Self-Harm & Self-Piercing

Not very long until A. is back now.

Looking back at this break I can honestly say that there were definitely times when I didn’t think I would be around to see her return to work. I had some very very low points, where it felt entirely impossible to think that I could make it through. As you know, early on during this break, I did accidentally on purpose overdose, and even though this may sound weird, that wasn’t even the lowest point I got to. In fact it wasn’t even near to being the lowest point.

Then I had a bit of a breather, where I went to spend time with my sisters, where I reconnected with my faith, where I felt a little less frightened. Went back to only having the normal amount of flashbacks. And that was nice. And much needed. I count my blessings that I do have those times when things are a little easier. I try to take notice of the good in life, I really do. I know that reading this blog, it may seem that I only focus on the hard times, but I really do try to balance it out, to see the bigger picture.

I have to admit, however, that these last few weeks it has felt a little as if I am starting to slip again. I’m not sure if that is perhaps because, knowing that this therapy break is nearing its end, I am allowing myself to feel a little bit more than I have during the majority of this time. It’s possible. People keen to criticise my choice of therapy and therapist will, I’m sure, draw the conclusion that going back to therapy is what is making me worse; that therapy is itself the culprit. Needless to say, I disagree. Strongly.

Still, I do have to take these dips seriously; I am very well aware of my tendency to sink hard and fast, and to try to waive it off as nothing would be decidedly unwise. So, I’ve reached out. I’ve talked to my sisters, my friends, the Samaritans, just to make sure that I don’t plummet.

I did have a night last week which was particularly bad, where I felt very very tempted to get the scalpels out again, to release the tension, to get away from the bad feelings surging through my whole system. I resisted. Sort of. I had them out. I looked at them. Held them in my hand. Then I put them down. Put them away. Decided it was a bad option. Thought some more, and decided that there was something else I could do, which was a little less destructive, a little more spiritually meaningful. Something which I had been thinking about doing for some time.

The end result is a freshly pierced nose.

I know, to some, this seems little better than cutting myself, but to me, there is a big difference. Self-harming through cutting is a way of making my body look worse, it’s almost like physically punishing myself, not just through the pain inflicted while cutting, but also in the way the scars will always be there [and, trust me, I have plenty]. They only serve to make me feel bad, because they make me think of how I was unable to control my impulse to cut. Make me feel weak. And I don’t like feeling weak.

A piercing to me is different.

Whilst people may have varying views on the aesthetics of body piercings, or religious reasons for opposing them, to me, they are pretty – plain and simple: I like them – and my interpretation of religious text does not cause me to see them as forbidden. And so, in my mind, choosing not to slash my skin in destructive desperation, but deciding to do something different [albeit similar]; it makes me feel that I can control my impulses, I can convert destructive energy to something much more positive:

A sparkling reminder, right in front of my nose, that even bad nights do pass.

I feel I need to write a little something here about self-piercing: I am not an advocate of it, despite having done it more than once myself. Each time I’ve done it, it has been done as responsibly as possible. No dirty safety pins, no pound shop jewellery. Always clean hands and/or using gloves, always clean work surfaces, always proper after-care. Never without thinking it through, and never without, in my opinion, a genuinely valid reason for doing it myself.

You can read a detailed piece I wrote about my first self-piercing and my reasons for doing it myself here. Some of the things I say there are not quite how I see things now; it’s been four years. But the key is that it was a thought-through and reasoned decision. Not an in-the-moment act. In contrast to self-harming.

Even this latest piercing wasn’t something I did lightly. The reason I had the appropriate equipment in the first place was that I had been thinking about doing it for some time. And by thinking about it I don’t mean in the middle of the night in a moment of feeling very low, but during the day, consciously weighing the pros and cons. I made the decision to do it that night, because I wanted to – perhaps even needed to – prove to myself that I could do something other than cut, something which for me had meaning, something which wasn’t a destructive and impulsive form of self-punishment.

If you do choose to DIY pierce; do the research. Then think again. Think about why you are wanting to self-pierce and the risks involved. Also, think about where you want your piercing. Not all places are ideal for self-piercing. In fact, most aren’t. [In hindsight, I would have to admit that the nose definitely isn’t particularly ideal for self-piercing. And it was darn painful!] Also, just because something can be done, doesn’t mean it should be.

If the reason you’re considering not going to a studio to have it done is that you’re underage, get your parents to come with you to give their consent. Or wait until you are legally able to give consent. If you want it that badly, you’ll still want it in a year or two. From a religious point of view, getting your parents’ consent also matters in terms of honouring your mother and father through not choosing to do something your parents directly oppose. I’m not meaning to be preachy, I’m merely pointing this aspect out. [For me this was always a non-issue, as my mother sports a sparkling lip piercing of her own.]

For most people, people who just want a piercing because it looks good, my advice will always be: Go to a professional piercer! You won’t end up accidentally mis-aiming and come out with a wonky piercing in a place you hadn’t meant to have one. Seriously. Going to a professional piercer will generally be a much better experience; quicker, more than likely less painful and much much simpler all round.

First and foremost;

remember to be kind to yourselves.

xx

PS. I do realise I am displaying an astonishing amount of double-standards when it comes to self-piercing, but in my defence: I am an adult, I had a valid reason to do it myself and it was a thought through decision. And, as I wrote earlier, looking through a rear view mirror: I wouldn’t recommend piercing your own nose to anyone. Anyone. That includes my future self.

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6 responses

  1. I didn’t realise Reform Judaism was ok with piercings! Goodness Reform Synagogue sounds so much more relaxed than United Synagogue. (It seems if something’s fun or a little bit different, United Synagogue’s bound to ban it or pronounce it forbidden!)

    You mentioned you had other piercings. May I ask where?

    Gitty

  2. Hey there,

    I would definitely not go so far as to say that Reform Judaism is OK with piercings; all I said is that I, personally, am. I certainly get the odd raised eyebrow when people see me at shul. In fact someone from the general congregation asked me, right after my admission ceremony, if I was going to remove my piercings now that I had formally converted..

    Generally speaking, in terms of halakha, arguing against piercings [especially for women] is somewhat challenging, since women with both ear and nose piercings are mentioned more than once in the Torah. More on the subject here: http://bit.ly/qyabta

    I also had a discussion with one of my rabbis about whether or not to take my piercing out before entering the mikveh, and following that I made the decision to keep it in, as it feels like a genuine part of me, unlike other jewellery, which I did remove.

    To answer your question: I have three ear-piercings, [although I rarely – if ever – wear any jewellery in them], a lip piercing and now a nose piercing. Used to have a tongue piercing too, but it came out and closed up. Was the lip piercing I discussed prior to immersion in the mikvah, since I NEVER take it out [unlike earrings] and it could thus be seen as permanent, in the same way that acrylic nails and jewellery worn for more than 30 days are considered part of your body, and not needed to be removed.

    Worth noting, though, that the Movement For Reform Judaism advises on their website that false nails and jewellery SHOULD be removed: http://bit.ly/LKgZyy [Then again, it doesn’t go into any detail about exceptions to this rule].

    All things considered, regardless of what the official word is, I will read up on my own, ask my rabbis what they have to add and then, ultimately, make my decision myself.

    There is a reason why minority views were and are recorded in responsa literature.. and it’s one of the things I love about Judaism; the freedom and responsibility to make our own decisions.

    xx

  3. I take it you have no fear of needles girl! I couldn’t do that to myself in a million years. Would love to have a nose piercing but I’m just too chicken. Would you post a pic? Good to hear your therapist is nearly back. You’ve been amazing to keep it together as well as you have, and you really seem incredibly aware of yuor own thought processes and patterns. Just the final push now. I know you’re anxious about starting over but you’ll find your way back into it. Take care.

  4. I’d rather you pierce than cut.

    And, yes, you may only be breathing, but it’s more of a choice than some people have.

    No point in coming this far and not seeing it through. NO point.

    Keep your head above water. That’s all we can do at times.

    Believe me.

    C.

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