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.


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.

A Detailed Post About Self-Piercing

Yesterday, I had my lip pierced. Now, I say ‘had it pierced’, but in reality I actually did it myself, in the comfort of my own home. Yes, I know – the general advice to the public is that you shouldn’t do it yourself but go to a reputable piercer in your area. Well, the thing is that I don’t really know of any reputable piercers in my area, or any other areas for that matter. Sure, I could Google – but how do you gauge the validity of the piercer’s claim to always use sterile jewellery and fresh needles, really? They’re hardly going to state on their site “On occasion we run out of needles and just autoclave and re-use an old one we found lying around.”, or, “The table I’m using to lay down my tools on looks clean mainly because I wiped it down with an old rag seconds before you came in.”, are they?

I’m not having a dig at piercing studios; in fact I do believe that, in general, shops offering to do body piercing are pretty serious about using anti-bacterial cleaning products and disposable needles etc, as it’s in their interest not to have clients coming back complaining that they contracted hepatitis from having their piercing done there. It would be very bad for business, indeed. All I’m saying is that as a client it is neigh on impossible to tell a good piercer from a bad one. Although, in fairness to piercing studios I general, it is highly likely that their piercing area is cleaned a lot more often than my would-be area, with or without anti-bacterials.

Still, I had set my mind on going down the DIY-route. I had a number of reasons for this, including the much lower risk of cross-contamination; in short, piercing myself would involve only me and no one else – the philosophy being that whatever coodies already in my system wouldn’t hurt me any more than they already were.

Also, and much more importantly, this was sort of a gift to myself. As some of you may be aware I suffer from severe major depression and that, on the rare occasion, I fail to resist urges to self-harm. NOT a very good thing to be doing to yourself, I know, but that’s what I do. (I was in two minds whether or not to write about this in such an open forum, but in the end I decided that this is reality and a lot of people manage their depressions in this way, and keeping a lid on it will help no one).

So, back to my little story of self-piercing; I made a deal with myself quite a few weeks ago. In return for refraining from self-harming I’d give myself permission to – under as controlled conditions as possible – use this need to scar my body in a less destructive way. I’ve wanted a piercing for a long time, I think it looks really funky, and so, I figured this could be a good way to practise control over my wish to self-harm. This may make no sense at all to you, but to me it does, and I guess that’s what really matters.

I’m not stupid (at least I’d like to think I’m not), so in the last few weeks I have spent a lot of time finding out the facts about piercing and self-piercing: the pros and the cons, the risks involved, what type of needle to use, what material the jewellery should be and so on. This was NOT an impulse (unlike my self-harm) and I think it is of utter importance to recognise the difference, not only for me, but for anyone contemplating home-piercing.

Yesterday, having received the necessary equipment from various internet sources, I decided that the time had come. (Well, actually I had decided that already at the beginning of the week). I hadn’t told my partner about this, not because I thought he’d try to stop me or tell me I was crazy to do this on my own, but because this was MY journey.

Lacking an autoclave I started out by boiling the jewellery. I had three to choose from and hadn’t yet decided which one I’d put in so I basically boiled all of them. They were meant to be clean and new, but I figured it wouldn’t hurt to do this as an extra measure of precaution. While they were happily boiling away on the cooker (for about an hour) I thoroughly cleaned the surface where I’d eventually lay out everything I’d need, using first bleach and then Dettol. On top of the surface I placed one of those “create a sterile surface”-sheets. [You know the pre-packed sterile first-aid style packs]. I then rubbed some Bonjela on both the outside and inside of the lip to numb it, swallowed an Ibuprofen and went on to cleaning myself, or at least my hands and arms. First just a normal wash down with soap and water, then a soak in the sink with lukewarm Dettol solution and finally a rubdown with an anti-bacterial hand gel. I allowed my hands to air dry since I didn’t want to use a towel, which doubtlessly would carry any number of bacteria.

Hands clean I placed the now “sterilised” jewellery, the needle, some cotton balls, a brand new toothbrush, a surgical felt tip pen, a cup of Dettol solution and a cup of EasyPiercing Mouthwash on top of the paper towels I’d laid out earlier. After some research I had decided to opt for 1.6mm jewellery and had bought a titanium lip ring, a lip spiral of the same material (as this is a light weight material which contains no nickel) and a BioFlex labret with a push-fit titanium bead. As I mentioned before I hadn’t decided yet which one to actually put in, but I knew that these materials should be fairly safe to use from an allergy point of view. The needle was an 14g (2.0mm) sterile blister packed IV cannula made of surgical steel – the same type used in hospital to set up IV-drips. As it was supposedly sterile in the blister pack I had decided not to boil it, having first checked that the Use By-date was ok.

14G 2.0mm needle

I went through the routine of washing my hands and arms again, figuring ‘better safe than sorry’ before thoroughly brushing my teeth. I then swished the EasyPiercing Mouthwash for about 45 seconds to clean the inside of my mouth further, spat and dipped one of the cotton balls in the Dettol solution. I used this to clean the outside of my lip and chin before marking the spot where I wanted my piercing. I had been wearing a fake lip ring on and off the last few weeks to get a good feel for where I’d like to have it and had settled for the right side of my lower lip.

After this I did another round of hand and arm cleaning, partly because I reckoned “what the heck, it won’t hurt none to do this again” and partly just to stall the actual moment of piercing.

Hands once again clean show time was now approaching and I finally got the needle out. Wow! It wasn’t until I opened up the blister pack I really realised how HUGE these needles are. I’m pretty lucky because I’ve never really had a problem with needles, but I must admit that I had to take a deep breath when I saw this.

I’m not in the medical profession and had never really looked at a cannula needle up close before, so I took some time understanding how it would work. Yes, I had looked at pictures on the net, but I think that mentally I needed to take it in properly with the instrument actually in my hand.

I used my left hand to pull my bottom lip out, took a few deep breaths and used my right hand to push the needle through. Did it hurt? Not at all. Not even a little. These needles are so sharp they basically slice through the tissue (as opposed to for example piercing guns, which basically crush and tear the tissue using semi-blunt force). I didn’t really have to push much at all to get the needle through, save for the very last bit. I pierced my lip from the outside in, since that seemed the logical way to perform this little operation, but I know that many professional piercers will do it the other way around.

So, there I was now, needle still poking through my lip, looking at myself in the mirror, feeling pretty proud of myself. I took hold of the cannula with my left hand to avoid it slipping and pulled the needle out. For those of you who don’t know a cannula is basically a small plastic tube which the needle sits in, so when you push the needle through the tube goes through with it, but when you pull the needle out the tube will remain in the piercing. The reason for using a cannula needle as opposed to just a needle on its own is that, apparently, it makes putting the jewellery in your fresh piercing a lot easier and a lot less painful. Never having performed this procedure before, I can’t really tell you if this is so, but I have to say that for me that cannula really made the insertion of the jewellery child’s play. I decided to go for the BioFlex labret and basically just pushed it into the cannula from the top and then pulled the cannula out, leaving my labret neatly in place inside the piercing. All I needed to do after that was put in the titan bead at the other end of the labret to secure it. Easy!

All done I swished with EasyPiercing Mouthwash again, washed my face and ate a Dextrose tablet. (This is to avoid feeling light headed. If you don’t like Dextrose tablets a sugary drink will do just as well. Or an apple, for that matter!).

So, there you are. My rather lengthy story about How I Pierced My Lip.

Having done research online I know that there is very little detailed information about HOW to do this yourself, as most sites will merely say NOT to do it yourself. Personally, I think that it is up to each individual to decide whether or not to attempt this on their own. As long as you are an adult it really is up to you. Having said that, you are also responsible for any mishaps, and so, thorough research prior to piercing is highly recommended. Also, don’t forget to dispose of the needle in a way that will not put others at risk. Don’t put your dust-bin man at risk. He does a good job for you! A hot tip is to take it to your nearest hospital, as most hospital operate a service for returning used needles. They’ll probably assume you’re a junkie, but I reckon that’s minor compared to passing on your coodies to other innocent people – including dust bin collectors!

All the very best and more,


PS. Click here to fast forward to my latest self-piercing and thoughts on the subject. [June, 2012]

Straight to the point information.
(This is also where I got my jewellery and mouthwash from, but there are many other places to buy from)
Tons of stories of piercing and self-piercing