Ink As Therapy

Right on schedule, the Saniderm was ready to come off of my new tattoo and it has now entered the peeling phase, which will last about another week or so. From there I’ll have a finished tattoo that’s ready to show off.

Alas, as any ink enthusiast, ideas have already been swirling in my head for my next one and I think I have a rough concept of what I’ll be getting next. I’ll need to play around with certain design elements but as a matter of “balance” I’ll likely choose placement on the other side in the same spot (since I am all about balance and symmetry – it’s the mathematician/engineer in me). The only one I’ve not yet balanced out is my rib panel but I’m in absolutely no hurry to have my other ribs tattooed – that was a pain unlike anything I’d ever felt before.

Anyway, I digress. Obviously I’ve done the whole gamut for “therapy” – some of it forced upon me by those who also forced existence upon me, some of it voluntarily. I’ve done the whole counseling, behavioral modification and even antidepressant/antipsychotic medications. Nothing ever worked. Nothing was able to quiet my tortured mind. I guess that’s a challenging element of autism – it seems a lot of traditional treatment methods don’t work on us. Maybe this further signifies that autism should not be classified as an illness or disorder? That’s something to chew on for a later time.

Back to the topic at hand. Ink as therapy. Tattoo enthusiasts throw around the term “ink therapy” all the time. Alas, as weird as it sounds, there might be some truth to that statement. As I’ve eluded to it in previous posts, but for me, being in the hot seat is when I’m most at peace. For me, when Jade is working her magic on my human canvas is the only time my mind is ever “quiet” as it were. All the rest of the time it’s racing, typical of those in my tribe. I even have trouble sleeping due to it. Sleep? Hah, what the fuck is that?

With as much negative stigma as there still is around tattoos, the benefits I’ve reaped from my favorite hobby have been incredible. I feel like my overall pain tolerance has improved (day-to-day bumps and scrapes aren’t as bothersome to me as they used to be) and maybe I’ve even gotten an immune boost because I don’t get sick like I used to. There are studies suggesting such too.

In that light, ink has been the one thing that has been able to do what counseling, drugs, etc. were all unable to do. It centers me. It’s meditative. It makes me feel “good.” Shit, as they seem to be the only form of “treatment” that works for me it seems to me my health insurance should fucking pay for my ink. It’s better “medicine” than any of the poison that criminal enterprise known as Big Pharma peddles as such.

I’ve found something that works for me, so at the very least that should be respected and tolerated. Whether or not you even like my tattoos is of no never mind to me (art is subjective after all – a masterpiece to person A could be butt-ugly to person B) as I’ve now transcended past tattoos solely for meaning to the point of just getting them because they look cool and feel good. Call that hedonistic as it were, I admit it is. I’m not hurting myself or anyone else in the process so I fail to see where that’s a problem.

Stay cool and ink it up!

Minor Surgery in My Future?

As much as the thought of surgery scares me, at this point it might be necessary to relieve some serious discomfort. Don’t worry, it’s nothing serious, life threatening or anything of the sort. It’s not even really dangerous to my health in any way, alas I’m sick of being in pain.

It seems like the stress from the past few months brought along many physical ailments. Random aches, pains, cramps, headaches, sleeplesslness and the like. Most of these have since resolved themselves now that I’m in a lower-stress enviornment. However, there is one problem that has yet to resolve itself and might not without a surgical procedure as it is a problem that has come and gone over the years. Warning: if you are easily offended or squeamish you should not continue reading. If you choose to continue reading and maybe you have suffered something similar and come across some fixes that seem to help, please chime in as surgery is my last resort.

I’m one of an unfortunate group of people who has suffered from chronic piles most of my life – likely hereditary in nature. Some random flareups have been part of my life for years but I’ve never been bothered by them save for some occasional slight bleeding. They’d never caused me any sort of pain whatsoever, though a couple of times the bleeding was rather profuse to the point I was worried that I might have some internal bleeding. Alas, that usually resolved itself in short order so I wasn’t worried.

Well, that all changed about October-ish when the stress really started hitting hard. Now they start getting bothersome. My last flare-up started with the typical small spots of blood so I wasn’t at all worried, but when it didn’t go away after a few days and then started getting really painful that’s when I got a little worried. I remember at the peak of it there were a couple of days I had to work standing up because the (literal) pain in my ass was so bad – it was almost like someone shoved a shard of glass up there. My only thought was at the time I had at least one that thrombosed, causing excruciating pain. I can only figure stress played a major factor in this one being far worse than any others I had experienced over the course of decades.

During the peak I tried several fixes (both allopathic per the standard course of treatment and naturopathic per suggestions of my naturopath friend) and the only thing that seemed to provide some relief was applying some of my tattoo numbing cream to the area. After a couple of weeks the pain eventually passed but I was still having problems here and there.

Which brings me to today. Whereas I’m 90%+ better now, I still have some residual pain and itching. It’s like they’ve never completely healed up from that one major incident. At the time I was worried maybe my love of spicy food finally got the better of me but when I dropped it out for awhile I haven’t seen any change, so I’m right back to loading up the heat. It doesn’t seem to affect that in any way, the occasional bout of “firerrhea” aside.

Anyway, I’m on a downtick right now but it seems like it could rare its ugly head anytime, so if anyone has any suggestions please share them. Though it seems surgery might be right for me at this time, I really don’t want to go there if I don’t have to. That just sounds painful. Alas, I don’t recall anyone ever dying from piles so it’s not a medical emergency in any way and thus I have time to weigh my options but still. I just want it to go away, because it’s a pain in the ass (literally) to deal with.

Walking for Diabetes Research

Lynn reporting to you again from Texas Motor Speedway. This morning, before the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series race, I participated in the NASCAR Fitness Challenge sponsored by Lilly Diabetes. It was awesome to walk for a good cause and actually get a good view from on the track. You don’t realize how big it is until you get down on it and actually look up. Here’s some pics.

And here’s something you just do not see on TV. This is how steeply banked the turns are. I took this of my feet in turn 1. See the height difference in my feet? Yeah, the grade is that steep. You sure feel it.

Anyway, I’m back home as of the time of this post going up (intended for it to be this morning but didn’t have adequate bandwidth to upload the photos) after watching Stewart-Haas Racing driver Kevin Harvick win an overtime thriller of a race. Hope to get back to your regularly scheduled programming tomorrow, hopefully with what was supposed to be this week’s SLS submission. For now, I need some sleep before I go back to prison (ahem) I mean work tomorrow.

Catch you soon!

Why I Do Not Want Children

If it’s one thing I’m absolutely rigid on and that I have never wavered on it’s my lack of desire to have children. Actually, it goes farther than that – the idea of being a father just absolutely repulses me, so much I actually ended my last relationship over that very issue. I was put at a crossroads where I had to decide which was worse – being single or having children I don’t really want. Obviously I decided that the latter was a much worse fate. As such, I did the only thing I could do and ended the relationship.

I have a multitude of reasons for not wanting children, but they can broadly be put into two categories: practical and philosophical. We shall take a look at those here.

Practical Reasons:

Concerning my practical reasons for not wanting children, the very first thing to consider is the expense of having children. Kids are not cheap! Doctors visits, increased grocery bills, daycare, school supplies, glasses, braces, sporting equipment, cars/drivers’ education, college, the list goes on! That all adds up.

The second has to due with my internal wiring. I’m one of those autistic people who is incredibly short-tempered. Is that conducive to having children? Absolutely not. I’d likely do them psychological damage with my tendency to meltdown and get frustrated over the slightest thing out-of-whack. That’s not to say all autistic people are incompetent parents. On the contrary, there are many who are quite capable of it. I’m just not.

I also pretty much got the short end of the stick when it comes to genetics, not only with the autism thing but I also have a heart defect (Wolff-Parkinson-White) that has a genetic component and I do not wish to pass that on. I also know I’m a carrier of the gene for Graves’ Disease, an autoimmune disorder of the thyroid. Though I’ve not shown symptoms myself, I do know my biological father does and had to have his thyroid basically killed. I do not want to risk passing that on either.

Lastly is just I’m too much of a free spirit to be held down. Not having children I can pretty much travel unhindered, do what I want as far as nightlife and the like. I’m not held down by family commitments, which would no doubt make me miserable.

Philosophical Reasons: 

Before I discuss my philosophical reasons for not having children, I feel I must say that none of what I discuss here is intended to pass any judgment on anyone regardless of what reproductive decisions they might have made. That is not my intention. The views presented here are not original views, but rather views of academics that make the most raw logical sense to me. Again, this is not meant to be a personal attack on anyone so please do not take it that way.

The first, and strongest argument, is the Benatarian Asymmetry, named after South African philosopher David Benatar. Benatar first proposed this asymmetry in a paper titled “Why It Is Better Never to Come into Existence” and was further expanded upon in a full-blown book titled Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming into Existence which was published in 2006. The argument is much too long and detailed to list in a blog post, but the meat and potatoes of it is this: whereas pleasure is good and pain is bad, the absence of pain is good even if there exists nobody to benefit from that good, but the absence of pleasure is not bad unless there already exists someone for which such an absence would be a deprivation. In other words, regardless of the pleasure-to-pain ratio in one’s life, although the pleasures of life make our lives go better than they otherwise would, had we never existed we’d have forgone any and all pain (good), but because we would not “miss out” on anything by never existing (as deprivation requires existence), it is always better not to come into existence.

For more clarity of the asymmetry, consider two people: sick and healthy. Let’s say sick gets sick but has a strong immune system and is able to recover quickly from that sickness, while healthy has a weak immune system but never gets sick. Who is better off? Obviously healthy is better off, even though (s)he has a weak immune system. Everyone would agree that it is better never to get sick, regardless of the strength of one’s immune system. There you have it.

The second argument, which is weaker and not an entirely new argument, is the Pollyanna Principle. The Pollyanna Principle is basically an irrational optimism bias. In other words, we grossly over-estimate the quality of our lives. More or less, none of us realize just how much pain and suffering we endure on a daily basis. For a prime example of this, let’s just step back and think about a few things. What do we spend a vast majority of our waking hours doing? Working, of course. It is a very rare and fortunate person who does not completely loathe his or her job. OK, that alone puts our lives more into the pain category. Combine that with the day-to-day pains and irritants we experience and don’t give much thought to: hunger, thirst, heat, cold, financial woes, the need to urinate and/or defecate, the need to sneeze, sniffle, cough, clear the throat, etc. That’s not even considering the bouts of illness and disease we will all face. Our sleeping hours have their own irritants; namely dreams which more often than not result in painful stimuli – fear, sadness, anger, etc.

Given the above, and combined with the fact that nobody consents to being brought into existence (rather, we were all just kind of forced into it), I feel that it is very difficult to justify bringing new individuals into existence.

Given that, the question I’m sure many of you are wondering is, “Do you wish you had never been born?” The answer to that question is, without any hesitation whatsoever, a resounding yes. I would have preferred never to have been brought into existence. However, that statement shall not be construed as “I want to die.” Once already in existence, most of us have an interest in continuing to exist and it can be very easily argued that death is actually one of the many harms we will face in this life (a position Dr. Benatar also defends at great length). That said, I absolutely do support the right to die so that if one decides his or her life is not worth continuing, that choice must be respected and the government does not have the right to stop anyone from taking his/her own life.

The above are the major reasons I have chosen not to have children. Again, these reasons are personal to me and shall not be intended as a personal attack on anyone. If you disagree with them, I’d like to know why. Please feel free to discuss your own views and engage in a healthy and respectful debate. I promise you I will not shut you down. I feel we can all learn something from the other side, whether you are a pronatalist or an antinatalist, a parent or childless/childfree.

Product Review: Maximum Strength Sting-Kill Capsules

stingkill

Living out in the country has its hazards, and one of those hazards is insect stings. Bees, yellow jackets, paper wasps and bumblebees are almost constantly buzzing around in my back yard. Usually they’re keen to just leave you alone but every now and then you do draw the ire of one of those buggers and she’ll give you a good sting. It happens.

I first heard of this product on Brave Wilderness, the YouTube channel hosted by Nathaniel “Coyote” Peterson. Coyote has taken some rather intense stings over the years, from velvet ants, tarantula hawks, warrior wasps, bullet ants and soon the so-called executioner wasp. Whatever the case, this benzocaine and menthol based gel is in his arsenal for all the crazy stings he subjects himself to.

This was an impulse grab at the pharmacy this past Thursday, after hearing Coyote rave about it. Little did I know I’d have the opportunity to try it out the very same night!

So I was smoking my evening cigar minding my own business when out of the blue a rather irritable paper wasp decides to tag me on the back of the hand. I wasn’t doing anything to that little thing; it just came out of the blue and got me, the sorry bitch! Oh well, as I said, risks of country life.

So I got a vial of the sting kill and followed the instructions. Application was quick and easy and immediately had a refreshing cooling effect on my skin. About 30 seconds later the benzocaine took effect and completely eliminated the burning sensation from the venom. I was truly shocked at how well it worked!

Needless to say I highly recommend Sting-Kill and believe it should be in every medicine cabinet. Insect stings happen, but they don’t have to be more painful than necessary. Easy to use and cheap, do yourself a favor and get some. You’ll thank me later.

 

Product Review: NumbFast Cream

 

As mentioned prior, numbing creams are a controversial topic in tattoo culture. There are a vocal minority who adamantly protest the use of these products but it seems for the most part it’s become more acceptable. As the ribs are quite a sensitive area and given color packing is usually the most painful part of a tattoo (due to the heavy hit, large needles and multiple passes made over an area to pack color) I knew I was going to need some help to get through it. I should say the line work and graywashes didn’t really hurt that bad, even on the side. That said, the solid black fill on the silhouette (which, despite being black ink, is color packing as opposed to shading/graywash) was sheer agony. That’s what made me decide “OK, numbing cream it is.”

I’d tried a couple of products before. For my first tattoo I had a Canadian friend smuggle me in some EMLA, which is only Rx in the US. I then tried Hush and found it largely ineffective, not to mention it burns like hell when you put it on due to the menthol base. So I looked around and I decided to try this product, which was reasonably priced (about $15 for a 30g tube; covers about a 6″ x 6″ area) and had a strong concentration of lidocaine (5%) so I figured I’d give this a go.

The directions included say to apply and rub in the first layer then smear a thick layer over the area and cover with saran wrap or similar cover for at least two hours to let the cream take effect. I did exactly that and by the time I got to the tattoo parlor and got cleaned off and shaved I was numb – I couldn’t even feel the razor against my skin while I was being shaved.

Getting up on the “operating table” and getting underway I was expecting a “dull roar” as it were. What I experienced was anything but – I felt little more than the vibration of the machine. I do think some areas got numb a little easier than others as I still felt needles in areas more than others, but it was little more than a mild sting – think a fresh mosquito bite. The pain remained more than tolerable for 1.5 hours, at which point it was almost like a light switch and the pain became near excruciating again. Luckily by this point there was enough broken skin for the Vasocaine spray (also 5% lidocaine) to take over and keep the pain manageable for the rest of the session (note: I required two sprays of Vasocaine during the last 1.5 hours of the 3 hour long session). I’m also positive this would have a similar efficacy for most body piercings, with the exception of ear cartilage piercings and/or tongue piercings (sorry, you’re on your own with those), permanent makeup, injections, blood draws and a number of other things.

I asked Jade if it affected how I took the ink at all and she said no, much to my relief. Some numbing creams can affect it – EMLA being one of them because it contains epinephrine. Alas, my skin is very easy to tattoo anyway (I have a good, but not excessive amount of elasticity and I accept all pigments equally well) so that might be part of that.

In my experience with NumbFast, I’ve come to the conclusion that the key for effective numbing is not so much brand but rather a 5% concentration of whatever numbing agent it uses – be it lidocaine, prilocaine or a mix of the two (as is in EMLA – it’s 2.5% each lidocaine and prilocaine). Anything less than that does not have adequate strength to effectively numb the skin. Unfortunately, Texas is a stick in the mud in that tattoo shops cannot buy numbing agents of this strength so if you live in Texas you’re on your own (that’s OK – I supply my own which is a workaround). That said, NumbFast does meet this requirement of 5% concentration and as such this cream gets my seal of approval as a numbing cream. Just be sure you follow the instructions exactly as written to achieve the desired effect.

Rating: 4/5.

 

 

 

Tattoo Topic Tuesday: Numbing Cream/Gel/Spray

This is definitely a contentious topic within the tattoo community, but something I wanted to weigh in on because of my use of these products in the past as well as in my upcoming color procedure on my ribs.

There are the old, crusty, die-hard tattoo canvases and artists who are stuck with this toxic mindset that a tattoo must be as painful as possible because you have to “earn” your tattoo. Now, obviously that has a glimmer of truth – tattoos are painful because of how they are applied, but the concept that one has to endure excruciating pain to “earn” it is totally false. As far as I’m concerned we don’t earn our tattoos by enduring pain, we earn them by working our asses off to pay for them (nobody said tattoos were cheap and good ones sure aren’t).

Sorry, but this is the 21st century. Tattooing is a much “softer and kinder art form” (quote legendary tattoo artist Lyle Tuttle) than it was in decades and centuries past. The reality is that we all have different pain tolerances and different bodies so what someone finds as “no big deal” another person might find excruciating. I’m one such person. My pain tolerance is pathetic. I think it’s probably an autism-induced hypersensitivity (much like my increased hearing – don’t whisper shit about me across the road at a busy intersection because I will hear you). Does that mean I shouldn’t have tattoos, and especially ones that are meaningful to me?

Of course, 7 tattoos later I don’t think that’s the case at all, for me or anyone. If a symbol is so meaningful to you that you would permanently etch it into your dermis, then you should do whatever you have to in order to make that a reality, even if that means the use of numbing products. It’s OK. These big, bad macho attitudes of “tattoos have to hurt” belong in the historical garbage bin along with toxic hypermasculinity, gender roles, homophobia/transphobia and a whole host of other shit we should have evolved past by now (but unfortunately have not completely). I’d actively avoid any tattoo artist who outright says you have to “earn” your tattoo – I’d see that as a red flag that they’re the type who will really dig into you and make you hurt more than necessary. Unfortunately such artists do exist, including some “big name” artists.

Now, depending on your pain tolerance and where you’ll be getting the tattoo you might not need it at all. On my shoulders and calves I didn’t really need it – those places were tolerable without it. That was little more than a cat scratch type feeling. Wrists were kind of OK because they were small pieces. I was OK on my ribs during the line work but once the black fill on the silhouette started that really ramped up – that was some of the worst pain I’d ever felt (that is, before I got sprayed with Vasocaine). As such, I think line work on the ribs is the max out of my personal tolerance level (yes, shading/color packing needles are more painful than lining needles as they have to impact the skin harder to penetrate due to having a larger surface area – more needle points).

So, now that we’ve established that it is totally acceptable (in my view anyway, and in the view of most tattoo artists I’ve talked to) to use numbing products, what are some things I’ve personally tried and how well did they work? EMLA was good, but I had to have it smuggled in (it’s Rx only in the US whereas it’s OTC everywhere else; go figure; stupid). Hush gel was OK but didn’t last long and it burns like hell when you apply it (it’s menthol based). Vasocaine is a great fast-acting sprayable product for the middle of a session but it’s ineffective on unbroken skin so ineffective at the start of the session. Some swear by Dr. Numb but it’s quite pricey. I’m going to try NumbFast for my rib color procedure (5% lidocaine) and will report back on its efficacy.

Now, I will say if you choose to use numbing products, please have reasonable expectations of its efficacy. If you’re expecting a completely pain-free tattoo you’ve gone off the deep end. It’s not that effective. It will take a considerable amount of the edge off but that’s about it – enough so that the pain you are left feeling will be little more than a mild irritation. Also, please be sure to follow the directions exactly when applying. Numbing creams are not like hydrocortisone or anything like that – you do not rub them in. You apply a thick layer, smear it over the area and cover with saran wrap to sit for at least an hour prior to the procedure.

The bottom line is that there is no such thing as totally removing the pain, but there is such a thing as making it tolerable. If you have an unusually low pain tolerance or are getting tattooed in a sensitive area, numbing products can help you get through your tattoo with a minimum of distress. In my view, there is no shame in using them and anyone who says otherwise is just being an arrogant snob. Ignore them. You do what you need to do to get a tattoo that’s meaningful to you (even if that meaning is “because it looks cool”) and looks good on your canvas.

What are your experiences with tattoo numbing products? Please share them.