole 'oh crap, am I doing the right thing?' dilemma and wondered how the hell I was going to get through 3 or more hours of this. But once we got going, I just bit my friend's arm//clawed at him and got him to tell me stories//distract me from the pain. It bloody hurt, but I was still laughing about the pain, so it can't have been as bad as it might have been. For some reason retarding myself remains entertaining even in the most awkward of situations. The adrenaline//whatever else bodies do to deal with pain kicked in quite soon – in about ten minutes – and made the whole thing a lot more bearable. I was really really spaced out – I would almost recommend this just for the intensity of feeling. Hurrah.

Samppa created the brands by scoring either side of the intended design, then filling in the middle with the flat side of the diathermy pen. The thin score lines hurt a hell of a lot more than the filling in, which was the bit I was most worried about. The filling in part felt rather hot and satisfying (sh!). Half way through the procedure (with one leg done), Samppa needed a break. I was really shaky and cold, despite having been sweaty and baking during the procedure. I felt really light-headed but fine. The new brands were slightly sore, but nothing I couldn't deal with. When we started again after 20 mins break, I was back to square one on the lack of adrenaline front, but luckily my body was pretty good at sorting that out for me again.

....And 3.5 or so hours after we first started the branding part, it was done. We left the studio 5 hours after we walked in, and god, did I need a drink after that one! I was exhausted but hyperactive for the rest of that evening, and couldn't sleep too well because of the irritating pain//left over adrenaline. But in all, it was a fantastic experience. It concerned me before doing this that I have never really felt proper physical pain. Well maybe cystitis, but that hardly counts! I've never broken any bones, or been in any serious accidents. I've got more than a few scars, but even getting stitches didn't bother me. Piercings are great fun- I do them in my spare time for the little rush and intensity. But real pain? I desperately wanted to get this branding to see how I dealt with it. And I did, and was mighty proud of myself.

However, something that's missing from a lot of BME accounts is the healing process for this kind of thing, and that's what I think it's essential for me to add now.

The day after I had this done, I could walk about carefully, but the scabs were fairly tight and sore. Fine... This continued, but with reduced mobility, for the next few days. However, because of the movement at the backs of my legs, the backs of my knees weren't drying out as they should. As well as that, I had problems with the insides of my thighs, because they rub together when I sleep/walk, so they became quite open as well. This means lots of pus, and a pretty weird smell that made me feel a sick. By day 4/5, I was in quite a lot of pain most of the time, and could hardly move at all. Where the scabs got knocked off, I was in agony. I was using a mixture of boiled water with lavender oil to encourage the wounds to close up, but that just wasn't cutting it. Quentin from Kalima then suggested I started to use iodine (the kind with no alcohol in it) which has a stronger drying effect, and wiped the pus from around the scabs.

This of course all interferes with the aftercare procedure. I was meant to wait 5-10 days keeping them totally dry, then take a long hot bath and peel all the scabs, repeating every couple of days until the thing was healed. However, the pus was a sign of slight infection, and those parts just weren't ready to lift off. I also had problems with my body complaining at me for doing such a large scary thing to myself. I was exhausted and slept for about 16 hours a day. I was hardly hungry at all for the first 2 weeks, and had to force myself to eat vitamins//protein//etc. Er.... maybe it would have been better to get it done in two lots?

Anyway, it's now one month later, and it's almost entirely healed up. Amazingly well, considering I had difficulty with it. All even, about 1cm wide scars, all a pretty purply red colour. It's gorgeous. I'm rather glad I didn't realise what a bitch it would be to heal, because now I have the most beautiful scars :-) and they rule. And clearly, if I'd known what it would be like to heal, I wouldn't have done it.

Healing times: 0 - 2 weeks: unable to walk at all, week 3: mobility beginning to return, but not able to leave the house, week 4: scabs all dropping off at a rate of knots, end of week 4: and it's healed. Whenever I sneeze/tense my muscles/am doing rude things, I get tingly pins and needles all the way round the scars. It feels nice! Presumably this is all the little nerve endings still complaining about the trauma.


submitted by: Anonymous
on: 07 May 2005
in Scarification

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Artist: Samppa
Studio: Kalima
Location: Worthing%2C+UK

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