Admit it – we’ve all been there, it’s the first date, anxiety takes over and you break a little sweat. Or at a job interview, it’s easy to turn into a nervous wreck over something as simple as a handshake. It’s normal, we’re human, we all sweat and some more than others.
“Throughout my life, I have been exposed to social anxiety, isolation, and insecurity all due to having hyperhidrosis.”
When someone tells you that they have excessive sweating, it doesn’t seem like a big deal. Your initial thought may be ‘oh, they have sweaty pits all the time’, nothing a strong deodorant won’t solve. That can be true, however, there’s more to sweating than just some BO under the arms. People can sweat from the palms of their hands, their feet, their legs – basically, any part of the body. This little known (and rarely talked about) condition is called hyperhidrosis; it can cause embarrassment and complicates simple tasks. According to WebMD, “Hyperhidrosis, or excessive sweating, is a common disorder which produces a lot of unhappiness. An estimated 2%-3% of Americans suffer from excessive sweating of the underarms or of the palms and soles of the feet.” Regardless of the mood or weather, people with hyperhidrosis are endlessly sweating and because society sees sweating as an imperfection it makes it difficult for some to talk about. Throughout my life, I have been exposed to social anxiety, isolation, and insecurity all due to having hyperhidrosis.
This unusual sweating was pointed out to me when my siblings started teasing me. They pushed me away to avoid any touching with my hands. This teasing escalated more, crossing a line that made me interpret that no one ever wanted to be near me or my hands. Things became worse once I attended school. Something simple like holding my writing utensils was very difficult, I feared the day we had a writing assignment because my paper would be covered in smudges or sweat puddles. I would consciously wipe my hands on my school uniform, and avoid any sort of human touch because the little voice in the back of my head kept saying ‘no one is going to like you if you have sweaty hands.’
It’s difficult to hide sweat; eventually, everyone is going to spot it. Some will ask ‘are you nervous?’ Unable to lie, I would tell the truth and say my hands’ sweat. At first, I naively thought people might accept it, but 9 times out of 10 I would be greeted with disgusted faces and the exclamation sound of “eww!”
If sweaty hands weren’t enough to deal with, I also have to deal with my feet sweating. Remember when jelly shoes were in? Yeah, the only way for me to wear jelly shoes was with socks. Summer would hit and all the girls popped on their new sandals proudly, and then there was me, still wearing my black flats.
Battling with insecurities, I was too afraid of others judging me or thinking of me as ‘the sweaty girl’. I wanted to please others instead of just accepting myself for who I am. Looking for anything that could help, I spent hours on the internet googling for remedies, but every site would read: “hyperhidrosis has no cure.” These words scrambled around my head, making me feel like I was a sweaty freak.
Whilst trying to find remedies, I came across Mayo Clinic and read, “There is no medical cause for this type of hyperhidrosis. It may have a hereditary component because it sometimes runs in families.” I was in denial, I didn’t believe this was true since no one in my family had this condition. Until one day, while running errands with my dad, I watched him wipe his hands with a small towel throughout every red light. Out of curiosity, I asked him why, and he said his hands get sweaty, so he carries a small towel to wipe them. That’s when the research made sense to me; instead of being angry at my dad for having sweaty genes, I felt secured. Finally, I had someone close to me who understood. Not once did my dad complain about his sweaty hands; this was just a part of him, and most people didn’t know he suffered this. I, on the other hand, was too focused on how to get rid of this imperfection rather than perfecting it.
Everyone has something that society deems as a flaw; some people are hairy, taller, shorter, and (in my case) sweatier than others. These differences are what distinguish us from others. I may have to always carry napkins with me, choose wisely what shoes to wear, and have an extra deodorant in my bag at all times, but this is what makes me. I could take antiperspirants or use Botox, but for now I’m chosing to just love my body. The key to dealing with these ‘imperfections’ is not letting them take control, but instead taking control of them.