T

he snow swirls around as the car speeds through a snowy landscape as the storm is doing it’s best to hide where we are coming from, and to prevent us from seeing where we are heading towards. In front of us is the occasional car that shares our predicament and what previously seemed to be a good idea is suddenly surrounded by doubt. I turn to slave scarlett and ask her with some hesitation:

– Do you think this is such a good idea?

– I don’t know.

I don’t know if her answer refers to the situation we’re in now, or what I’m about to do. I’m not even sure what my question is referring to myself.

Everything started about 4 months earlier with a discussion about hook suspension when my good friend Mister-A told me that there would be an opportunity to try it. We talked about how it worked and how it feels to hang from hooks that are pierced through your skin at various points around the body. I felt my desire to challenge myself being brought to life during our conversation, this was something that I just had to try.

My motivation to challenge myself and people around me is dual in nature, part of it is by choice, but the other part is something that I can’t opt out of.

I was born with cerebral palsy, something which has influenced my way of walking and my balance. When I was a child I was told that I would never walk without support or have sufficiently developed balance to allow me to ride a regular bike or skates. This became the foundation of my persistence and also the driving force to challenge myself and my surroundings. I refused to accept that I was not like everyone else, an exclusion that is hard to take in as a 5 year old. I was simply too stupid to understand that I would be limited and as an adult I do not accept limitations whatsoever.

It’s my way of surviving as the anomaly that I am.

Yes, you read it quite right. I look at myself as an anomaly. My disability turns me into an anomaly in relation to many others and I am also seen as an anomaly by others. But there is also something which is intrinsically good about such a perspective, because anomalies makes us think, and anomalies causes us to challenge our perception of things that we take for granted. As an anomaly I have the freedom to do things which others do not expect anomalies to do and that is exactly what I have done.

All of my life.

I walked without support when I was 6 years old, it was not pretty, but I walked on my own. When I was 11 years old, my frustration turned to the fact that I wasn’t like everyone else, because I had to ride a bike with training wheels. I learned to ride a regular bike out of pure anger and stubbornness. I refused to be different, especially since I hadn’t chosen it for myself.

Just as two negative numbers which cancel each other out, I’ve always as an anomaly, been drawn to do things which deviate from what I am expected to do.

Two negative numbers in an equation always cancel each other out and becomes something positive.

Therefore I’ve always refused to live by the limitations being put on me by others. My disability is one of my biggest assets in my life because it has given me the great gift of constantly challenging myself and others’ perception of me. It has given me a perspective on life that means that I never accept things just because that’s the way they should be.

If I at any point in time would have believed what the doctors and others told me as a 5 year old, then I wouldn’t be where I am today.

It was precisely this drive that was awoken inside of me when we talked about hook suspension and the only thought which ran through my head during our whole conversation was that this was something I had to do. To do something which is deviant, as an anomaly, somehow makes it normal.

The feeling that I just have to do something is well-known to me. It has made me do mountaineering, bungee jumps and get a pilot license – Which is not bad for someone who was told they would never walk or ride a regular bike. It’s not bad for someone who the authorities wanted to place in a special class, just because he “walked in a strange way”, and not bad for someone who has a university degree and has worked as a teacher, researcher and consultant for 20 years.

I am an anomaly in many ways.

The feeling that I just have to do something which poses a challenge, was the thing that made it easier for me to accept my sexuality, something which is also perceived as a deviation by some. But to me it meant, once again, an anomaly on top of another anomaly. As a disabled person, I’m expected to have no sexuality at all because I am an anomaly.

And anomalies should not reproduce.

Some people within the BDSM community also have a bias towards the idea that if you define yourself as dominant then you shouldn’t receive pain. I define myself as dominant and I embrace pain wholeheartedly. For me it isn’t much of a principle, as it is a matter of well-being. My disability makes my brain send out contradictory signals to my muscles, which in turn means that the muscles never relaxe. When I am subjected to pain, I relax and reach a specific state of mind that I can never achieve otherwise.

I am an anomaly who has made a deviation into something, which makes me feel normal. I’ve thrown myself into a context where anomalies are seen as normal. Where pushing the boundaries is not only accepted, but is also honoured. I’ve not only thrown myself into this context because I want to, but because I have to. I have no choice, I just have to do it.

I look out of the side window in a valiant attempt to determine where we are, and if we are still on the right track. In the midst of the snowy gusts that constantly blind us, I see a few buildings, almost like frostbitten figurines plowing through the snow in the middle of nowhere. It is then that I realise that I’ve been on the right track all the time, but the lack of contours and definition had made me lose my sense of direction.

I take a step into the room where I will experience my first hook suspension, not as an observer on the sidelines, but as a human being who has to do this. As a man who has to prove to himself and to his surroundings that restrictions are only a matter of perspective and constraints are structures maintained by other people. The room is filled with a mix of hopeful people who are there for the very same reason as me, to challenge themselves. We might all come from different walks of life, but we are all here and present in this very moment. Our lives and experiences appear to have only been aimed at helping us to reach this point in time. A day when we get an opportunity to go beyond what we thought was impossible, a day when we prove to ourselves that we are capable of more than we think, and a day where we can stand in front of the mirror and say to ourselves that we are strong. We all seem to find the strength in the fact that we have all, forcefully and deliberately, decided to be anomalies compared to what is socially and physically accepted.

In this very moment I am an anomaly among other anomalies, and in this particular room and moment in time, together we are all somewhat normal.

This room has a number of ropes hanging from the ceiling and as modern crucifixes they are ready for our sacrifice and our celebration of our right to be anomalies. The outside world where everything is lost in a blizzard of white conformity has ceased to exist. This is our place and our moment in a microcosm where we are allowed to be ourselves. A sense of freedom spreads throughout my body as experienced hands lead me to a gurney, feeling no fear of what is to come.

The hands gently move across my back and the two pairs of hands become four when both sides of my shoulders are investigated simultaneously. Two crosses are drawn on each side of my shoulders. Four small crosses connecting my past and my future to this very moment. Four symbols which have been repeated by generations before me and which will be repeated by generations after me. Symbols representing every occasion throughout history where a human being voluntarily inflicted pain and suffering onto himself in order to learn something about himself.

Four sturdy metal hooks are presented to me on a tray. I notice how they sparkle in the watchful light of the fluorescent tubes that fill the room and on each side of my body stand two men, their expressions covered by face masks. They stand in silence, ready to redeem my body in a modern day crucifixion.

My breathing fills my head as I take deep calm breaths. My exhalations fall into the same rhythm as the men counting.

Three – My mind is spinning and my body prepares instinctively for the upcoming penetration of metal through my flesh.

Two – I concentrate on my breathing.

One – Two of the hooks penetrate my skin and a euphoric feeling rushes through my veins.

The hooks and I are united in a deep sigh, as all my expectations and feelings rejoice in a unison choir making me laugh out loud with joy as I feel an incredible calmness. The silent men repeat the ritual once more. Three, two, one, and I sink deeper into serenity, where I do not feel any pain, stress or fear. There is something liberating in having cold metal penetrating through the skin, a feeling of liberation accompanied by a sense of having done something important in life.

I enjoy the overwhelming feeling behind my closed eyes and all the sensations of sounds and voices disappear into the bright darkness that fills my body and my senses.

The journey into my inner self has just begun.

After an eternity of milliseconds, I open my eyes and I meet slave scarletts’ horrified gaze with a smile. I am confident in what my body is being subjected to, and it is my way to show her that everything is okay.

I sit up on the gurney and try to get used to the feeling of having four large metal hooks through the skin on my back. It’s a strange feeling. A feeling that there is something there, but not really. I move my arms and shoulders, the weight of the hooks pull on my skin.

I get up from the gurney and the two silent men bring me to my crucifix.

Pain has always been present in my life. It is a natural companion that I have embraced as one of my friends. As a person I’m not so good at expressing pain through emotions or words. Therefore, I’ve always been drawn to activities where there is a possibility of finding an outlet for the pain I experience or have felt throughout my life. I have tattooed my body at crossroads in my life where the decisions that I’ve made have been painful. I get a kick out of experiencing pain that I can control. It may seem self-destructive, but it is actually the opposite. When I control the pain that I am subjected to, then I take back the control of my body, a body whose muscles never relax.

It is my revenge against my own body.

A revenge where I talk over a close friend who follows me around wherever I go. A friend who is never quiet.

The silent men grab hold of the dangling ropes hanging from the ceiling and attach them one by one to the hooks on my back. My body is getting noticeably tense as the fear begins to creep up  my legs, and then across my stomach turning it into a knot, which then becomes a stronghold in my mind. My head is filled with an indescribable fear of the unknown. It is not nails that are being driven through my palms, but as each hook is being attached I start to wonder if my skin will be able to hold my weight. Visions of what will happen if my skin rips flash through my mind. I notice that I am doubting my own decision.

Could it be that I’m afraid of my own decisions?

I’m forced to face myself in the midst of this fear.  Is it that I avoid making decisions that I could have made much earlier? I realise that I am a human being who feels too confident with what I have and am very uncertain when it comes to what I can get. My fear grows even more when I realise that I am simply afraid to live with the consequences of my own decisions.

It’s not the kind of person I want to be.

One of the silent men slowly begins to pull the ropes, already taught, to rise my crucifix in my mental Calvary. The skin on my back stretches slowly while a gentle pain sings its song in my head. The silent man looks at me and pauses, allowing me to become accustomed to all the sensations rushing through my brain. I breathe deeply and rhythmically as the ropes are tensed even further and I stretch out my toes to maintain contact with the floor.

To maintain contact with the floor has become my safety net and I can feel my head starting to spin as the intensity of it all increases. But it is not because of the pain that it spins, it’s the fear of letting go that creates a chaos in my mind. I do not trust my ability to float freely while I hang from four metal hooks piercing my flesh.

I do not trust my decision, I do not trust myself.

One of the silent men grabs hold of my arms and looks straight into my eyes, and his gaze is my anchor when the ropes are pulled further. As I stand on my toes I struggle, both mentally and physically. Finally my only connection with the world as I know it is through my big toe on my left foot as it is the only part of my body still touching the floor. A battle of major proportions is played out inside my head, a battle between the idea that this will never work and the notion that I have to give up. I have to give up and be daring at the same time.

I have to let go and accept what is on the other side of this.

I have to give up.

My vision fades out when I finally let go. My mind explodes with bursts of past experiences which seem to have just been waiting for a release through the taut ropes. I see my son’s death flutter past, a glimpse of my divorce makes itself remembered and I twirl around in all the emotions that I had before believed to be failures in my life.

All the painful experiences that I’ve gone through gather for a few milliseconds in my head and then flow away into the hooks and then disappear like teardrops along the ropes. My mind is now filled with an euphoric sensation and I feel an indescribable joy that I have my partner, my children and my life. A life which has given me so much, a life in which I have created opportunities for myself and others.

A life for which I am grateful.

All of a sudden I see flashes appear across my retina as I begin to feel tears run down my cheeks. I am covered in a cold sweat, my hearing starts to pulsate, and I realise that I’m about to faint. It has all become too much for my brain to process and now it’s saying stop by shutting down. I tell the silent man who is holding onto the rope to hoist me down. He gets me down quickly and I’m given a chair to sit on. While I sit there, leaning forward with my head between my knees, someone gives me something to drink, telling me that I was probably close to fainting because of low blood sugar.

But this isn’t about low blood sugar.

During those four minutes I was forced to face everything within myself that I had not wanted to face before. Half a lifetime of pain and failures came out all at once. An overwhelming experience on an emotional level. It was like blowing up a dam that had been filled during centuries of thunderstorms and rain showers. I could not control my thoughts or emotions, and there was no chance to resist everything that was dropped upon me.

It was equally frightening as it was liberating.

I breathe deep and my stubbornness makes me want to hang in my flesh once more. This time I am prepared for what is coming. My head is empty and ready to take in the experience of hanging once more. I feel incredibly calm when the rope is stretched again. This time I voluntarily lift up my feet, embracing the feeling of floating freely through the air. It’s my way of reminding myself I’m in control of my body, my mind, and my emotions and I take revenge on the fear that previously made it so hard for me to let go. Once again I feel the tension pull on my back, but I feel no pain. The emotions wash over me again. I feel gratitude and joy in such an overwhelming way that my tears return once more. I close my eyes while the sound of my breathing fills my head accompanied by my emotions. I float freely in my mind, while my body in the real world is slowly rocked back and forth by one of the silent men. Minutes turn into seconds, seconds turn into a millisecond and suddenly time ceases to exist. My senses are filled with a dark light, a light which only I can see and a light where everything is nothing and nothing is everything. In the dark light there are no conversations, no inner dialogue. There is only silence and emotions. I feel everything around me as the slightest draught in the room becomes a storm of emotions, even the most silent sound is devoured by my existence in nothingness.

Someone pushes once more on my body, and the rope rocks me slowly further into my journey to my inner self, and I float endlessly through the blackness of nothingness.

I am one with everything and I am everything with nothing.

When I open my eyes, in my state of being one with nothing, a distant voice tells me I have hung for more than twenty minutes, a period of time which passed in an instant for me. My sweaty body is relaxed when I am hoisted down so that my feet can touch the floor again. Earlier on, the floor was a safe haven, a fixed point in all the uncertainty that existed around the idea of hanging from a ceiling in hooks and ropes. Now the floor felt like a curse, a limitation that had deprived me of my freedom where I had felt weightless and the sensation of being completely present in myself.

I am led to the gurney where the hooks were inserted into my flesh. Two women are waiting for me, willing to recognise my sacrifice. I am laid down and the hooks are removed from my back. Their hands shroud my wounds and massage my back hard. The aim is to remove pockets of air from under the skin, which in themselves are harmless, but can prolong the healing process. My whole body is smiling through a fog of emotions during their heavy-handed treatment. I lay still on the gurney, tuning in to the constant stream of emotions which seem to float in the air surrounding me. I’m not able to think a single logical thought and I find myself talking incessantly. I do not know if I’m talking to someone in the room or if I’m just talking to myself inside my head, but I’m talking. The conversation is trying to put words to my emotions and my transformative experience. The rambling becomes a manifestation of the overwhelming passage that occurred in my mind. Every syllable that comes out of my mouth is a feeble attempt to hold on to the space in which my mind is still traveling. A space in which I feel invincible, where life has no limits and fear does not guide my actions or decisions.

The fear of not being accepted.

The hooks penetrated not only my flesh, but also my mind where I had to face my fear through an intoxication of soft pain. I was forced to abandon my illusions of security from the moment my toes were made to abandon their contact with the floor. I take a deep breath when the realisation hits me that I’ve been building an illusion of self-acceptance. It’s a sort of hypocrisy directed against myself where I celebrate the fact that I consider myself to be different whilst all the while I have had an innate fear of not being accepted, therefore every effort I’ve made has actually been constructed to make me come across as normal.

This insight is like a slap in the face. I’m not normal and like everyone else, I am myself and I will never be someone who wants to be part of a blizzard of conformity. But to be like everyone else means that I would allow everyone else to define who I am and what I am.

And that’s not me.

I look up into the ceiling and give myself forgiveness from my own sin of self hypocrisy.

A sense of freedom and relief rushes through my body as I open the door leaving the premises. The weather has cleared up outside and my lungs are filled with cool fresh air. I look up at a clear sky, the blizzard of white conformity which envelops all that is unique has subsided. My eyes gaze at the world around me in a whole new light. I will from now on, allow myself to be myself, without the paralysing fear of not being accepted. It’s a brave new world that I plunge into as I  continue my life not allowing others to define who I am, in a world without limits, a world filled with new possibilities.

A world where I have earned my rightful place by crucifying myself so that I could meet my innermost fear.

I am not fucking normal and I will never again put any effort into becoming like everyone else.

I am unique in my own right.


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Visual Week – Hanging

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