Emotionally Present / Lived Experience/Memoir / Time-specific

Hanging By Hooks: Suicide Suspension #1

I want to start this blog post by expressing my gratitude to everyone who made this happen. So thank you Russ, for opening your home to us yesterday and guiding me and encouraging me through this experience. Thank you Maee and Ryan for your skilled hands in piercing me at the same time (and especially Ryan, for wrenching most of the “rice krispies” out afterward, and for cleaning me up). Thank you Stef for your kindness and gentle touch during such an intimate hour of my life. Thank you Sal for holding my weight steady — what would this experience have been, without such a strong anchor? Thank you Mage and Shadow for making this happen for me (especially you, Mage), and for going up in your own suspensions today as well, so that we can all share in the experience together. Thank you Ivy and Robin for your support yesterday and for taking pictures throughout my suspension. And thank you Kole and Hugh, for being present in a show of support (and frosty sticky buns) for a complete stranger. It easily would have been a dramatically different experience with just one of you absent.

Before

This is the first time I will ever participate in a hook suspension as the subject. I am excited beyond words. There was a full moon the night before and the skies were clear. It was so bright outside, it looked like the patio light was on. I thought of when I did my first hook pull, in the afternoon preceding the super moon. I entered the space with the intent to find self-love, and holding the hands of two very special people. We took our seats for a brief talk on what is about to take place, its traditional origins in both Hindu and Aboriginal cultures (such as the Anishinaabe, who also have a similar ritual beginning with four days of non-stop dancing), and similar rites in other cultures worldwide. All of these traditions last significantly longer than ours would that day — some even for days. Our support people would traditionally be someone who had already been through the ritual themselves, so they could safely guide us as it proceeded, without letting us whirl right out of orbit in ecstasy. And then we began to prepare ourselves; mind, body, and soul. The drumming started shortly thereafter.

I couldn’t stop smiling. I couldn’t stop moving, either. I was ecstatic, and overwhelmed with love — not just internally, but for every person in the room with me, without exception and without wavering. Tears streamed down my face, and I pulled hard. When the moment seemed right, one of the people I held hands with going in gave me a very slight nod, and we started pulling against each other. We were soon joined by the two primary facilitators. When it was time to ground ourselves, I let a wave of emotion pour out of me. I was still euphoric for days.

My intent going into the suspension yesterday night was to find my place of inner strength, and celebrate it. Yesterday night was a celebration of breaking free of my fears — both of becoming homeless again, which happened anyway; and of taking up space, which has given me an important sense of purpose and an empowered voice. Yesterday, I celebrated finding that voice, and the strength and wisdom to use it. I celebrated my body yesterday, my sense of self-acceptance, and my ongoing gender transition. I celebrated the autonomy I now enjoy, and the steadily increasing sense of liberation I feel from my history of deep-rooted trauma and mental illness. I also celebrated a sense of belonging, a sense of purpose, and an intuitive sense of direction. I carried the Musqueam with me in my heart, too, as they celebrated their own victory yesterday night: they will at last be honouring their ancestors with a traditional burial, very soon. As I closed my eyes the night before yesterday, thinking of this intent and recounting my experience at the hook pull, I smiled.

After

I couldn’t stop smiling through the entire hour, right from the moment I was asked to go into the piercing room. The piercings were barely more than a deep pinching sensation, and I had no anxiety at all, apart from a very quiet (and rather irrational) fear that I somehow won’t live up to the expectations I anticipated anyone else in the room having of me (including four people I had just met, and multiple veterans of hook suspensions). It took me a half hour to fully suspend my weight by the hooks in my skin. I took a psychological leap after the first twenty-five minutes and put a foot back on the floor immediately, because it just wasn’t time yet. My mind was ready but my body wasn’t. Five minutes later, I suspended and stayed that way of my own volition. I was up for eight minutes, and with the exception of briefly touching the floor to stop myself from spinning right out of orbit a few times, I spent the entire time swinging as soon as I committed to being suspended. I came down when I could feel my body connecting back to itself — when I knew I had a brief window of time with which to either fight it off (and likely lose that fight with a lot of extra and unnecessary pain for my effort) or come down on a high note (and reduce the overall discomfort of treating some of the side effects of suspension as much as possible).

But that’s all that’s just about the way it looked, with little details peppered here and there of what it physically felt like. There was so much more to this experience, and it was completely distinguished from my hook pull in every way imaginable. This was a very intimate experience requiring a great deal of trust that I’ve been working towards for the last ten years of my life. Much more so than my hook pull, which was still intimate, but for nearly a hundred people all simultaneously in a very large indoor space with 20-foot ceilings and live drummers. Yesterday, we were all gathered in a private residence, and there were only the ten of us present. I’ve also often remarked that I was paralyzed with fear of how painful I believed this experience would be, but I realize now that it was the absence of the capacity to trust putting my body in someone else’s hands that stopped me. I don’t know how I’ve done it, but I’ve finally found a place within myself where I can find that inner peace, and that’s where I was all day yesterday. And sure enough, I didn’t feel pain at all, let alone in the magnitude I spent ten years anticipating with dread.

I felt pressure and pinching while my skin was being prepped and pierced. When the hooks were tied to the rig and moved in my skin into place, I immediately started lightly tugging. As soon as I felt resistance, my smile cracked into an ear-to-ear grin. At every step of the process, I either pulled or asked for the rope to be drawn further up, just until that feeling of resistance turned into pressure. Then the task at hand was to breathe deeply and let my body work through the sensation as my skin drew air into itself and separated from the fascia beneath. By the time my body was hanging limp and my feet were just touching the floor, my skin had drawn in air from the base of my thoracic spine all the way up to the base of my skull. It felt like my skin was steadily becoming anaesthetized. That’s when I made the psychological leap my body wasn’t quite ready for. The first time I lifted my feet off the floor, I could feel right away that my body was telling me to put my feet back down. This is the mind-fuck of hook suspension: learning to read your body through such a counter-intuitive experience, seeking the answer to when it’s ready to fly.

When my body was finally ready to lift off the floor, I could feel it. I knew when the moment arrived, and I picked up my feet without hesitation. But until that moment, I hadn’t owned it. I very much wanted to. I suddenly wanted to grab Russ’ hands and ask him to help me get there. I wanted to hold Ivy’s hands too, but I knew I needed to focus on doing it myself. I held my hands together in front of my chest and closed my eyes to focus my thoughts. My spontaneous craving for the touch of another person suddenly dissipated, I relaxed my back, and I lifted my feet. This time, my body was ready, and instead of a sudden increase in pressure, the sensation in my skin numbed. I felt completely free to swing around, and quickly started gently spinning too. It took me a couple of trial efforts to figure out how to swing myself, and once I got going, my lips began quivering, even as I smiled ear to ear. The further I swung myself, the more liberated I felt. But I also felt something so completely beyond a sense of freedom — I felt what I can only describe as a higher state of consciousness, in which I was free of all material attachments to the world, including my own body. And with that, I closed my eyes, threw myself into a spin, opened my palms, and let go of myself for a few minutes.

Without a doubt in my mind, this event could not have happened for me any sooner than it did. Though my skin is crackling like breakfast cereal as I’m writing this, and my back feels bruised today, I have no regrets at all about what I did yesterday. It was a very powerful experience (one that I would do again in a heartbeat), and I would tell anyone who has even had a passing thought of curiosity about it to give it a go.

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