Tam describes his first suspension on the blog of On Tender Hooks, an independent feature film documentary about human suspension.
“Alright then Tam so, are you ready?”
“Yes”, who am I kidding, I’m not ready. I want this, I really do, but I can’t help but be apprehensive.
“Alice are you ready?”
“OK Tam. Deep breath in, relax, and breath out.” Oh my God! There is an explosion of pain in my back, more a sensory explosion than actual pain as two 4mm hooks with needles on the ends are simultaneously pierced through my back. Yes it hurts, but, it is not as bad as I thought it would be (it never is), the experience is heightened by my apprehension. Even having been pierced and tattooed before, it is not really something I was able to prepare myself for.
A few seconds later, the first small waves of adrenaline and endorphins kick in so I feel pain around the hooks. I briefly feel my blood sugar drop which makes me dizzy, but that quickly sorts itself out. “Here, have some sweet tea and a sugary sweet, it’ll make you feel better.” (I now use suspension days as an excuse to consume sugar by the bucket load without feeling guilty.)
“Right, so if you could just go stand on the plastic under the rigging, we’ll attach you. How are you feeling?”
“I’m feeling good, a bit nervous, but good.” Lets be honest, at this point I am shitting bricks, this is really happening, it feels so surreal.
“Now I’m just going to attach your hooks to the rig, they might sting a little as I turn them.” Oh wow, I had been day dreaming and am snapped back to reality with a sharp sting that would not be bad if I had been paying attention.
“Now we are just going to put a little tension on the hooks to even it out.” This isn’t so bad, this is OK, this is OH WOW. This stings, this, this, I don’t know what this is. This is such a sensory overload, I don’t know what to think.
“OK, we’re all set. So, what we going to do now is, you are going to take my hands, look at me, don’t look down, and we will slowly walk back and forwards, increasing the tension ever so slightly. You are in full control of what happens, if you want to go up, stop or go down, just let me know. OK? And the most important thing to do is to just relax, the more you relax, the more you will get out of the experience.” Relax?!?!?! Seriously?? I am about to lift all my body weight (and I am not skinny. 6ft3 101kg/16stone) on two hooks. Relax, easier said than done.
“OK, you can go up a bit…..ow, no stop, hold on.” I can’t do this, I am not strong enough to do this, my skin will not hold, why am I doing this. I freak out a little, I am over thinking this, I know that
now, but at the time my senses were being overloaded with an experience I just could not have expected. My brain keeps fighting with me, telling me that I shouldn’t be doing this as logically, hooks pulling in your skin should hurt, and at the same time telling me that my body is fine with the whole experience.
“I can’t do this.”
“Sure you can, you’ve come this far haven’t you, the worst part is over. You are just over thinking things, it’s natural for first timers. Just relax, stop thinking of the hooks in your back. Look at me, feel my hands and trust me.” This scenario happens a few times. I go up a little, am fine, then I freak out a little and they hold me in place and reassure me that all is fine. Before I know it I am up with just my toes touching the ground, there is no weight on them, at all. But, for some reason, just knowing that I have that physical touch with the ground is making me feel secure.
“Look, all your weight is on the hooks, if you take your feet off your floor, the sensation on your hooks will not change at all. You are, for all intents and purposes, suspended.”
“I know, I know, and I am fine like this, I am just struggling to take my toes off the floor. I know this is just a mental thing.” I try relax, think of something else. I look up and I see so many encouraging faces wishing me good will. Fuck it! I take a deep breath and nod to the person on my ropes to take me up. Suddenly I find myself suspended in the air with all the weight of my hulking frame suspended off just two hooks in my back. This shouldn’t be right, my skin should be tearing.
They gently start swinging me back and forwards. I have a brief moment of panic, thinking this will cause me intense pain or my skin to rip. I am pleasantly surprised that this actually makes me feel more comfortable. Only then do I become more aware of my surroundings, Snot is blaring over the sound system. Wow, it is half way through the album already. I had been carefully selecting the music I wanted to suspend to and chose this album as it fills me with energy and I thought it would help me get up, but to be honest, it wouldn’t have mattered what was playing, it was such a sensory overload that I was not even aware that they had put my music on.
The swaying is soothing, I can feel myself relaxing into the experience. Then it hits me, slowly at first, like my soul being wrapped in a warm blanket. I want to laugh and cry at the same time. I close my eyes and surrender to the experience. My body is flooded with endorphins, adrenaline and dopamine. I feel like I am floating, that for this moment in time, all my problems, my fears, my heart aches, all of it is gone, chemically washed away from me. I feel whole, i feel like the world is right, i fell, well, I feel bliss really. Time seems to get suspended. I can’t tell if I’ve been up for 5 minutes or 25 minutes.
I swing around for a while, feeling totally free, before I ask to come down. They ask me if I am sure as I can be up for as long as I want. I’d already got more than I had hoped from the experience and am conscious that there are others who want to go up.
“Alright then, we are going to lower you now, when your feet hit the floor, you will feel like you weigh a ton and your hooks will burn a little.” Oh wow, they are not kidding, it feels like I have an elephant sitting on me when my feet hit the ground. The hooks burn slightly as the tension is released from my shoulders.
I walk over to and climb on to the bench to be cleaned up. I lie down, oh boy do I feel stoned. I am slightly worried that the process of removing the hooks will shock me back to reality and destroy my buzz. They slide the hooks out and start cleaning me, I don’t even feel them coming out of my back. They tell me the processes that they are doing, but I am away with the fairies at this point and only catch the last part about not picking at the scabs and treating the hook marks as an open wound.
I stay around and watch others suspend. Some people have a blessed out response like I did, some have an emotional door opened and some people just have an enormous amount of fun swinging around, picking people up and generally just mucking about. Everyone suspends for their own reasons.
The crew are lovely and share in every emotion with the suspendees, every laugh, every tear, every excited squeal. By the end of the day, everyone has a common bond and there is such a positive vibe shared amongst the suspendees, crew and watchers. Before today I couldn’t really tell you why I had wanted to suspend, other than that I had a burning need to. After suspending, I understand why people suspend on a regular basis. Suspending changed my life, pure and simple. It taught me that I am stronger than I thought I was and that, despite being heavily bipolar, it was possible for me to focus my mind to be still enough to relax totally, something I had always struggled to do.
I have suspended many times over the last 8 years and have found the suspension community to have a real family feel to it. Over the years I learned more about the process involved in suspension and now run a suspension team. The thing I love most about the suspension community is that you can meet a person at an event and within 5 minutes have become friends for life. I fully understand why people do not suspend, it is not for everybody, I get it, but if you can see past the visual of the hooks in the skin and your interest is even slightly piqued buy the looks of enjoyment on the faces of those getting suspended, then I highly recommend you give it a try.
Love, hooks and happiness
As featured on the On Tender Hooks blog.