Thursday, January 12, 2012

Is This a Shared Nervous Tick?

Best pic of it I had SSG. Sorry So Grainy.
When Nathan and I were newly married he had a gnarly ol' thumbnail that I thought was some kind of fungus. He swore it wasn't a fungus but that he got it in Argentina mixing chemicals (on his mission). It was discolored and cracked from cuticle to tip. The thumbnail was wavy, discolored and thick. He hated cutting it so it would grow long and beastly.

It kept getting worse, it looked like someone had taken a hammer to his finger. I asked him to see a doctor about it and after 10 years, yes, you read right, 10 years of digging in his heels, we got him to a doctor.

In his own words here is what happened:

"It was a three month wait for the dermatologist so I figured he was a good one. My appointment was on a Saturday morning and his office was packed. I sat for a good 20 minutes in a big private room, staring out the window at the mountains, trying to avoid eye contact with the picture of someone's diseased scalp that hung on the wall.

When he came in the room he pulled a stool over and sat down right in front of me, "so why are we seeing you today?"

I showed him both thumbs and explained that they had been that way for ever since I mixed a bunch of cleansers together to scrub my apartment as a missionary in Argentina. He took my hands, looked closely at my thumbs, and stated very matter-of-fact, "You've got a nervous tick."

Becoming defensive, I shot back, "No I don't."

Part of me wasn't exactly sure what he meant, but I know I didn't want to be accused of perpetuating my own problem, and I wasn't about to pay for ten seconds of analysis after waiting so many weeks. At least run some tests or prescribe an ointment or something.

He sensed my frustration because he excused himself and came back a minute later with a photo album filed with people who had fingernails that looked exactly like mine. A groove warn in the nail with a pink irritation color at the cuticle. As he showed me the photos he eliminated a number of possible causes based on the symptoms I exhibited. He told me that the only thing that could cause my nail to look like it did was for me to be continually rubbing it against something, an  action that was probably so minute  that I didn't even notice. He said it would be like any nervous habit. He told me that if I paid close attention to what I was doing, and stopped the action, my nail would heal itself in about 6-7 months, although the groove may persist a little longer.

I left frustrated, no prescription, no return appointment, just deposited a few fingernail shavings for him to test in case there was a real problem. As I'm driving home, thinking about random stuff, I realize that I've got my hand on the stick shift and my index finger is playing my thumb like a violin. It hit me that the action was something I was used to and obviously in my muscle memory. It felt comfortable.

Since that day I've had to make a conscious effort to stop rubbing my nail. It is not all the way gone, and I still have the nervous tick, but my nail looks much healthier. I still can't believe that doctor was right."

Here is what I want you to see, look at the babies hands. Quinn, on the right has her hands splayed open, fingers pointing up. James in the middle and Wilson on the left. The boys are rubbing their thumbs in the same why Nathan does... err did.
It has been about a year. His thumbnail although not all the way cured has vastly improved, still wavy but getting to be normal and the crack is gone. He said he never realized how often he ticked in his nervous way, he realized he would do it while he was working with people at the front counter of his work, walking home, just thinking, hands in pockets softly rubbing just under his thumbnail with this index finger. Who would have thought that simple gesture would wreak such an extremity on one's extremity.