What Happens To Your Body When You're Getting A Tattoo
It's only occurred to me in the last several weeks that I might be an adrenaline junkie.
Do I jump out of planes flying impossibly high over the remote countryside? Hell NO. Do I train half the year to participate in hardcore, dangerous triathlons? F*ck NO. Am I prepping to climb Mt. Everest next year? Girl, I can hardly climb up the stairs of my six-story walk-up apartment without desperately gasping for air and breaching a sudden, tragic young death.
I'm just a different breed of adrenaline junkie. I'm what you might call a low-key adrenaline junkie. I seek thrills and chills in unexpected ways.
For instance, I'm a cripplingly shy gal who hates and fears human interaction, yet for some screwy reason I've spent the last decade pursuing a career as an actress/TV host. This is a career that not only forces me to network, but also forces me to express my most raw, vulnerable feelings in front of hundreds of people.
Every time I step behind the camera or pull my body on stage, I think to myself, "This IS THE LAST TIME, ZARA! You HATE THIS. WHY DO YOU DO THIS TO YOURSELF?!" But the moment I step onto that stage, my heart races and I'm wildly intoxicated. In fact, I'm high. And the high is better than any of the drugs I recklessly tried in the bloom of my crazed youth.
This weekend, I realized that I feel the same way about tattoos.
I've been getting tattoos for 15 years now. I don't know HOW or WHEN that happened, as I still feel like the same 15-year-old punk ass I was when I first got tattooed, but here we are. Next Sunday, I'm turning 30, so that means half my life will have been road mapped by ink.
And look, maybe I'm painting the wrong picture here. I'm not a tough chick. I'm not the babe in the leather jacket with the sky-high pain threshold who can chat her way through a tattoo like nothing is happening. No, I'm a vulnerable kitten who ~feels~ it all. Emotionally and physically.
I'm not guarded or cool or collected; I'm like a raw, open wound sifting through the dark, dirty world, allowing every speck of dust to not only get in but infect the gaping hole that is myself.
I also become racked with fear and anxiety for several days before I get a tattoo. I contemplate all the reasons why I SHOULDN'T and CAN'T do it, but for whatever reason, I always follow through. And up until the very moment the vibrating needle touches the surface of my skin, I'm thinking of ways to get out of it.
But after the first ten seconds, I know I'm in it to win it, and I settle into the pain. In fact, I sort of enjoy that bittersweet burn. It's almost meditative, because for once, I'm out of my head. The only thing I can do is focus on becoming comfortable being uncomfortable. It reminds me that I'm not as fragile as I think.
My most recent tattoo was particularly painful. I got it in that sweet spot right between the waist and hips, a place with very little fat, no muscle and no bone.
This spot is a sensitive, ticklish area that, when squeezed, sends me spiraling into the girl I've never wanted to be: one who squeals in a high octave and jumps across the room with frenetic energy. And apparently this spot was painful because it's so ticklish.
Another factor that might have contributed to the pain of my latest tattoo is my period. Some women posting in a Reddit thread about tattoos and periods claimed that having their periods did, in fact, exacerbate the pain of getting a tattoo.
So not only did I choose to tattoo the most ticklish spot on my body, but I also happened to get my f*cking period two days later.
But the pain I experience while getting my tattoos is not JUST pain. It's an intoxicating rush that infiltrates my body, giving me an excited feeling that actually makes it hurt so good.
How does this happen? Well, according to the blog Top Health News:
"When needles penetrate your body, this is a form of trauma and your body responds in kind. Your Sympathetic Nervous System kicks your fight-or-flight response into gear in response to the pain. The result is a rush of adrenaline."
Oh girl, let me tell you all about fight-or-flight. As an anxious person, I go into fight-or-flight frequently, and I sort of love it.
When your body thinks it's in danger, you're overcome with a rush of adrenaline known as "fight-or-flight." This sudden sweep of energy prepares your body to either fight the demon or run away from it.
So those of us thrill seekers who get off on feeling that RUSH, the same feeling that occurs right before we throw ourselves on stage in front of strangers or jump out of an airplane, are naturally drawn to vibrating needles for the same reason. The trauma our body endures during a tattoo gives us the same sensation.
Now, I'm really going to expose my weird, inner kink: The last time I got a tattoo, I felt a little, well, you know ... turned on. Yes, it f*cking killed, and I felt every goddamn second of the pain, but a strangely erotic calm came over me.
Top Health News tells us that this is because of endorphins:
"Endorphins, your body's natural pain relievers, are also released. These chemicals come directly from the brain, flooding your body. When those endorphins are released, it's a heady feeling that is sort of intense yet relaxing at the same time."
And when else are endorphins released, you so sweetly ask? Not only during running and intense exercise, but from orgasms, too.
So can I actually blame BIOLOGY, not just the fact that I'm a total LESBIAN FREAK, for my sudden sexual awakening while getting my tattoo? I don't know. It's probably a combination of both.
All I know is that whether it comes from sex or tattoos, I'll confidently keep chasing that sexy endorphin rush. But I don't think I will attempt to feel the high from running anytime soon. I'm more of a sex and vibrating needle kinda girl, anyway.