Please welcome Kristen from Ventura County, CA, to the sweaty tribe. She is a brave soul with hyperhidrosis who has chosen to share her sweaty story on mylifeasapuddle.com.
Kristen and I went through two rounds of edits for her story. After thinking about it, she realized she was holding back. In this final version, you’ll see just how brave she is for sharing her sweaty truth and all that can go along with it.
Going public about our sweaty secret can be scary, but using our sweaty voices is the bravest thing we will ever do.
On what areas of your body do you experience hyperhidrosis?
My family tells me when I was five, I would always carry a purse stuffed with tissue. I don’t remember this, but I can guarantee I had hyperhidrosis back then because stuffing purses with tissue or towels is something I have done my entire life to wipe my sweat.
I sweat from my hands, feet, face, armpits, groin, back, and legs. At such a young age, I was confused about what was happening to me, and I didn’t know how to express how it made me feel. I remember thinking, I can’t climb the monkey bars because my hands keep slipping and I can’t wear sandals. I accepted “I can’t” for a lot of things.
I was embarrassed that I couldn’t do what everyone else was doing. As a result, it made me feel lonely, gross, and less than. I didn’t have support from my family or my doctors because no one understood the impact hyperhidrosis could have. I was just sweat. Everyone sweats! The impact it had on me was not noticeable to others because I am naturally a happy, energetic person.
How does your hyperhidrosis impair your daily life?
I couldn’t leave the house without a sweater, or I’d have a panic attack. I often hid in bathroom stalls so that no one would see me freaking out. Regardless, I’ve always been determined to prove hyperhidrosis wrong.
In high school I couldn’t accept the “I can’ts” anymore. I couldn’t shake hands or participate in class.
So I decided if I cannot change my sweating, I can change how it controls some of my life.
I took every opportunity to shake someone’s hand and publicly speak up, and now it doesn’t really phase me. I performed my own exposure therapy. Unfortunately, doing this on my own became more difficult.
Not only was it exhausting having to manage and hide my sweat, but I had to be my own advocate, researcher, and patient all while also trying to just be a kid.
How did you discover that your excessive sweating is a recognized medical condition?
When the International Hyperhidrosis Society (IHhS) published an article about AT&T recognizing hyperhidrosis as a disability, I finally felt like it was OK to share my story and ask for help. Prior to that I assumed everything I struggled with in school or with my personal goals was a product of me being dumb or simply incapable.
How does your hyperhidrosis impair your daily life?
It affects every aspect of my life:
- I always have to wear socks (preferably black)
- I have trouble:
Do you find that hyperhidrosis affects your mental health? If so, in what ways and how do you cope?
I developed trichotillomania (also known as hair pulling disorder) of my eyebrows as a way to relieve negative emotions and stress from hyperhidrosis. My anxiety and paranoia about my sweat got worse in college.
I started to self medicate by drinking. Alcohol allowed me to be free from worrying about my hyperhidrosis. I didn’t care if I was sweating, and if I was I blamed the alcohol. I used it to silence and bury the frustration I experienced after trying everything to treat hyperhidrosis and nothing working.
Have you ever avoided things because of your hyperhidrosis?
I avoided hanging out with friends because I didn’t want to put on a facade that I was fine. Yet I couldn’t tell them the truth because I feared they would think I was gross.
I’ve avoided my goal to become a Physician Assistant. I still question whether it’s possible for someone with hyperhidrosis to work in the medical field and treat patients.
I feel ridiculous thinking I can become a Physician Assistant.
Yet, I have to thank Maria (aka My Life as a Puddle) and the IHhS for bringing light to our harsh reality. By acknowledging our struggles and providing advice on how to cope, I am beginning to feel more confident in my ability to be the provider I never had.
What treatments for hyperhidrosis – if any – have you tried?
The most effective treatments for me are prescription anticholinergic medications and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). I used to take propantheline, and now I take glycopyrrolate.
When the medication was working and I was not sweating, I noticed I would get anxious knowing I would be going to the store, and that anxiety would cause me to sweat. It became a vicious cycle. Therefore, therapy allowed me to identify triggers and learn better ways to cope with those situations I used to fear.
What would you like to see in the future when it comes to treatments for hyperhidrosis?
I would like to see earlier diagnosis and increased regional/local support for those who do not have access. This includes insurance companies having better coverage for medication.
I used to pay $40/month for propantheline for six years because my insurance considered it a tier four non formulary drug; I couldn’t take the recommended generic equivalent because it didn’t have the same drying effect.
I’d also like to see an improved definition of hyperhidrosis. For example, my level of hyperhidrosis is severe. Severity is based on how much it affects my ability to perform daily tasks. The amount I sweat has not changed since I was a kid, but my ability to perform daily tasks has improved tremendously because of therapy.
What’s the worst thing about your hyperhidrosis?
It doesn’t matter if I’m in the snow, I will still sweat. It may help to be in a cooler environment, but sometimes it is worse because my socks and clothes become wet, so then I’m freezing.
I look at people’s hands, feet, and face because I am self conscious about mine. I also use it to gauge how well I can hide my sweat.
It is hard to love yourself when you don’t know how to love yourself. Understanding that hyperhidrosis may be with me forever is very difficult for me to accept; it is a part of me that I hate.
But, I am learning how to embrace it and using this opportunity to help someone who may be going through the same thing. You’d be surprised how many people you know who also have hyperhidrosis.
Do you have a sweaty story?
I’ve opened my blog to the larger hyperhidrosis community. If you’d like to be featured, please fill out the form on my Contact Me page. In the subject line, enter Guest Post. Not a writer? No worries! I can edit your story, send you questions to answer to create one, or you can record a video.