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Sensory Overload

Monday, June 3, 2013

I did something very out of the ordinary last week. It was the first time I did it in over a decade and probably only the third time in my life I had it done. I knew it could cause some potentially very unpleasant sensations, but I did it anyway.

I got a pedicure.

The event was a little outing with my sister to have our nails done together. It was something we pretended to do a children. Later, when we had nail polish, we would sit and do our nails together. As an adult, I’ve rarely had my nails done by beauticians. Quite frankly, when the mood strikes me, I’m perfectly happy to polish my  nails myself. Two or three times a year, I polish my toenails in a way that looks professional and lasts for several months.

Getting a pedicure, on the other hand, is a very involved process. Since it had been so long, I didn’t quite realize what I was getting into. I thought, okay, I can try and see what it’s like to have someone touching my feet. I don’t generally like it. My nerves, especially in my hands and feet, are still too sensitive and react with a pain response to things that should not be painful.

What a fool I can be.

I was quiet during the pedicure. I grimaced when no one was looking. I used all my concentration not to yank my leg away or accidentally kick the beautician in the face.

It started with a foot wash. The water was a little too hot for my preferences, but not as hot as some of the baths I’ve taken. I knew I would adjust quickly and I did.

Then the beautician filed my toenails. It was like scratching a chalkboard with my toenails. The vibrations were disturbing not only in my toes and feet but in my stomach.

The next part of the process was to file the dead skin off my feet. I don’t have particularly thick or large callouses. She used the smallest, least scary-looking file. I saw someone else who needed a cheese-grater to get the callouses off her feet. Thank goodness that wasn’t me. Anyway, these files aren’t supposed to hurt. They’re just rubbing off dead skin. Frankly, my skin was fine. But my nerves underneath were going haywire. The sensation was in the same category as tickling, with a strong urge to pull my feet away from the cause of the sensation. But it was so incredible unpleasant. I felt pain in my feet as she was doing it and for several minutes afterwards.

There was an optional “honey sea salt scrub” for a few extra bucks. I thought I would skip all the scrubbing by declining it. Big mistake. The “regular” scrub, with large, sharp particles in it, was like using coarse-grained sandpaper on my wet calves. My eyes were tearing. After the first leg, the beautician looked up and saw my eyes. She asked if I was okay. I told her the blue scrub gel hurt. So she switched to the other one, which had a finer grain to do my second leg. That still hurt, but not as much, until she got to the top of my foot. The skin on the tops of my feet are truly hypersensitive. I was in agony. (Then she redid my first leg. Double ouch!)

The rest of the pedicure was okay. The beautician applied cream to my legs and gave them a very mild rub. I even liked the foot massage and the warm wet towel to wipe my legs and feet. I liked the color on my toes.

What I wonder is why I didn’t say anything when I felt pain or speak up to skip the scrub. On one hand, I sort of wanted to see what it would feel like. On the other hand, once I didn’t like it, there was no reason to quietly endure the torture. I wonder if it is my desire to be normal again and to be able to do things that women in my peer group actually find enjoyable. Who knows?

For now, I’ve decided that I could easily go another decade without a pedicure. The variety of unpleasant sensations in my legs reminded me that the tick-borne infections, specifically Lyme and Bartonella, are not gone yet. My peripheral nerves are still pathologically sensitive and prone to a pain response. If there were a reason for going through this kind of pain, I would face it gladly. But for the sake of “beauty” or “feeling normal,” it isn’t worth it.

Paraffin Bath

Along with the pedicure, I got a manicure. It seemed a little silly because I’m spending all my time playing with my nephew, in additional to light housekeeping (loading the dishwasher). The main reason for doing it was that I wanted to try a paraffin bath to see if it would reduce the joint pain in my hands, knuckles and wrists.

The paraffin was a blue liquid. I put each hand in a separate bag and held my fingers in a loose fist. It was heavenly. It was pretty hot, which made the beautician worry that it was too hot. I guess my face looks the same whether I’m in pain or feeling a pleasurable warmth in my joints. It was great, except for the part where some spilled onto my wrists. That burned a little and left a red mark for an hour or so.

I can imagine using a paraffin bath at home for my hands, though I may not bother to follow through on this idea. I wish I’d had it a few years ago before I got the coil machine, or when I first got it, and my hands hurt so much that I couldn’t use them. Anyway, it seems that people use paraffin baths for rheumatoid arthritis, so using them for Lyme arthritis is not that far-fetched an idea.

The upshot of the manicure is that I had a fan on my hands to try the nail polish which undid the warming effect of the paraffin. So it was a pleasant, if short, experience.

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