Diverting the Pain of Being Tattooed

How I divert the pain of being tattooed. I should start by giving you a little history about my collection and how it got started. I first became interested in the fine art of tattooing when I was a young boy and I seen all the art that my dad had on his arms, chest, back and stomach. By the time I was a senior in high school I felt I was ready for my first “mark”. So one weekend my dad took me and a few of my friends to a nearby town in upstate New York that had a tattoo artist.

I was the only minor amongst the group so my dad had to sign for me. I got that mark on my right forearm and at that time I thought it was very painful but I could not let my dad know this for he would have told the artist to stop and I could return when I became a man to have it finished so I just looked away and let it happen. After that first experience I had done a lot of reading about the art of tattooing and made up my mind that some day I would have a full body suit with my personal exceptions, ie, no ink on the neck, head, hands, feet, or those personal and private areas of my body.

Over the next couple of years I had gotten six more on my arms and then for no apparent reason I had a dry spell of about ten years. Then one day I seen a show on TV about the history of tattooing and I thought what ever happen to my dream of covering the biggest part of my whole body. So I set out to find just the right designs to do just that. And quite by accident I came upon a method to divert the pain and I was anxiously wanting to try it out. So I traveled to the city and found a shop that I had seen in tattoo magazines and I picked a piece of flash and I had the artist place it on the inside of my right forearm and the method work like a gem.

Now for the method and how I happen upon it. I had recently remarried and after awhile my new wife asked if I would like to share a child with her and of course I said yes. However I did have one condition to having a child, and that would be only if she would agree to natural childbirth so that I could be in the delivery room and take part in the entire birth. Since my first wife had refused and I had to spend my time sitting in the fathers room until the nurse brought my son to me. She said she would have it no other way.

So when she became pregnant our family doctor set us up with Lamaze Childbirth classes and my method had come to light. I figured if the techniques that we had learned could help her give birth through all that pain then surely it could help me get through a tattoo. Believe me when I say that she and that baby both went through a tremendous amount of trauma and pain they did since our son was born breech. The techniques of slow relaxing breathing, focusing on one thing other than the birth and pain, and in general putting yourself in a happy place as they called it really was amazing at diverting pain.

Once I began to practice it I found myself able to find a metaphoric meditation state of sorts. You know like I was somewhere else rather than where I really was. As fate may have it’s way in ones life from time to time my wife and I parted ways and my art work was once again put on the back burner. I did get a couple small arm pieces over the next few years just to feed the addiction of needing to be inked.

Thirteen years passed and I found myself getting married to the worlds greatest wife and tattoo lover that I am still married to today. During that thirteen years I had found just the perfect piece to create my full back piece, now I just needed to find the right artist to do the job. We met and became friends with a world renowned artist, Debbie Lenz, and she has now become the artist we use exclusively, by appointment only and pay by the hour. She gets $125.00 per hour and up, depending on the amount of fine detail in the art work. She completed my full back piece in just over 22 hours over seven sittings and my full front panel,(chest,sternum,and stomach), in just over 26 hours over five sittings.

The back was the easiest for me since I have a bad back and I was able to slow my breathing very low and closed my eyes to make my focal point the humming of the needles and the vibrations I felt in the back muscles as opposed to the pricking of the needles and I actually went to sleep from what I felt to be therapeutic massage instead of pain. The first session that I feel asleep during Deb actually woke me up to be sure that I was alright. I told her that I was fine but now she would need to just sit quietly and speak softly to my wife while I got back to my happy place, she laughed and in a few moments we were going at again and I fell back to sleep.

Now when I was having my front panel done well that was another story, no sleeping here. We sectioned off the chest piece so that it would look fine by itself so that I could get it finished and healed to compete in an upcoming expo. To finish on time we needed to do one ten hour session, which left me with the worlds worse headache that only sleep would cure. Turned out that the judges were smarter than I had planned since they could tell that it was not at least six months healed which is the rule of competition. That was the next to last competition I have ever entered since I really hate shaving off all my body hair so the judges can get a better look.

My full back piece has placed second and third in different shows but I only entered my front panel once after that first time and I have not even gone to an expo in years. At an expo in Pittsburgh my full back piece did not win but it did make it into Tattoo Magazine in the April 2001 edition on page 37, the page number is in the palm of my hand and it is the picture in the lower right hand corner of the page. Not going to any shows really is not fair to my wife since she has a very beautiful custom design half sleeve which she has never entered in a show. When she gets tattooed I play the part of Lamaze coach and help keep her focused to divert her pain. These simple techniques of relaxation and focusing on one subject other than the pain do require practice and concentration but they work fantastically for the both of us. I feel that anyone that can master these techniques will no doubt divert a lot of their pain and or totally eliminate it.

In closing I hope that these techniques will help anyone seeking their first tattoo or even some one that has many. Just practice the techniques and give it a try what do you have to loose if you plan to get inked anyway. I know that once I have the funds to connect the works on my arms to make full sleeves and have Deb do my legs I for one will be using them once again.

As for all the mothers out there that get tattooed you may already know these techniques very well so you just need to apply what you know. If any mom or expectant parents, mom & dad would like to see the new ways of Lamaze just go to http://www.lamaze.org/

Copyright © 2008 Roy J. Keller (All Rights Reserved)

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