If you want to get rid of a tattoo, read this.

fullAs a tattoo artist, and as someone who’s had to remove a few unsightly tatoos, I can tell you that, unfortunately, it’s going to hurt. And it’s going to cost money.

In the past, people had to rely on some not-very-efficient methods of tattoo removal.

Dermabrasion, or “scrubbing”, was once the most common method of tattoo removal. Sadly, dermabrasion does not penetrate the skin deeply enough to remove a tattoo; unless it’s done improperly, the tattoo will only fade slightly. Effective dermabrasion leaves behind welts and large keloid scars. These are caused by the chemical burn to the underlayers of the skin, and can’t be removed or fixed. Unsightly scars are the most common outcome of dermabrasion.

Others have tried tattooing the area with hydrogen peroxide, or some other concoction. This usually has no effect on a previously existing tattoo. In theory, it should work. But in reality, the tattoo ink sits beneath the shedding layer of the skin. Reaching it in order to remove it takes more than just causing a fresh wound on the surface. These methods are about as effective as covering a tattoo up with water-in other words, it doesn’t work at all.

Unscrupulous people often try to sell “tattoo removal” kits which include chemicals, or patches imperganted with chemicals, to be applied over the area that is tattooed. Basically, these are simply methods for achieving a large chemical burn, and the massive wounding may ytemporarily hide the tattoo. Once it heals, though, you’re left with not only a bad tattoo you don’t want, but one which has scars all over the surface.

The only real option for completely removing a tattoo is the laser. These have been around for quite some time, but only within the last decade or so have they been used to remove tattoos.

The process is pretty painful; it feels like a hot rubber band being twanged against the skin repeatedly. However, most facilities use some kind of anaesthetic ointment before and during the process.

Laser tattoo removal can take time. To completely remove a tattoo, multiple sessions are required. Professionally-applied and brightly-colored inks are harder to remove than grey or faded amateur tattoos. This is because the ink used professionally is denser and of higher quality. After just one session, you should see some fading. After a few, the tattoo may be almost unnoticeable.

53b0e0c0 (1)Laser treatment has become less expensive and more accessible in general in the last few years. A half hour session now may only cost about the price of the tattoo. Multiple sessions to completely remove a tattoo can become pricey after a while, but for some people it’s worth it.

Many laser removal specialists will also work with your tattoo artist to lighten specific areas of a tattoo in order to make a cover-up tattoo more easily accomplished. Lightening an old tattoo in order to cover it more effectively is definitely an option for those who like having tattoos, but dislike a specific design they’ve gotten.

In short, don’t trust those who would sell you a shortcut for tattoo removal. The laser removal treatments are the only non-scarring choice for real tattooo removal. There are no shortcuts when it comes to your skin.

Does it hurt to get a tattoo?

6368_117697942711_7645712_nPain is defined as an unpleasant sensation. Most people avoid pain at all costs. Tattoos do hurt- but not in the way you’d think.

Most people, that is, who don’t work out, diet, wear makeup or high heels, or get tattooed. The phrase “no pain, no gain” is as apt with tattooing as with any other uncomfortable act people perform for a better reward. The profit, in this case, a permanent decoration, outweighs the discomfort.

Tattoos, while painful, are not distressingly so. The pain results from surface nerves in the upper layer of skin and the hair follicles being punctured or pressed on by a group of small, hair-fine needles inserted rapidly about 1-2 mm into the skin.

Tattoo needles in a typical tattoo machine move in and out so rapidly that they can’t be seen in motion, only as a blur. The sensation is not like punctures or pokes, but more like a continuous tingling scratch. Most of the damage to the skin is from the friction of the needles’ motion, not the punctures.

During a tattoo, sensations range from mild and almost dull to very sharp and intense. When the process first begins, the body responds strongly to the sensations, releasing endorphins (the same hormones that cause a “runner’s high”) and adrenalin. Adrenalin can cause a fight-or-flight response, making the process very uncomfortable at the beginning.

Once the endorphins are absorbed by the system, however, the sensations rapidly become duller and less urgent. The pain may be just as unpleasant, but becomes less intense and attention-grabbing. This is the stage some people refer to as “numbing”. Some people even fall asleep during this stage of a tattoo.

14991_381213057711_3789778_nThe endorphin rush associated with getting tattooed, or with running marathons, is notorious for becoming addictive. It is the same internal reaction that’s mimicked by the drugs ecstasy and morphine, among others.

Endorphins cause a warm inner glow, like that caused by running or tanning. They block the body’s pain receptors, so while they’re in the system other pains (like a sore back, or previous injury) are also diminished. They also flood the brain with dopamines, which allow the body to recover from injury by relaxing. This after-tattoo “buzz” more than makes up for the previous pain for many people, and can account for the addictiveness of tattooing.

People who are getting their first tattoo have usually weighed the pros and cons, and are interested enough in the personal expression to be gained by applying the image to deal with some level of pain. It is for most a planned decision; and most tattooed people will say that the first tattoo they acquired hurt much less than they’d anticipated.

So why, if they think it will be so painful, would they still get it done? Most would say it’s because they wanted the tattoo badly enough not to care. Some are seeking personal pride in having conquered the pain, using mind-over-matter as a test of their willpower or inner strength. Others are already adept at dealing with physical pain, and don’t see it as an obstacle at all; and a very small group actually enjoy pain. In ten years as a professional and busy tattoo artist, I’ve only met two of these out of thousands of clients.

Some say pain is change resisted, or that pain is growth, or that beauty is suffering. In short, people are willing to suffer in order to look the way they’d like to look. They will deal with some pain in order to bring their soul to the surface.

 

(written by me, originally published at this link)

How much does a tattoo cost? Here’s the answer.

424611_10151055899257712_1661654307_nGood tattoos are not cheap: cheap tattoos are not good.

I’ve been a tattoo artist for many years, and I’ve heard, and said, this phrase too many times to count. Often times people will hunt for the cheapest price, without realizing that the cheapest price is usually a red flag to poor quality or bad health and safety precautions.

When you’re searching for a tattoo, the first thing on your mind should be safety. You’ll want to get tattooed in a professional shop, with the proper licensing from the health department. Your health is more valuable than the few dollars you’d save otherwise. Think about the long-term cost of your tattoo. You will be wearing this art until you die. Compare it to the cost of your shoes-which wear out every year; a tattoo costs less in the long run than any other purchase you can make.

Most tattoo shops in a given city or area will cost about the same rate. There may be a few artists who are booked far in advance, who charge more than this. If you are seeking a large, custom-drawn original tattoo, you’ll probably be better off to pay more, and wait longer, for one of these artists to do your tattoo.

You can count on paying anywhere from one to two hundred dollars per hour of time spent tattooing. Most studios have a minimum price for any tattoo, no matter how small. This price usually takes into account the cost of new, disposable equipment, and time spent sterilizing/disinfecting. On average this can range anywhere from forty to a hundred dollars, depending on the ability of the artist. Some top-name artists have a waiting list of a year or more, and may cost up to a thousand dollars each sitting. New or apprentice artists may cost much less, or be willing to work at a deep discount, in order to gain experience. A word of caution is in order for these young artists, though, as many of them will NOT do the best work for the money. The base hourly rate will vary depending on cost of living where you are at.

Tattoo artists are often paid on commission, earning from forty to eighty percent of your payment. This means that for a fifty dollar tattoo, the artist gets paid less than ten dollars, after equipment costs and commission are subtracted. Artists that own the studio may be paid a higher rate, and artists that are working part time may be paying a flat amount in rent to work in the shop. The majority of artists, however, work on commission or “percentage”, and are independent contractors.

In most cases, a smaller tattoo will be quoted a flat price, while a larger tattoo will be quoted at an hourly rate. Tattoos on hands, feet, and faces will often cost more. The minimum for tattoos from me is $60, but it’s $100 for those areas, because the possibility of a needle stick for me is higher, and because they will most usually need a touchup.

Your best gauge for pricing in your area is to call one or two studios and ask if they have a minimum price, usually an hourly rate will be about double this minimum cost.

31148_403057647711_1851485_nSince most tattoo artists do not have health insurance, workmens’ comp, or any standard paycheck, and since they do not get to keep the majority of the price of the tattoo, tips are always appreciated. Tips can range anywhere from five to twenty percent; depending on the difficulty of the tattoo, your ability to sit still, and the service you felt you received. A large, difficult tattoo that you could not sit still for, during which you wiggled, cried, and made the artist pause, and during which the artist was polite and entertaining to you, represents a situation in which you should tip very well. Industry standard ranges from 5% (for a huge tattoo) to 20% (for smaller pieces).

Most tattoo artists will also be able to suggest alternative placement, rendering, or ways to simplify a tattoo so that the basic idea remains the same, but will cost less overall. If you have a budget, let the artist know and see if they can work within it– often there are ways to do this, and usually the artist can find a way to make your tattoo affordable, within reason.

Your tattoo should be a point of pride, so when you’re shopping for one make sure to look at the artist’s portfolio, photographs of work they have already done, to be sure they can do good work that you think looks right; because what you paid for your tattoo will be forgotten in ten years, but you’ll still be looking at it for years after that.

If you like my work, check out the new horror coloring book I made!

(written by me and originally published at this link)

How much does a tattoo cost? Here's the answer.

424611_10151055899257712_1661654307_nGood tattoos are not cheap: cheap tattoos are not good.

I’ve been a tattoo artist for many years, and I’ve heard, and said, this phrase too many times to count. Often times people will hunt for the cheapest price, without realizing that the cheapest price is usually a red flag to poor quality or bad health and safety precautions.

When you’re searching for a tattoo, the first thing on your mind should be safety. You’ll want to get tattooed in a professional shop, with the proper licensing from the health department. Your health is more valuable than the few dollars you’d save otherwise. Think about the long-term cost of your tattoo. You will be wearing this art until you die. Compare it to the cost of your shoes-which wear out every year; a tattoo costs less in the long run than any other purchase you can make.

Most tattoo shops in a given city or area will cost about the same rate. There may be a few artists who are booked far in advance, who charge more than this. If you are seeking a large, custom-drawn original tattoo, you’ll probably be better off to pay more, and wait longer, for one of these artists to do your tattoo.

You can count on paying anywhere from one to two hundred dollars per hour of time spent tattooing. Most studios have a minimum price for any tattoo, no matter how small. This price usually takes into account the cost of new, disposable equipment, and time spent sterilizing/disinfecting. On average this can range anywhere from forty to a hundred dollars, depending on the ability of the artist. Some top-name artists have a waiting list of a year or more, and may cost up to a thousand dollars each sitting. New or apprentice artists may cost much less, or be willing to work at a deep discount, in order to gain experience. A word of caution is in order for these young artists, though, as many of them will NOT do the best work for the money. The base hourly rate will vary depending on cost of living where you are at.

Tattoo artists are often paid on commission, earning from forty to eighty percent of your payment. This means that for a fifty dollar tattoo, the artist gets paid less than ten dollars, after equipment costs and commission are subtracted. Artists that own the studio may be paid a higher rate, and artists that are working part time may be paying a flat amount in rent to work in the shop. The majority of artists, however, work on commission or “percentage”, and are independent contractors.

In most cases, a smaller tattoo will be quoted a flat price, while a larger tattoo will be quoted at an hourly rate. Tattoos on hands, feet, and faces will often cost more. The minimum for tattoos from me is $60, but it’s $100 for those areas, because the possibility of a needle stick for me is higher, and because they will most usually need a touchup.

Your best gauge for pricing in your area is to call one or two studios and ask if they have a minimum price, usually an hourly rate will be about double this minimum cost.

31148_403057647711_1851485_nSince most tattoo artists do not have health insurance, workmens’ comp, or any standard paycheck, and since they do not get to keep the majority of the price of the tattoo, tips are always appreciated. Tips can range anywhere from five to twenty percent; depending on the difficulty of the tattoo, your ability to sit still, and the service you felt you received. A large, difficult tattoo that you could not sit still for, during which you wiggled, cried, and made the artist pause, and during which the artist was polite and entertaining to you, represents a situation in which you should tip very well. Industry standard ranges from 5% (for a huge tattoo) to 20% (for smaller pieces).

Most tattoo artists will also be able to suggest alternative placement, rendering, or ways to simplify a tattoo so that the basic idea remains the same, but will cost less overall. If you have a budget, let the artist know and see if they can work within it– often there are ways to do this, and usually the artist can find a way to make your tattoo affordable, within reason.

Your tattoo should be a point of pride, so when you’re shopping for one make sure to look at the artist’s portfolio, photographs of work they have already done, to be sure they can do good work that you think looks right; because what you paid for your tattoo will be forgotten in ten years, but you’ll still be looking at it for years after that.

If you like my work, check out the new horror coloring book I made!

(written by me and originally published at this link)

four essential aftercare tips for fresh tattoos.

398191_10151137265617712_1686171381_nTattoos, just like a fur or a pair of old favorite boots, require some care to stand the test of time.

Tattoos done before about 1990 have little hope of staying clear and unsullied by sun and weather and wear. The inks used before that time had many pigment ingredients which could react to sun exposure, and to the wearer’s own body fluids. These days, most tattoo inks used by professional artists are inert and hypo-allergenic, and at the very least should not react to the skin itself. They can still be faded and worn if not cared for properly. (Some people might still be allergic to certain inks, but it’s very rare.)

A tattoo is ink that is permanently set just under the translucent top layer of skin. This top layer is like an elastic window that you look through to see the ink. If the top layer is damaged or thickened or darkened, it becomes a dirty window. Age, sun exposure, and scars can all obscure a gorgeous tattoo and turn it into indecipherable mud. Also, the darker your skin, the more “tint” that window has.

  • First and most destructive on the list of tattoo-destroyers is the sun. Just as a photograph left in the sun will fade over time, the pigments in a tattoo will fade. The pigmentation of skin is a poor defense, and putting sunblock on your tattoo will keep it looking fresh over the years. If you tan, try using a high SPF lip balm, and apply it just to the tattooed area. If you use a stick lip balm you can use it like a crayon and color in just the tattoo, letting the skin right up to it tan. This makes the tattoo look even newer next to the tanned area. If you will be out in the sun use a high SPF sunblock, even if your tattoo was done last year. The pigments can be faded even after the tattoo is long healed. Don’t start with sunblock until the tattoo is at least two weeks old.
  • Second, wrinkles will obscure your tattoo, and may even distort it. Over the years, the cells in skin shift a bit and change relative position. As any dermatologist will tell you, avoiding sun exposure and staying hydrated keep wrinkles away. This will help your tattoo, also. Once the tattoo is applied it becomes part of your largest organ- your skin. What is good for your skin is good for your tattoo, too, so drink enough water. Moisturizing the tattooed area helps. Even years after the procedure, the area that was tattooed remembers the abrasion, and can get dehydrated more quickly than the rest of your skin. So be sure to continue moisturizing occasionally, even after the tattoo heals.
  • Third, accidents happen. Scars that destroy tattoos are almost never intentional. The good news is that most scars can be tattooed over. Unless the scar is raised more than 1/4 inch from the surface, or is heavily textured, there are many tattoo artists that are willing to repair or retouch scars. If you’re planning on repairing a tattoo that’s been scarred over, try to allow at least six months for the scar tissue to “settle”. Use some light vitamin E oil or Emu oil on it from time to time and massage against the grain of the scar. This can sometimes help reduce the texture of the scar, and makes the tissue softer and easier to tattoo over.
  • Last but not least, if your artist offers a free touch-up, take advantage of it within a few months. The best time to get tattooed is in the winter, when your new art won’t get exposed to the sun. But no matter when you get worked on, wait until after the summer sun has done its damage before you go back to get a touch-up. This way, the artist gets the satisfaction of a second look at your work, and you get to repair any damage the vacation did to your new ink.

When your artist gives you care instructions, follow them to the letter. Every artist uses different techniques to apply a

all healed up!

all healed up!

tattoo, and usually they know which healing procedure will work best in conjunction with it. Artists use such a variety of needle, ink, and bandaging material- as well as the variatons in YOUR body’s healing ability- that it’s impossible to give out one universal set of aftercare directions.

Don’t listen to your friends, other artists, or people you meet out and about. If you don’t trust the artist to know best, you should buy your tattoo from someone you DO trust. Pick an artist who you trust, and listen to them. They know how to help you heal your new work.

It’s OUR job to put the tattoo in just the right layer of your skin, just right. It’s YOUR job to do the other half- to heal your tattoo properly. Keep your tattoos clean while healing, and wash your hands before touching a fresh tattoo. Don’t wear tight things that will rub against or irritate your tattoo. Don’t swim or surf for the first few weeks. And most of all, let your tattoo get air.

A well-healed tattoo will make you happy for decades. Taking a few weeks to care for it properly is COMPLETELY worth it.

(written by me, originally published here)

What to do when your kid wants a tattoo!

164103_487686512711_1326404_nThere are a lot of younger people today who are very interested in tattoos. In many cultures tattoos are used as a rite of passage from youth to adulthood, and in our Western culture it is no different. The lack of culturally-based rites of passage and tests of maturity leads many teenagers to seek alternate forms of self-challenge, and tattooing is currently high on that list.

Children are only tattooed usually by indigenous or tribal groups to whom it is a cultural staple. Occasionally there will be a photograph of a child wearing airbrushed tattoos (which are painted on) in a magazine, but actual children are extremely rarely tattooed. If they are, it can be considered child abuse.

Although most jurisdictions outlaw the tattooing of minors, many children and teenagers will tattoo themselves at home, using sewing or other needles and common household dyes and inks. This can be extremely dangerous; using an unsterilized needle or one that has been used on another person can transmit disease or cause serious infections. Home-made tattoos tend to be deeper in the skin surface than professional tattoos, and this can lead to infections that cause excessive scarring.

Most commonly found dyes and inks in home use are not inert and can cause allergic reactions or other problems. Young people should NOT use household items to tattoo themselves; this is a given. That they WILL do it, is incontestable. Educating young people and explaining to them that sharing needles (no matter what sort of home “sterilization” they invent) can transmit HIV, hepatitis, and bacterial infections, is a good beginning; also it may help to explain that running a needle through flame, boiling it, or soaking it in alcohol or antibacterial wipes will not kill all bacteria or viruses that may be present.

221622_10150169153602712_298593_nIn addition, a home environment contains many bacteria and other germs that could infect a fresh tattoo. Lack of proper knowledge about cross-contamination and bloodborne pathogens can put kids at serious risk when they get tattooed in a home environment.

Since minors can not obtain a legal tattoo, they will often try to use fake ID to do so,and try going to a real studio instead of someone’s house. Usually shops can tell when they’re presented a fake ID, but a very well made one can occasionally slip through. Especially a real ID that belongs to someone who looks similar to the kid…

Parents should know that professional studios are not pleased about this; parents should always attempt to contact the studio where their child claims to have received a tattoo. Studios often are required by law to keep consent forms for up to two years, and can usually provide a copy of the false identification that was used. This is not negligence by the studio, but fraud by the minor. In some states the studio can prosecute the minor and their parent. Parents should make sure that their teenagers have no access to their wallets and purses.

When a teenager is nearing eighteen and the age of consent, parents should do research with them into studios they may frequent or patronize. It may be reassuring for parents to know that the studio is clean and reputable. Minors are often not welcome in tattoo studios without a parent; this can be a good opportunity for parents to ensure that if their teenager decides to get tattooed they are at least in a situation that is not unsafe or unhealthy.

Every professional tattoo shop should have an autoclave which is regularly spore tested, disposable latex or nitrile gloves should be used, and all workers there have proper health and safety training. Go with your kid, ask questions. We’re happy to explain all this stuff to you. We want all of our clients to be safe.

Bringing your teenager with you to investigate their options may also discourage them from performing unsafe tattoos on themselves at home, and may even dissuade them from getting a rebellion-motivated tattoo at all. After all, if parents approve, many teens won’t participate.

And if they decide to get one anyway, you will know where they’re going, and that they won’t be risking their health for it.

 

(originally published here)

Things you can do in the tattoo shop!

10155773_10152250490517712_7514931959268399540_nI don’t care if you are getting a “cool” tattoo. I don’t care if you know the etiquette or not.

All I care about is that you ask me the questions, I give you the answers, you know what you want and pay me to do it.
That’s my tattoo etiquette lesson. Just ask questions. I’ll answer them for you. I don’t mind, that’s the job.

I mean, if you smell, I might ask you to go home and wash up. If you argue about prices I might just tell you no thanks, find another artist. If I think the tattoo is a terrible idea I will just tell you that, and try to suggest ways to make it a better idea. If you start talking like you know a lot about tattooing, I might laugh at you a little. That’s it.

The only thing that really bugs me at work is people arguing about price. Tattoos aren’t groceries or brain surgery, you will not die without one. I can’t lose money just to tattoo you. The prices are pretty standard, you’re not paying much more or less than you would in any decent shop.

Other than that, there’s pretty much nothing you can do to phase me. I know a lot of people get nervous coming to the tattoo shop, and I know a lot of people get weird or awkward when they get nervous. So it’s ok if you feel nervous or have lots of questions. If you can’t get a sitter to leave your kids at home, just wait until another day. If you need more time to save up money, just let me know. If you have a budget just say so- I’m used to drawing things to the right size or level of detail to try to stay within budget. If you’re worried about pain, let me know so I can talk you down.

walkenI’m not a nurse or very good at babying people, but I’m willing to talk you through all the things you’re not sure about. I mean, I do have hard days or bad days. Of course, I’m human. But my worst day as a tattoo artist? Is better than my best day ever, before I was one. So I’m not going to freak out on you. I love my job and you are the job. You know?

 

 

.

(“walken from sleepy hollow’s severed head, with the horseman ghost behind him and some creepy trees. can you do that? I wanna be able to see the sharpened teeth.”

Drilling bone without the smell.

bone hair tiesI do this with drilling holes in stone as well- simply get a shallow bowl, and put a few inches of water in it (just enough to cover what you are going to drill into) and, holding the bone just under the surface, use a dremel to drill your hole.

I have a handheld dremel I use for this because I am paranoid about wall current and water, but if you’re brave, that’s on you. I’ve noticed that as long as I am using the right bits (cone bits) I don’t see much liquid spray up from the bit.

I do this with rocks as well, because some contain toxins that you just DON’T want to breathe in.

It’ll keep the bone, or shell, from stinking. The friction of the bit will burn organic materials and make an unholy stench. Using water not only traps all the powder and bone dust, but also cools off the bit so the heat doesn’t singe anything.

If you want to try this but have questions, ask away!

have a heart, NRA.

Originally published on 06/24/2012.

I don’t really think I need to re-state my position on gun control laws, since it’s obvious that I am a gun owner, and that I think owning weapon is a right, not a privilege.

However, I want to re-state them anyway.

I think everyone who has not committed a violent crime should be permitted to own whatever weapons they choose, without having to register them or alert the government. I see the need for background checks; it only takes ten minutes to run a name and see any violent convictions on someone’s record. I see no need for waiting periods, for anything else.

I am very, very lefty. I’m basically a retired anarchist; I would still love to live in a gift economy, but I do not think this can happen during my lifetime, so I’ve modified my actions based on what I think is possible to accomplish.

I believe in spending public funds on welfare, schools, higher education, and healthcare for all citizens. I believe that religion has no place in ANY publicly-funded system or in ANY politics. I think that people who want abortion to be illegal are idiots. I think that patriarchy is bad, that our culture is set up in many wrong ways. I believe in class warfare, unions as a concept, the rights of workers, and of the underclass to act out.  I dislike  the way we use our military to screw up other areas of the world, and I think our policies are a direct result of corruption and patriarchy. In other words, I’m not right-wing, I am NOT republican, and I am NOT in favor of god, the bible, and apple pie. I’m basically a commie pinko.

heart tattoo art

So- while I agree with some things the gun lobbyists stand for- such as my right, and everyone else’s right to bear arms- I can’t donate any money to them, can’t support them in any way, because when I go to an NRA site and see people rooting for assholes who would put me in prison for my reproductive choices, or touting some bullshit flag-waving nonsense about how we should bomb “camel jockeys”, or condescension to female members or participants-

Well, that just sucks, and all of that is what I am against, and passing laws to restrict what I can do with my body is just as repressive as passing laws to restrict what weapons and means of defense I can own, and you guys, THAT is some BULL SHIT.  Women want to bear arms too. As do socialists, abortion providers and people who have had abortions, pro-choice folks, people who aren’t in favor of recent wars, people who dislike racism and sexism- we carry too. So putting us down on the regular is just foolish.

Now I’ve said my piece for the day. Time for more coffee, I think. Again, I know that speaking out means some people won’t buy my art, or like me, or whatever. That’s ok. Fuck it- I’d rather just speak my mind and be broke (because people who agree with me are poor) than keep my mouth shut and pander for the sake of a few bucks.

how does the darkness feel.

Originally published 02/02/2012.

It is so hard to tell you.

It comes as a wave.  It builds. It is slow, and heavy, and at first it feels as if I can continue to stand in it, and resist the current.

When one’s body is broken, it is visible. Others can see the broken parts sticking out, smell the rot, assess the damage and quantify the exact amount of sympathy, decide upon a course of action. The dark inside is different. The body shows it, yes, but not in ways that can be understood by anyone who has not been sucked under.

The darkness rises, and the current underneath will lift and grab. One’s whole being, the air around, the muscles give way.

Just get up. Just shower and shave and do the dishes and feed the dog and wash the clothes and cook food and pay a bill and go to work and

None of these things are possible. When you’re standing on the shore these are easy things, simple, small things. In the grip of the current the only fight is not to get sucked under completely, to keep the head above the surface enough to steal a breath.

And another, and another. Because you can’t just stop breathing.

I know I should just talk directly about my own experience, here. I know I should be specific. But how can I? How can I?

I have smelled my own stench when a week of the darkness has left me washed up on the shore. I’ve been catatonic- seen shapes in the shadows. I’ve felt pain in places where my body is not. And when the body is hurt, broken, or ill, the darkness knows, and rushes forward to seize its chance.

Being alone, in pain, and having the dark wash up on you is something you must, and most will, experience in life. You cannot understand it until it comes, and when you have been through it you will have changed. The darkness leaves a mark on you that can’t be washed away by all the sunlight and blowing curtains and fresh water you can muster.

It passes, and it’s gone. Once it’s come and gone you know it can come again, though. And that haunted feeling will stay.

Good times are good times. And they are best because the darkness has been and gone. The shadows make all the light around them richer.

 

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