Thursday, July 06, 2006
John Wayne never tried it.
In November of 1999, I used my Leatherman to open my own wrists. I'm not proud of it, and I'm not saying that this is even remotely a good way to resolve conflict, but I did it, and I learned from it.

One of the things I learned was unexpected. You see, my plan was to do an exploratory cut-down latitudinally, across the short axis of my arm, so that I could find the radial artery, then cutting it longitudinally to ensure that the damage couldn't be repaired.

So I drew a hot bath, sat down in the water, gritted my teeth, held the knife to my wrist, and tugged. The first cut was like fire, opening up the skin and exposing the subdermal fat layer. Well, I reasoned, the skin is where most of the pain receptors are. The rest of this shouldn't hurt much at all, now. This, as it turns out, was whistling in the graveyard.

The subcutaneous fat layer went fairly easily: yellow, shiny, a little greasy. It actually was a lot like the chicken fat you see at the knob of the thigh. It slid aside pretty well, and I had to cut through muscle beneath that. This was just as painful as it sounds. Muscle is much tougher to cut than skin or fat, and it hurts to cut through it, especially when your knife isn't as sharp as it could be, because the fibrous tissue runs from the blade.

Eventually, though, I was through everything else, and when I rinsed the blood from capillary and small venous bleeds away, I could see glistening white bone, and near it, the radial artery, twitching with a surprisingly pronounced motion. Then, and here's the really crazy thing, I repeated the whole process with my right wrist (this time with the blade in my left hand, which meant that the cuts weren't as clean).

After opening both wrists to the bone, I took the knife in my right hand, slid the point under my radial artery, and raised it up a little, almost flush with my skin. It was agonizing to do this, but I was fascinated by the pale-pinky look of the blood vessel. I realized that I didn't want that motion to stop, so I called 911 for help, and the rest of it was an ABC after-school special.

Still, with all the things I learned that day ("don't fucking try to kill yourself" topping the list), one thing that really stands out is the fact that I have a higher tolerance for pain than I initially thought. You see, my father always told me that I was a bit of a sissy, and couldn't take even a little bit of discomfort. Performing exploratory surgery on my own arms showed me that I could stand up to the pain if I wanted it badly enough; I've kept the scars as a testament to that.
Posted by rightshu at 7/06/2006 08:34:00 PM ::

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