Wednesday, November 09, 2011

getting older ain't so bad, but growing up sucks

Wow, has it really been a year?! Jeebs, MSOM, I've missed you. That's why I've come back out of hiding to lay down yet another of my body mod musings.
San Francisco has been incredibly good to me since moving here 3 years ago, but it sure is distracting. So many wonderful diversions! Recently, though, I've begun to settle back into a slightly calmer lifestyle of homemade dinners, Friday nights in, and yes, even reading a novel or two in my spare time. Am I growing up? Nah, not anytime soon. Not in the traditional sense, at least. I am, however, going through a bit of a quarter-life crisis that has me thinking more than ever before about my health and well-being. That youthful period of whimsicality and fearlessness has begun to fade and in it's place lies a newfound sense of anxiety about the many potential harms that can come to us at any given moment. Don't worry, I haven't developed Agoraphobia or anything. I have, however, begun to monitor my health more intently than ever. I've experienced a number of disconcerting medical symptoms over the last year, and with a history of cancer in my family, I've spent much of the year worrying about disease. However, in the last month or so I have finally decided that I will no longer add the stress of worry to the numerous features of my fast-paced life that could potentially lead to illness. If I'm worried about illness, and illness can be exacerbated by worry...that cycle needs to be ended ASAP.
Ok, so, where does body modification fit into all this?

Well, about two months ago, I got two beautiful new microdermals (dermal anchors) installed below my clavicles. I was excited to have new piercings, as it had been a few months since I removed my sternum dermal. A week in, after daily sea-salt soaks and lots of TLC, they were looking quite good. Unfortunately, that didn't last long. I made the mistake of wiping them dry with a piece of toilet paper - big no-no when it comes to piercings. The preferred cloth to use on healing piercings is paper towel, as it doesn't leave a residue of microscopic dust like toilet paper and doesn't harbor bacteria like cloth towels. Even knowing this, I lazily decided to use TP instead of going downstairs to get a paper towel. D'oh. Literally hours after using the TP, my piercings both grew very angry (i.e. red and swollen). I happened to see my piercer that day, and asked him for some guidance on how to calm them down. He asked if anything out of the ordinary had happened to them, and I was embarrassed to tell him that I had used the TP. I instead told him that they had just started looking like that on their own. He advised me not to touch them for a little while and just leave them be, so naturally I stopped all aftercare including soaking. Mistake #2. Without being soaked the piercings were not draining the fluid that had accumulated within the wound as a result of the irritating toilet paper dust. They swelled up and got very sensitive, as did my lymph nodes - and that spells infection. Upon seeing the updated status of my dermals, my piercer chastised me and told me to start soaking them twice a day. I have to admit, I felt pretty shitty upon walking out of his shop that day. I like to think of myself as pretty piercing-savvy, so I was embarrassed that I had made as amateur a mistake as allowing them to get infected.
Little did I know I would feel a helluva lot shittier upon leaving my ENT's office the next day after going in to get my glands checked out. One word: biopsy.
The word itself gives me shivers. No one wants to have a biopsy - to sit fidgeting anxiously in the waiting room, to endure days or even weeks of mental distress while waiting for results - it's not exactly a fun procedure, and my case wasn't any exception. There I sat with a 4-inch needle embedded in my neck for a full 3 minutes as the technician wiggled it around in an attempt to get a sample. Let me tell you: it felt fucking bizarre. I get squeamish at just the thought of it.
Thankfully, the results came back negative. I am completely healthy aside from the swollen glands - a sign that my body had been fighting an infection. However, both my ENT and the woman who performed the biopsy made sure to advise me to remove my irritated metal friends ASAP if I wanted my glands to go back to normal. They said that the dermals were putting unnecessary strain on my immune system and could result in my getting sick easier that usual. Any body modification practitioner would agree that piercings, tattoos, scarification, branding, suspension, etc. are not exactly beneficial to one's health, especially when the wounds are not properly cared for. I knew this as well, but had always thought it a moot point if I wanted to continue to test my body's limits and ornament it via body modification. Now I'm getting older, and those warnings no longer seem so irrelevant.
At that point I knew I should take the piercings out, but I stubbornly tried to heal them for a few more weeks. To my dismay, they eventually became unbearably tender and didn't seem to be encouraged even by daily soaks anymore. It was finally time to make the dejected trip to get them removed.
Regardless of what my doctors told me, I probably would have gotten the dermals out at about the same point in time anyway. They were ready to go. What my encounters with my doctors did alter, however, is my stance on whether or not to get the (very expensive) microdermal jewelry autoclaved and re-embedded in my body at some point in the future. I think...and it hurts to say this...but I think I may be over dermal anchors. Once so fun and exciting in that they could be placed nearly anywhere and were virtually painless to insert and remove, they now seem to me a risky and annoying bodily adornment that just isn't worth the gamble nor the hassle.
Thankfully, I don't quite think I'm done with piercings altogether, and I'm told that the white gold fire opal disc from one of the anchors can be be set onto a nostril screw. This means I might finally go for the double nostrils I've been contemplating for over a year! Judging by the large number of successful nostril piercings I've seen on SF denizens young and old, they seem to have a pretty low risk of complication or infection compared to other piercings. Oh the nostril piercing, how vanilla. At least I'd be getting two of them...
Now, I may be starting to go the less-risky route when it comes to body modification, but I certainly won't be giving up my motorcycle or snowboard anytime soon. I'm also still quite the hardy partier here in SF (tough not to be), and I enjoy staying out into the wee hours of the morning from time to time. In exchange for maintaining these venturesome features of my lifestyle, I've got to start making some sacrifices insofar as other risky behaviors in my life go. I'm relieved that doing so won't mean giving up on body piercing altogether, as it will always be a source of fascination and intrigue for me, but it will mean becoming more tame in my piercing conquests. That, I think I can handle.

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