Uncomfortable in my own skin.

Let me tell you a little about myself.

I am a classical musician and just graduated with my bachelors and masters degree in flute performance. I perform often and I am an associate box office manager at a music conservatory in NYC.

Since I work with my hands all the time, my hyperhidrosis is my largest obstacle every day.

Now, if you’re not familiar with hyperhidrosis, it is far from your average clammy hand. Hyperhidrosis causes full-out drippy, puddle-forming sweat. It’s fast acting and can transform a dry hand to a drenched one in 5-10 seconds.

I travel daily with a towel in my purse, trying to be as discreet as possible as I soak up the sweat. I bring a fan to work- telling people I get hot easily- putting my hands to the fan as if I’m warming them by the fire. I use a fan year round. I have one pointed towards my hands now to allow easier typing. I hate feeling like I’m breaking my computer by sweating all over it. If anything helps hyperhidrosis for me, it’s the constant strong flow of cold wind.

You might think that Hyperhidrosis would only affect social situations: hand shakes, holding hands, high fives, etc. This is so true it can easily make anyone with hyperhidrosis an introvert. Examples of these situations will no doubt be written over and over again in this blog. The effects of HH are endless, but let’s start with this:

You probably know what it feels like to shake a sweaty hand, but do you know how it feels to have one?

Here’s my experience:

First, my hands start to get all prickly feeling, like they’re about to fall asleep. Then it starts. You can see it. My hands get to that average clammy stage, then all of a sudden have a shiny gleam on them. You can see droplets of sweat on the tops of my fingers even. When I play the flute, sweat will drip down to my elbows.

Physically, my hands will swell. I buy rings a full size larger than my actual ring size to accommodate for the swelling. When my hands have calmed down, my rings are practically falling off.

There’s no “wiping” the sweat off. How many times have I been told, “just wipe it off”? The sweat is so fast generating, that it is literally constant. Sure, it helps…but maybe it’s really just the satisfaction of holding onto something that can absorb. Seriously…having HH and typing on a keyboard where the sweat has no where to go but form little tiny puddles on each key? It’s ridiculous.

I never know what to do with my hands, even now. You have to be careful wiping your hands on your clothes. I’ve learned from experience: touring Europe with a high school band, ruining my uniform as it turned white from the salty sweat from my hands. Denim is fine, but even that can get gross.

Sometimes, I clasp my hands together. It is uncomfortable for me to hold my own hands. When I was a kid, as part of a game, friend’s would ask: “If you could change one part of your body, what would it be?” Always to myself, I’d wish for new hands…a hand transplant…to just cut my hands off at the wrist and get new ones.

My boyfriend, who is fully aware and accepting of my hyperhidrosis, will hold my hand when it’s a sweaty mess. He says, “I don’t care”. But I care. It feels terrible to me. I think it’s the fact that there is really no where for the sweat to go. To just have it lingering on my skin, I feel so helpless. Maybe it feels like a runny nose you can’t just wipe away.

As for the swelling, I have an experience from my past I will just never forget. I was in All-County Band, playing my flute in high school. My hands were so swollen- really the most swollen I can ever remember- that I could not even feel the flute underneath my fingers. I felt like I was wearing thick rubber gloves. Even today, when my hands swell, I know I cannot move my fingers as fast as I need to. They are sluggish.

My hyperhidrosis makes me angry, frustrated, and sad. Yet, it does give me a pride unlike any other. I never gave up with the flute (who knows how I made it through). Every day I am so proud of myself for what I have accomplished regardless of my disability.

Caryn Joan

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