what it’s like to get nail phenolization

phenolization: (partially) destroying nail matrix with phenol to prevent ingrown nails.

i showed up and showed my toenails to the doctor. phenolization seemed the most attractive option.

i was really thrown when he said it’s THREE shots to each toe. instantly became anxious and wondered what to do.

the litany against fear came to mind, and i decided to go through with it.

i asked the doc a few questions to procrastinate from the upcoming pain, and then he was off to get some needles.


started playing akira the don’s version of the litany to help focus on the needle.

it’s long and thin and flexes inside of you, like a worm going through your flesh from a body horror movie (you’re welcome for that mental image).

it dipped in and out of my big toe, snaking its way through.

the whole time, i tried to focus on the needle. that failed for 2/6 needles, but worked better after.

keeping in motion and talking about something with the doctor helped too, but not as much as those few moments of total focus.

i kept thinking about

why are you doing this?

to set you free.

i read a post of aella’s where she pointed out that thinking some experience is unpleasant is itself a behavior that can be escaped, with practice. seems useful for shots.

mercifully, the pain stopped. my low pain threshold annoys me, and i wish to improve it (without horrible injury).

numbness sets in and the doctor paints your nail with something that makes it look like it has gangrene.

the toenail clipping itself feels like nothing. you have a sensation of pressure but not of sharpness, and you hear more than feel the nail clipper.

2 yanks with some pliers and the last bits of nail are out. then it’s phenol time.

the phenol is applied with some q tips jammed parallel into the clipped area.

it smells interesting, like alcohol with something that reminds me of linoleum floors for some reason.

then a bunch of wrapping each toe and it’s done.

numb big toes feel strange, like i imagine a sort of inverse phantom limb. there’s something there (unlike phantom limb), but it’s not really controllable (like phantom limb).

after a few hours the numbness is gone and the pain arrives. soaking feet helps. i’m writing this sitting on the edge of my tub.

walking on them, i lead with my heel into the ground to avoid putting too much weight on the painful region, which is unpleasant in its own way. very little shock absorption.

2-3 weeks of taking it easy with footwork and i should be good to go.

still better than deeply ingrown toenails. those warp life in weird ways, to avoid pressing flesh into the nails. my big toe will no longer be red, and i’m looking forwad to that (currently it’s red with my dried blood).

foot soaks are divine.

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