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Woman Credits Being Suspended From Metal Hooks For Helping Her Combat Anorexia

PA REAL LIFE

TW: Eating Disorder and triggering images.

Breanna Cornell enjoys being suspended by her skin from metal hooks and running 100 mile ultra-marathons, has spoken of the "immense sense of joy and feeling of achievement" provided by her hobbies. Which have helped her combat anorexia and body dysmorphia.

Cornell said both activities involved pushing her body to the limit and, while having sharp objects threaded into her skin was initially uncomfortable, the fear and excitement was also thrilling.


Cornell lives in Coconino County, Arizona – where suspension is illegal, since it is not considered a medical procedure unless it is carried out by a doctor. Nevertheless, Cornell has taken part in the practice 12 times, since being introduced to it by her then boyfriend, two-and-a-half years ago.


"There is certainly a connection for me between long-distance running and suspending that accounts for why I enjoy them both so much," she said. "There is that feeling of fear and adrenaline at the start that then becomes an almost calm-like meditation once you get going, and then the overwhelming feeling of achievement at the end."


Despite the inevitable pain experienced by hook suspension, Cornell insists she is not a masochist, seeing the pastime more as an artistic and emotional expression, while admitting that she does enjoy challenging her body.


PA REAL LIFE - Breanna Cornell

Hook suspension has been practiced by Native Americans for hundreds of years.


"I wouldn't say that I derive my pleasure in suspending – or marathon running for that matter – from the pain, but I would certainly say that I like being able to push my body to its limits, which does involve some amount of pain," Cornell said. "For thousands of years, humans have endured pain as part of daily life, but in the modern world we have been able to live pain free. This seems to me to make us lacking at a genetic level as pain is an essential element of human existence and I, for one, couldn't do without it."



PA REAL LIFE - Breanna Cornell

A long-distance runner since childhood, Cornell completed her first marathon just after leaving school in 2010, but soon set her sights on greater goals than 26.2 miles and in 2012 was competing in ultra-marathons in Africa.


Around the same time she developed a penchant for body modification, having her first tattoo, a wing on her foot, aged 18, followed by a series of piercings on her ears and nose.


"Growing up, I had had a lot of problems with anorexia and body dysmorphia, where you have a very negative perception of your body," Cornell added. "I liked getting piercings and tattoos of drawings that I had made, because it allowed me to look at my body and focus on them instead of the way I looked."



PA REAL LIFE - Breanna Cornell

At this point hook suspending was not yet on her radar, although she was aware of it, but viewed it as "gory and unpleasant."
That changed in April 2016 when she joined her then boyfriend, a suspension enthusiast, at an event.


Watching him being strung up by a professional piercing artist at a studio in Phoenix, Arizona – where suspension is legal – she was fascinated.


PA REAL LIFE - Breanna Cornell


"Up until that point, I didn't think it was for me at all. It looked very scary and frankly quite gory," she explained. "But then, as soon as I saw it for myself, I knew immediately that this was something I wanted to do."


She would have to wait another six months, however, before she could be hooked up herself. But in October 2016, she arranged a session with the same piercing artist in Phoenix, costing $100.



PA REAL LIFE - Breanna Cornell

"I was really, really nervous beforehand and was sick twice because there was so much adrenaline pumping through me," she said. "I was put in the 'suicide' position, so called because it looks like a person hanging as the hooks are through the skin at the top of your back, and there was a lot of fear to overcome, as I lifted my final toe off the ground, as it feels so unnatural. But once I was up there, suspended five feet off the ground, I had a rush of immense joy and it felt as though I was weightless and floating."



PA REAL LIFE - Breanna Cornell

Staying suspended for half an hour, Cornell knew as soon as she was eventually let down that she would have to do it again – she was, literally, hooked. So, six months later, she returned – this time being rigged up in a 'superman' position, flying forwards with 10 hooks along her back and legs.


Having now been suspended 12 times, or roughly every six months, Cornell says her hobby provides her with an outlet for her emotions.


PA REAL LIFE - Breanna Cornell

"My response to each suspension really varies on my mood. If I am happy then I will have a lot of fun and swing around a bit," she explained, adding that she also chooses her position according to her mood. "But if I am feeling a bit stressed then it can be really nice to get into a more static position like the hammock – where you are sitting into the suspension with your knees and shoulders hooked. That way, I can sit comfortably for hours and just relax."


Despite its long history and growing popularity around the world, hook suspension is not without its detractors, some of whom Cornell has encountered.


PA REAL LIFE - Breanna Cornell

"I realize that not everyone will understand the appeal. One person I know said it was 'appalling.' But that's why I often try to compare it with marathon running – a much less maligned pastime," she said. "There is just as much pain involved in running long distances, but you don't necessarily do it for that reason – you do it for the satisfaction of having pushed your body. And that, for me, is one of life's greatest joys."



PA REAL LIFE - Breanna Cornell




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