How Body Modification Saved My Life
Written By: Nicole West
For our avid Truthers, you are used to reading Anton’s diatribes about how those in the public eye are misdirecting you. This piece is going to be a little bit different. Today we’re going to be talking about a common misconception in our day-to-day lives; misdirection by the self. In other words, presenting an image that may not really reflect everything that’s going on inside. It is a level of subterfuge that everyone does to one degree or another, and one we wanted to explore. The takeaway will be “don’t judge a book by its cover.” As someone who has been judged in my field of work for the way I look, been told I would never succeed or be taken seriously, I want to explain that things aren’t always what they seem.
Beauty‘s in the eye of the beholder, and to me, body modification is one of the most beautiful things someone can do to themselves, that is because it, quite literally, saved my life.
Before we continue, it’s important that a trigger warning/disclaimer be in effect. - this piece talks about depression, anxiety, self-harm, substance abuse, physical and sexual abuse, and suicide - The following is what worked for me, but obviously may not work for everyone. Please seek professional help if you are dealing with suicidal thoughts, or are self-harming. You are not alone.
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I am a very very private person, always have been. I don’t open up about my feelings easily. In many circumstances, that has been my downfall. My anxieties about opening up have prevented me from getting close to people and have cost me relationships. But that is not the point, I want to share part of my story in hopes that it could resonate with someone. My hope is that if even just one person reads this, and realizes they are not alone, I’ve done what I've set out to do.
All of my life I’ve been known to hold my shit together really well, and have always been seen as the “mediator.” When conflict arose, I have always strived to see things from both points of view, and I set out to fix it. I don’t like confrontation and will do my best to avoid it at all costs. If the claws need to come out, trust me, they will, but I try to keep that side of myself at bay as much as possible. Helping people is, always has been, and always will be extremely important to me. I would rather help someone else out, over trying to fix myself. From a very young age, I began to internalize my feelings and emotions. I couldn’t bring myself to burden anyone with my problems, no matter how small or large they may have been.
Everything changed when I was 12 years old. My stepfather at that time began sexually abusing me on a fairly regular basis. He was a very violent man, and would frequently beat me and my siblings. But one day, I stopped getting beat and started getting sexually assaulted instead. My siblings didn’t know why I was the only child not being hit, so I started getting bullied frequently for being “the favorite.” What they didn’t realize is that I wished with all my heart, he would just start hitting me again so I could avoid what he had started doing to me. But, being who I was, I didn’t say a word. I was ashamed, I was embarrassed, I was disgusted with myself, and began to truly hate myself, thus began my downward internal spiral.
I had a couple of bad egg friends in middle school, and at 13, I remember getting drunk for the first time in the school bathroom. This soon escalated to smoking marijuana and doing anything I could to numb myself. I didn’t understand the emotions I was feeling, and I was so isolated I couldn’t talk to anyone. How could I bring it up? What would they think of me? So I kept quiet.
When trying to numb myself through substances stopped working, and I was so sick and tired of the isolated, lonely, confused feelings I was having, I attempted suicide when I was just 14. I wish I could reach out to my 14-year-old self and just give her a big hug. She was lost. She was misunderstood. Everyone thought she was happy, but she was dead inside. Very few people know about that event in my life, and I choose to keep the details of that night private.
Feeling like a failure, not knowing what to do at that point in my life, I began to cut myself. It made me feel alive. I was finally in control. I could dictate what type of pain I was feeling, and physical pain was much more bearable than the emotional pain I was constantly in. The more physical pain I caused myself, the less emotional pain I was in.
Through all of this, my parents may have speculated, but at the end of the day, they didn’t know what was really going on. I was very good at hiding and internalizing it all. I maintained decent grades, would come home sober, and would only cut myself in places that weren’t noticeable, this went on for most of my middle school and high school years. Thankfully my boyfriend at the time was very supportive. It was with his encouragement during high school that I was able to stop cutting myself. But, I still craved the feeling of composure it gave me.
This is where my love affair with body modification comes into play. On a whim, I decided to pierce my lip. I found it gave me the same satisfactory feeling that self-harming used to. It satisfied my intense need to be able to control the pain I was feeling, so I did it more and more. Over my high school years, I added many piercings to my collection. I pierced my septum, my lip (four times), my belly button, each ear in so many places that I’ve lost count, and began stretching my earlobes. I was in LOVE! Not only did I feel more confident because I had the feeling of authority over my own body, but it gave me the feeling I was looking for, the feeling of manipulating my emotions through pain. Now, please know, I do not condone or support piercing or self-harming yourself. I did end up with a couple of infections, and it’s not at all safe to do. Please see a professional piercer!!
I had completely stopped self-harming by the time I was a senior in high school. I know there will always be those who will say the route I was taking was also self-harm, but I completely disagree. My body is a canvas, and that’s when I first realized it.
Knowing I wanted to delve into that world much more, I convinced my mom to sign off on my first tattoo at 16. The design and the meaning were very personal to me as well. Between my shoulder blades rests angel wings with Greek writing, roughly translating to "unconditional love that transcends and persists regardless of circumstance." It was the most blissful feeling when I felt that needle hit my skin. From that moment on, I was hooked.
Now, several years later, I have spent hours upon hours in tattoo studios, am the proud owner of over 30 pieces of beautiful artwork across my body, and maintain a few piercings.
Creating a canvas out of my body literally saved my life. It helped me stop self-harming, and most importantly, it gave me back the control that I didn’t have as a young girl. Back then, my body wasn't my own, but you bet your ass it is now. If I want to cover it in art, that’s exactly what I’m going to do. Self-harming only left nasty scars behind that would end up reminding me of all the pain that made me cause them. I still don't like facing my feelings, so I plan on many more beautiful pieces to come over the years, but some pieces just for fun.
Everyone needs to find their own healthy way to cope with life’s problems, and this is mine. As I keep saying, and will never stop saying, I control my body. I don’t want to scar it anymore. I have an outlet to express myself in a much more appropriate way. I control my body, no one else.
We try our best to see both sides of things here at The Indie Truther, and I hope that this story gives you something to think about when questioning someone’s abilities or intelligence based solely on their appearance. When you see someone who may look different than you, stop for a moment before you cast judgment. You never know what their story might be. Whether it be their hair, tattoos, makeup, or whatever else, it could have been the difference between their life and death.
We have many resources listed here if you or someone you love needs help.
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