Concerning Piercings

*Warning: This post is not for the faint of heart.

In my near 24 years, I’ve had a total of 7 piercings done: 3 in my left ear, 3 in my right ear, and 1 on the right side of my nose. In the time I’ve had these, I’ve admittedly done some stupid and painful things to myself. When I was younger, I let two of my piercings grow back partially. I remember standing in my parents’ bathroom with my dad, staring at myself in the long, huge mirror as I winced in pain while my dad carefully and quickly pushed a stud through each ear to renew the piercings. A few years ago, after just getting my cartilage pierced, I was at my apartment and carelessly took off my outer sweater, resulting in a single thread wrapping itself tightly around my brand spankin’ new piercing. If you’ve ever had a piercing done before, you know this is one of the top worst things you could do to yourself immediately afterwards. If not, all you need to know is once a part of you is pierced, that area hurts for awhile, especially on the first day. It’s like getting a shot, only the pain from the shot dies down pretty quickly. The pain from a piercing, while not constant, definitely hurts like crazy if the area is accidentally touched, or, like in my case, pulled on really, really hard. The pain I felt from yanking on my cartilage was so severe, I immediately fell to the ground and for the first time in my life understood what it meant to see stars. I laid there in a crumpled state for several minutes, still half in and half out of my sweater, waiting for the pain to subside. I oh-so-very gently tried to unravel the sweater from my ear, but despite my best efforts, did not succeed. My best friend wound up coming to my rescue after I called her – Um, hey Erica? Are you busy? My sweater is stuck to my ear and I can’t get it off without almost fainting. Your help would be greatly appreciated.

Then this past April, right before I left for Vienna, I had a spur of the moment “I could really go for a piercing right now” urge, and I got my nose pierced. This being my first facial piercing (and the last), I was especially concerned with taking care of it properly, it being in the center of my face and all. This was also the first time sea salt was required for taking care of a new piercing. The directions are as follows:

Dump bag of sea salt in diluted water
Mix water
Soak piercing in saltwater (via cotton ball) for two minutes in the morning and evening
Continue this routine every day for the next 4-6 weeks, or when healing is completed

Easy to follow. I made the saltwater, cleaned the piercing twice a day with no problem, and the healing process seemed to be a breeze. Then Vienna happened. The two days leading up to the move involved me and Will hanging out with friends up to the last possible sensible hours of the night, usually ending with me swimming in a bucket of tears, so piercing cleaning did not take place either of those two nights. It for sure didn’t happen on the flight to Vienna because I’m terrified of bathrooms on planes, so time spent in there is absolutely minimal. When we arrived in Vienna, it took me a few days to locate my special salt mixture as I had stupidly packed it in a place that wasn’t easily accessible. Total, I probably went close to 1 and a half to 2 weeks without touching my nose piercing. I wasn’t super concerned about it since it looked fine – maybe a little red – but it didn’t hurt or anything. Plus my routine was back in action, meaning my piercing was totally protected and normal. My piercing and I had a good run for a couple of weeks or so, then one day I came back to the apartment to discover that the precious cleaning lady of the apartment complex had poured out the remainder of my saltwater mixture so she could put the glass in the dishwasher. I was sad and a little worried, but water and my face wash were all I had access to, and I figured both would do the necessary cleaning for me anyway.

It wasn’t too much longer after I had this incorrect notion that a small little bump appeared next to my tiny diamond stud. It didn’t go away, didn’t go away – in fact it grew a little bit, to the point that Will could actually see it when he was standing a slight distance away from me. The side of my nose got more and more red, and I, being a borderline hypochondriac, panicked and searched Google for “nose piercing bump”. The results were surprisingly positive, each of them telling me that bumps and redness are normal side effects of a new piercing, and to leave the piercing alone. And I did! Well, I tried to at least. I bought Meer Salz (sea salt) and remade my mixture, and upped the minutes of necessary piercing-soaking. But the redness didn’t die down and the bump continued to make me self-conscious about my face. Finally, after looking at myself hard in the mirror and deciding that perhaps I just simply was not meant to be the wearer of a nose piercing, I succumbed to my anxieties and took out the stud. I was so saddened by the outcome, as I had grown to love my nose jewelry, and Will loved it too. I went two days without it, and in just those two days, the bump went away completely and all that could be seen of my piercing was a teeny tiny hole that looked like a freckle. It was amazing how fast the piercing healed. But I still missed my piercing! I found myself back at the mirror again, studying the perfect healing and glancing at my lonesome diamond stud lying on a hand towel. I fought with myself for a little bit as to whether or not I should put it back in. I mean why put it back in if the bump is going to come back? But what if it doesn’t? I decided the bump was history, picked up the stud, and proceeded to put it back in the hole in the side of nose.

I unfortunately didn’t take into account how rapidly skin grows back in two days. While the bad parts of the piercing were healing, the hole in my nose was closing, and now, two days later, was almost completely closed. With the force I had put into getting the stud back through my nose, then realizing that its home was rejecting it, I had put the stud in my nose in a very awkward position. The stud was in far enough to make it the rest of the way, but out enough that I would have to make it go the rest of the way. Basically my options were go for it and be in a lot of pain, or give up and be in a lot of pain. The love I had for this piercing motivated me enough to go for it, but I should have had a stick or something hard to bite down on while I essentially re-pierced my nose.

I have never purposefully inflicted that much pain on myself and never plan to again. I also intend to follow the ‘leave the piercing alone’ rule for the rest of my life unless directed otherwise by a professional. You’ll be happy to know, however, that I was right in my assumption that the bump would not reappear. My nose looks totally normal (as normal as a nose can look I suppose) and no pain or redness have resurfaced. Maybe I should be a professional piercer. Just kidding. I would be the worst at that, as my pain tolerance is extremely low and I have a hard time watching piercings take place. I’ll just stay here. But seriously friends – leave your piercings alone. Re-piercings hurt like the dickens.

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