Monday, September 12, 2011

hyperhidrosis

Nobody thinks about it if they don't have it. But I have it. So I can do nothing but think about it. My wardrobe, my mannerisms, my activities are restricted by it. What bothers me is my hyperhidrosis. Because you don't have it, I'll explain what it is. OK, Wikipedia will: Hyperhidrosis is the condition characterized by abnormally increased perspiration, in excess of that required for regulation of body temperature.

It only afflicts nearly 3% of the population, so it's rare to find someone else with it. But I have seen the signs. I have a radar for excessive sweating. I notice people who only wear black shirts or shoes that allow them to wear socks. I notice people with an aversion to shaking hands or giving high fives. As twisted as it sounds, it gives me a tiny bit of happy camaraderie, knowing I'm not alone.

I went to high school at a private K-12 school. As soon as the lunch bell rang, I would walk to the junior high bathroom, because the junior highers were still in class and that was the only bathroom with a hand dryer. I would aim the nozzle up at the pit stains on my shirt and stand there until the stains dried, or until someone walked in - whichever came first. It is humiliating - sweating for no particular reason except for that it's what your body does.

Over a decade has passed since then and I still find my daily activities restricted by it. I might as well have a uniform with how often I wear gray pants and a black shirt to work. Black is the only color that the pit stains aren't evident on. I don't wear shoes that I can't wear socks with. I wear boots with slacks or tennis shoes with shorts. I would love to wear this adorable pair of gladiator sandals I found, but my feet would slip right out of them.

I had to wear a dress twice in the last month. I like dresses and skirts, but I can't wear them because they both go with sandals. I was a bridesmaid in my sister's wedding and she wanted to get pictures of us bridesmaids on the beach. The sand stuck to my sweaty feet and turned them a gritty gray. Five minutes before the ceremony, I was scrubbing my feet in a public bathroom. I teetered down the aisle, not only because my heels were high, but because I was afraid my sweat was going to slide me right out of my shoes and onto my face.

My hands also sweat. I used to do counted cross stitch (you know how much I enjoy old lady hobbies), but the canvas would turn brown as I neared the end. During piano lessons, I would wipe the puddled keys with the back of my hand, as if my piano teacher couldn't tell what I had done to her precious ivory. I cringe looking at or thinking about carpet while my hands are sweating. If I ever go crazy, I will be in a padded room in a straight jacket muttering "fucking carpet" for my eternity.

After shaking hands before an interview, the interviewer excuses herself to wash her hands, then returns. I don't dance at weddings because I'm uncomfortable without socks. I don't wear vibrant colors because they would showcase my armpit stains. I hate being in houses where I have to take my shoes off. I wear sweaters when I'm not hot to cover up the stained shirt underneath it. I feel like I am living a slighter version of life: the self-conscious, uncomfortable, crossed arms version.

Even though it's out of my control, it's embarrassing to be writing this on my blog, where anyone can read it. Sweating disgusts people. I am a modern day leper, but not contagious. But writing it out here makes me feel a little better. In high school, there was a girl two grades above me who co-wrote the comic strip for our newspaper. She was named "clammy hands" in the comic, and I admired her for being honest about it, despite how embarrassing it was. There is something admirable about owning your faults, rather than hiding behind them. There is a way to live this life without it being a slighter version, I just have to let go of this dream of a stupid pair of sandals.

21 comments:

Mynx said...

That must be such a awful thing to have to cope with. I hope they find some way to ease it for you

Anonymous said...

You know there are new meds for that??? I too have a sweating problem......but mine is more noticable on my face...and hair.....many months of the year I spend with wet hair and sitting in front of a fan!!! I think you are beautiful and shouldn't be embarrassed.....but its always easy for someone else to say!

Anonymous said...

Very poignant piece. One of these days I may have the bravery to tell everyone my issue with IBS. I can't go very many places without having to get up and run for the bathroom. I also have a very difficult time controlling my flatulence. Thanks for sharing this piece. It does help to know that there are others out there who suffer through embarrassing situations because of issues with their bodies.

Kimberly said...

As always- I think you're an amazing woman! Miss you guys.

Anonymous said...

I too suffer from hyperhidrosis. It is worse with my hands & feet, but I do notice that I can't wear sleeveless shirts as easily. It has changed who I am & my personality. I avoid situations in which I may have to hold or shake hands. I don't even go to church anymore. Years back I tried to get treatment, but it was a joke as I live in a rural area. A gp gave me nerve pills once. A dermatologist said that I wasn't that bad & printed something off the internet. I tried some products with no change. Currently I do not have insurance so I just live with it. Just know you are not alone. =)

Anonymous said...

You are awesome!I laughed through this post because each and every situation you described has happened or does daily to me! At least we are not alone. I think it really helps to talk with others who have it! Thanks Steph

Anonymous said...

I have it as well and I tell ya it's nice to know there are others :-) I have spent the last hour looking for a pair of those damn sandals that dont have a slick bottom haha. i think we should write to one of those companies and tell them our situation! I can tell you tho that (and this sounds really cheap haha) rite aid has a pair of $5 sandals with a comfortable cloth bottom and i have never had a problem with them! they are black so i dont have to worry about those embarrassing stains, and they seem to soak up my feet! Good luck girl and remember that no one notices it more than you! Your personality is what people should care about :-)

Gwyneth Genevieve said...

I have hyperhydrosis, too, and much like you it affects my hands, feet, and underarms. People don't realize how much of an effect it has on you, not being able to wear what you want, hold hands, or feel comfortable in your own skin!

One thing I would recommend: talk to your dermatologist! I've been through just about every treatment out there, and I would highly recommend botox injections and Rubinol (it's a pill for stomach ulcers but also works pretty well to stop sweating). They're worth a try!

Puddles said...

All of these suggestions are sweet, but do no good. My hands and feet drip regardless of temperature.. I'm a junior in highschool.
I don't go to a private school.
The doctor recommended me to the University of Washington, in hope that they could do something more. But to no avail.. My hyperhidrosis is so severe that even surgery will just give me compensatory sweating. I will never be comfortable in my own body, because lets face it, who can be comfortable when they are a leaking fountain?
It helps to know there are people out there who know how I feel. I wish there were more of us so it was easier for the world around us to accept. But I find that the people who are worth your time don't care if you make puddles..

Anonymous said...

I also have hyperhydrosis, which I have been acutely aware of since ballet class when I was about four. The slipping and sliding on wood floors, the nightmare that is no socks, and oh my god carpet is the worst!!! In high school we had to take computer class and it was physically painful. About 30 seconds into touching the keyboard I would have streams of sweat running off my elbows from my hands, shopping for clothes and especially shoes I dreaded.
My sophomore year of college my mother got me a sympathectomy. It sounds weird and scary, and it not only isn't it changed my life! I no longer sweat from the armpits up. It's amazing. I can play the piano, type, shake hands, do my hair and makeup without having to stop every 30 seconds to wash the sweat off my hands. It didn't help my feet I'm sad to say, but just having my hands, oh my god what a life changer. I sweat A LOT so yes the compensatory sweating moved to my legs. It took some getting used to, if I wear skirts I will have streams of sweat running down my legs which can be awkward but I deal. It's much easier to manage then the hand sweat! For my feet I discovered these terry cloth insoles at Aldo and I can wear pumps now without too much discomfort, they still feel damp but the terry cloth really absorbs a lot. I also have found Summer Soles over the years, they are sticky and you can put them in flat sandals!! I sweat so much that one pair only lasts maybe four or five wears but it's worth the freedom to wear the shoes I couldn't for so many years. These are not comfortable in heels and they will slide off.
Now I'm struggling with finding wedding shoes since I'm getting married in June. I have thought about just doing boots with socks since no one will really see my feet but I'm short and I am clumsy so I will most likely be picking up the dress a lot. I stumbled across your post seeing if any changes have been made, like a shoe brand for people with super sweat feet like us, but sadly it looks like the answer is still no. Ill just have to keep five or so sets of insoles on hand. They make it harder to find shoes that fit but I have found with the insoles a British 5 works better than a US 6. Hope some of this is helpful.

Red said...

I also have hyperhidrosis. It is awful. My husband wishes I would wear more colors but he doesn't understand.
I had surgery about 7 years ago, I do have sweating in others area now like my legs and chest however it is much better to not have it in my hands anymore,
The surgery really changed my life for this part.
My feet still sweat all the time and I so wish I could wear sandals other then black ones, but that will have to do.
Klonopin has been the best treatment for my feet sweating however it does make you sleepy. I only use this for special occasions when I want to wear something besides black.
Sweaty in Florida

Anonymous said...

Just wanted you to know that I can relate to all the experiences you described. I, too, have hyperhidrosis. How I wish I could wear really fun and vibrant colors, instead of the drab black. How I wish I could wear high-heeled sandals. How I wish I could sit comfortably and enjoy myself wherever I'm at and not have to worry about something the other 97% of the world does not have to worry about. Hyperhidrosis has certainly altered my lifestyle, but it does not define who I am, and after 41 years, I am still trying to survive it.

Rata said...

Mine is in the pits and face. I have a moustache of sweat almost all the time. Sometimes people say for a person being far from overweight, I sweat quite a lot! Sometimes I can feel the sweat from my pits going down my side like a waterfall. I swear.
Hahaha. It's embarassing and I wish I could wear grey shirts but I'm always self conscious about the stains. I also live in the tropicals where it's humid and layering would just hyperhyper it so I just dress in sleeveless tops now. Don't really know if I get them on my feet since I love wearig rubber flipflops but I notice I slip around in some sandals too.

Anonymous said...

I too have the same problem, very difficult to deal with and hard to choose what clothes to wear. This website have t-shirts both for men and women and they are really helpfull- heres the website http://www.buyinconfidence.com/acatalog/Sweat_Resistant_Clothing_for_Women.html

Anonymous said...

I know exactly how you feel!! It's so nice to know I'm not the only one in the world with this problem! :)

Anonymous said...

I have suffered from this as long as I can remember. It truly changes the way you feel about yourself and how self conscious you are. I met my now husband 7 years ago and it took me a year and a half to even tell him what my condition was. He's been amazing through all of it. I found a job where it doesn't bother me too much except for having to shake hands. I always thought I would never be able to have a child because I was worried I would drop my baby. Now I have the most amazing 2 1/2 year old who has totally changed things for me. May sound crazy but having him and breast feeding led me to finding breast feeding pads! They have been a life changer! Although they don't do anything for my hands and feet, I put them under my armpits with the sticky side on my shirts and soak up the sweat! No more pit stains! That has been huge for me because nothing else will help. The new survey terrifies me and isn't worth risking my life, I don't want botox, and shock treatments never worked. Nice to see all the posts and know I'm not alone. Hopefully there will be a cure soon!

Chelsea said...

I also have palmer and planter hyperhidrosis. i have since i can remember, and i definitely know what youre talking about when you say youre living a different kind of life. theres always little things like giving your friends high fives that i avoided in school and in turn people thought i was a bitch. now being outside of school and talking to my family close friends and new husband. people really dont notice or care. its hard not to think about it constantly but the more you try to push it out of your mind the nore u enjoy life. occasionally people will be like wow your hands are sweaty i jus laugh it off saying thats something they do sometimes and continue on with life. one of the best things ive done to cope is to wear socks constantly inside. it sucks when you have dirt sticking to your feet. and i buy black suede sandles, it prevents slipage and doesnt show water stains and if i find really cute flipflops that arent i buy black suede insoles and stick them in. problem solved. so hopefully that will help you with the sandal situation. i know it sucks but its always encouraging to hear other people are in the same boat.

Anonymous said...

Yep, I have it too and have also spent my life avoiding situations where I might have to touch someone. Although I only have it about 20% of the time now in my 30's, it was much worse in high school and my early 20's. Living in Georgia with high humidity made it much worse. Since I've moved to San Francisco, it's gotten a lot better. I can actually shake hands without worrying about it at the moment and then obsesseing about whether the person noticed or not afterwards. I have found that navy blue shirts hide it almost better than black shirts sometimes. And for some reason, I'm much less likely to start sweating if I'm wearing socks. I hate it for us all, but it is good to hear of others who have similar experiences.

Anonymous said...

You are so brave. Thank you for posting this… I pray for a cure for this one day…
God bless you.

Anonymous said...

You are not alone. It's nice to hear that we share a similar story. From the time I was a baby, my mom would notice that I left little puddles on the floor-in the dead of winter. It wasn't until high school we heard about the surgery. It was brand new and I was only 1 of afew hundred people to ever have it done. It really helped the hands and armpits but yes, the compensatory sweating is horrible. Because of it I have terrible toenail fungus and constant athletes foot. I go though shoes way faster than the average person and can only wear dark shoes. I too, and worried about what I will wear as wedding shoes. *sigh* I guess everyone is right. Just remember that no one really notices. Try not to stress because that just produces more sweat. It's a vicious cycle that we have to deal with. Hang in there everyone. Eventually there will be a cure for us 3%

Mandy Hendry said...

I have hyperhydrosis too. I am a musician, while playing guitar the sweat runs down my arms and my guitar strings rust quickly. I also only wear black, except to work. I work for Nissan and have to wear a red shirt...hello, pit stains! I too wish that I could wear flip flops and sandals freely like other people that I know. I have found that Tom's are the best casual shoes I have found...for some reason I barely even sweat when I wear them.

I have also learned to announce my problem to people and to not be ashamed. I tell people what I have so that they know what to expect, also I let them know that hyperhydrosis is a clean sweat, free from some of the bacteria in regular sweat. I feel like if I am just upfront about it and they have a problem with it, then that just makes them kind of a jerk and that is there problem. It took me a very long time to feel this way.

I have never had surgery and I have it pretty bad...I am too scared to have anything done.