Lessons for my high school self

I’ve had HH for almost 28 years now and I think I’ve learned a thing
or two. If I were to travel to the past and meet up with my high
school self, I would share what I have learned.

I approach my high school self. I am in the band room, my second home.
I know that at this point in my life I was slowly starting to tell my
closest friends and teachers about HH. I had a love for playing the
flute, but struggled with my hot, sweaty hands. I also had
difficulties in school, taking tests and writing essays with paper and
pen.

“You inspire me because you are brave. You have talked about HH openly
with your closest friends. You give me hope that people are accepting
and understanding. I hope that you continue to share your stories
about HH with those closest to you.”

I know that once I hit college, I started hiding my HH again. I barely
told anyone about it until my junior or senior year. I can only
think of 5 people I told in college- none were teachers. I think
telling people about it and talking openly, even with a few people, is
so helpful and a real coping mechanism.

“People aren’t paying attention to you and your HH as much as you
think. You may feel that your sweat is obvious and feel anxious about
it, but chances are other people really have no idea and can’t tell.”

People with HH are amazing at hiding it even though it might not feel
like it. I went through college and grad school without any teachers
knowing I had it. I just took a deep breath and did what needed to be done.
Easier said than done, but I’ve learned to at least try to stop worrying about
what people think.

“Don’t give up and follow your passions.”

I didn’t let HH hold me back. I found ways to modify the activities I
loved or talked to someone about it for advice. I have played the flute
for 19 years. All I needed was a fan, a hugely absorbent towel, great
musician friends, and sometimes a tub of cold water to stand in.
I’ve learned to make do with what I have.

“Although it might sound cliche, I promise that it does get better.”

Since graduating high school, I’ve had 10 more years of experience with
HH. I’ve learned different coping techniques, tried new treatments, and
helped the HH community grow. I know there is help and support out there
and have seen it first hand.

I am proud of my journey with HH and am happy that I have learned with it
and from it. I know that I can’t really share what I have learned with my high
school self, but I can share it with you.

How would life be different without HH?

Sometimes I wonder how my life would be different without Hyperhidrosis.

I wouldn’t have to worry about the little things like greeting someone new with a handshake or writing with a pen on paper. I wouldn’t have to worry about holding a newspaper, either deteriorating the paper with sweat or coming away with print on my hands. I wouldn’t have to worry about holding onto a subway rail, taking change back from a cashier, accidentally touching someone’s arm with a cold and wet hand, or leaving an embarrassing hand print behind. I wouldn’t have grown up with other kids not wanting to hold my hand during square dancing in gym class or as their line partner to go to the lunch room. I wouldn’t have had to avoid certain things growing up like playing clapping games with my friends or braiding each others’ hair.

Sometimes I think about life without HH and how normal it would have been. I wouldn’t have had to be anxious about my underarm sweat stains reaching the hem of my shirt, or going to the nurse’s office several times a week just to avoid my embarrassment. Maybe I would have continued taking gymnastics lessons. Maybe I would have joined clogging dance with my sister where there is a lot of hand holding.

Life without HH seems so normal and it’s something I’ve envied for a long time. But thinking of life without HH sure has a lot of maybe’s and  what if’s.

What I do know is that I really can’t imagine my life without HH. It is a part of me and it is a part of who I have become. Without HH, I would have taken all of the above for granted. I feel fortunate that I don’t.

HH has made me a stronger person. It has given me pride in accomplishing even the smallest of tasks. HH has also made me an observer and someone who cares a lot. It has given me an understanding and appreciation for all people.

So how would life be different without HH? I’m not quite sure.
But I think life with HH has made it better.

 

How to Buy a Ring for a Girl with HH

It’s hard to believe that two years ago, I wrote a blog post about HH and Engagement Rings and now, I have my own engagement ring! I had some fears about it before, but between successful Iontophoresis treatments and my excitement about the engagement, my anxieties have gone away.

My fiance, Francis, put so much thought and effort into the proposal and I couldn’t be happier with how things turned out! He has always been incredibly supportive and understanding of my HH. For the proposal, he took my HH into consideration and came up with ways to make sure everything would be perfect, including the ring. I am so lucky to have him in my life and I hope you enjoy this beautiful guest post he has written.
_______________________

Hyperhidrosis was never an issue in the first place. In fact, I was supposed to be all set. I apologize that the title might be a little misleading since this is really a story about how I made this more complicated than it needed to be.

A year or so before I asked her parents’ blessings, Caryn had actually e-mailed them information on all the rings she liked. So when I worked up the courage to ask for her parents’ blessings earlier this May, I was given everything I could’ve ever needed for the ring, ranging from the styles and cuts to the actual ring size. I had some vague ideas on how I would propose which included taking her to a daffodil garden in Atlanta (she’s in love with daffodils) or proposing to her on an ice rink during winter (which is how I asked her to be my girlfriend). My ideas were decent, but not only would she have seen those proposals coming, the ideas depended entirely on seasons, which would’ve made me wait for this winter or next spring.

It was only until I was about to leave her parents’ house that  I came up with the idea of proposing at the finish line of a half marathon. It was brilliant! We’ve run one half marathon every year for the last three years and all the dedication and hard work has meant a lot to both of us. She would never see this coming.

“I thought you gave up on half marathons last year?” she asked.

Okay, I did tell her that half marathons were too long and painful, but I could look past it just this once. I am proposing after all.

“Yeaaaah, I changed my mind, I like half marathons!”

A couple of days later, we officially signed up for the Grete’s Great Gallop Half Marathon in Central Park at October 5th! While she was busy creating a training guide, I was busy figuring out all the logistics behind the proposal.

“Are you going to run with the ring?” one friend asked.

“Don’t you think you’re going to be out of breath?” another friend inquired.

These were important details that I knew I would have to figure out, but when I told her mom about the idea, she revealed the biggest curveball of them all:

“What about her hyperhidrosis?”

As much as I initially wanted to deny that this would be an issue, this really doesn’t bode well for the ring. Her mom provided me with her ring size 9. This is what Caryn uses to give herself enough room when her hand swells up. I would be forcing her to sweat and swell up her hands if we run this race. This wouldn’t be an issue in a normal situation, but would she have issues putting the ring on after running 13.1 miles?

Could I propose to her before the race? I thought about it briefly, but found it to be awfully anticlimactic, so I knew it wouldn’t be a real option. I was so excited about the idea initially but the more I thought about it, the riskier it became. Her mom assured me that Caryn would like the proposal no matter what but I certainly didn’t want to disappoint her. I wanted to make sure I did things right.

Amidst of all of this, my friends kept bugging me that the ring size seemed off, which made me doubt it was correct. This was frustrating because I didn’t know how Caryn would feel if I told them about her HH and I just didn’t know if they’d understand. I knew nothing about ring sizes to begin with, but once I got clarification about the size, I assured them that the size was correct and it’s because Caryn’s hands have a tendency to swell up.

I realized that there were other options outside proposing at the beginning or the end of the race. I could propose to her in the middle of the race instead. This way, her hand would be less sweaty. The risk involved with the ring fitting on her hand was still there, but I felt better about her hands in the middle of the race.

I also played around the idea of proposing at the hot air balloon festival near her parents house. This would be an alternative plan and even though it sounds romantic, I felt that hot air balloons are nowhere near as significant to us compared to the half marathon. Luckily, I didn’t have to propose that way…

We were riding the subway one day when Caryn started getting anxious about the upcoming gig we were traveling to. Although she’s been doing the Iontophoresis treatment, her hands started sweating more as we got closer to the venue. She started complaining that her hands were getting sweaty because she was nervous and all of a sudden, I found myself just blatantly asking her point blank.

“When your hands start sweating, does your ring ever feel tight on you?”

“Well, size 9 is big enough for my finger so it’s okay. I don’t really have issues putting the ring on but it’s a little tight when I remove it.”

The ring would actually fit! Finally, a wave of anxiety lifted off my head and all I had to do was just bluntly ask her! I didn’t want to raise suspicions, but in my head, I thought I was so cool and smooth by sneaking it into the conversation. She saw right through it though, but fortunately, she didn’t really let my question get into her head.

It wasn’t exactly smooth sailing afterwards. The week before the race, my entire plan almost crashed and burned in front of me when Caryn accidentally tripped on a staircase and fell on her ankle. Thankfully she was okay and my mini heart attack subsided, but it really put things into perspective. This was my plan from the start and this is how I planned to propose to her. Proposing alone is frightening enough as it is, but running a half marathon on top of that was the hardest thing I’ve ever done physically and mentally. And all of it could fail at a drop of a hat. It wasn’t just the Hyperhidrosis. One of us could get injured, the race could get washed out or she could plainly just have said no.

But despite all those risks came the big payoff. The weather was beautiful and we had an amazing group of friends who were waiting for us in the 5 mile mark with their hand-written signs that said “Caryn, Francis Has A Question For You.” Caryn complained that my pace was too fast from the start of the race, but my nerves and adrenaline were pushing me to get to that proposal spot. A few streets before we got to our friends, Caryn commented that we were almost half way through the race and I smiled knowing that I was about to change her life forever in the next couple of feet.

The next three minutes were such a blur. The important things are that she said yes and the ring fit her finger. As much as I tried to envision how the proposal would go, there were details I could’ve never prepared for including the empty cups littered all over the ground from the water station. But the little things like that are what made it memorable.

Could I have gotten away with doing something safer and avoided all this trouble? Maybe propose to her at an ice rink akin to how I asked her out? Her hands wouldn’t have been an issue and Caryn would’ve loved it all the same. But when you’re after someone who means the world to you, that risk is worth it. You just need to have the courage to take that leap of faith in the first place.

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Will my kids have HH?

I’m often asked if I’m worried about passing Hyperhidrosis on to my kids. HH runs in my family, so I know that there is a pretty good chance of passing it on.

I’ve given this a lot of thought for many years. In the past, I was concerned about passing it on because I know the difficulties of HH first hand and I don’t want my children to suffer through it. Children especially have trouble with HH in school and social activities. Years ago, a part of me thought my future children would be angry with me for passing it on.

However, after more thought and discussion with family members, I can say that although there is a high chance of passing HH on to my kids, it doesn’t deter me from wanting to have my own children. I have always wanted to be a mom.

In fact, if my children are born with HH, I will be incredibly well-equipped and be their biggest support. I will be able to share coping techniques and be knowledgeable about treatments. I will be a huge resource and am confident I will be able to help them.

 

Dry Grip No Sweat Lotion Interview

A couple of months ago, I suggested some over the counter treatment options for my younger cousin who also has HH. He is in middle school now and has had HH for his whole life. Out of the options I suggested, he chose to start with a lotion called Dry Grip No Sweat.

He is having great success with the product so I thought it would be a fun idea to interview him about it and his experiences with HH. A big thank you goes out to him for helping me with this post!

Here’s what he had to say:

Caryn: What do you think the hardest part of having HH is?
Cousin:
I think the hardest part of HH is having to deal with it all the time. I mean, unless it was the winter, usually my hands were sweaty. I personally had a really tough time getting used to it, and even now. I just want it to be done with.

Caryn: What difficulties do/did you find in school with HH?
Cousin: It is quite hard to cope with it at school, like when you accidentally touch someone, or when you have to pass something around and you get it really sweaty, or trying to hold a pencil but your hand keeps slipping off, it becomes annoying, and sometimes embarrassing.

Caryn: Do/did you have any difficulties with HH outside of school?
Cousin: I absolutely had troubles with it outside of school. Trying to do sporting activities was a bust, I couldn’t really touch anyone, and eventually I started to get stressed. Stressed that it wouldn’t go a way, no matter what I tried to do about it.

Caryn: How often do you apply the lotion and how does it make your hands feel?
Cousin: I apply the lotion every morning on weekdays, and at first it feels like glue because it’s sticky, but that only last for about 5 seconds. Other than that, I don’t feel it whatsoever, and often forget I put it on that morning.

Caryn: How successful do you think it has been?
Cousin: I believe it has worked quite well, but I like to think of it as brushing your teeth. It’ll only work if you consistently do it, as for most things. Now even though I’m not applying it on weekends, I just do that so my hands don’t get used to it, so I can use the same lotion for longer.

Caryn: How has your day to day life changed since using the lotion?
Cousin: My day to day life has changed for the better, no doubt about it. I hardly notice my hands sweating, and usually that’s after gym in school. I no longer have the problems I used to have in school, and I much enjoy it. It really stinks to have HH, but if you don’t do anything about it, it won’t go away.

Thanks for reading,

Caryn

 

 

Winter Sweating Tips

Winter temperatures are usually great for people with HH! The cold and windy air is great for drying out my hands.

However, once winter hits, people start turning the heat on inside. The heat indoors can really make me sweat. It’s hot on the subway, at work, in restaurants and shops. It’s almost worse than summer! It might be hot in the summer but you can always go indoors for the air conditioning.

At my desk at work, I keep my fan on year round. This is extremely helpful and I will continue to use a fan at work no matter where I end up. It’s a great way to cool off.

On the subway, I will use my scarf or gloves to hold on to the rail. I also continue to keep a small towel in my purse for a quick mop up.

Wearing long sleeves helps too! If I’m having trouble writing and want to be discreet, I just pull my sleeves slightly over my hands to about mid-palm. Dress scarves (vs. winter scarves) can also help cover your hand without drawing attention while writing. Always try to use what you have on you to be discreet.

If you have underarm sweating, try wearing a black open sweater over any shirt. This will cover up any sweat stains you might have. You can also try using sweat-wicking products.

Enjoy the colder weather and try to stay cool indoors!

Caryn

Finger Printing

In addition to going back to school, I am trying to become a certified Teaching Assistant! My goal is to get some experience working with students in the classroom. I am almost finished with all of the components of the NYS Teaching Assistant certification.

The components of the certification included 3 workshops on bullying and violence in the school, passing a 100 multiple choice question test, and finger print clearance.

Workshops are finished, I passed my test. The final step was finger printing!

Last month, I set out to accomplish this task. I received the official finger print cards in the mail and called my uncle who is NYPD.

It was so helpful to have my uncle finger print me because he knows about my HH. My hands were sweating and I can’t imagine how anxious I would have been had a stranger been finger printing me.

Even so, my prints were not coming out clearly. The sweat on my fingers was making the ink very smudgy and too dark. Although I only needed to send in 2 finger print cards, we printed 5! Hopefully the NYS Department of Education will be able to get some good prints from one of the cards!

I wrote a note about my condition, explaining the prints, and sent it with the cards. My prints might still get kicked back, and I’ll have to do something else for clearance. I’ll let you know what happens!

This is not the first time I have had trouble with finger printing. A while back, I wrote a post about finger printing and digital finger scanning at amusement parks. I feel like sweaty hands really work against us when we need our prints taken! There has to be another way.

Waiting at the station to be finger printed- paper towels in hand to dry my sweat!

Waiting at the station to be finger printed- paper towels in hand to dry my sweat!

 

Iontophoresis with Baking Soda

I’ve been using my Iontophoresis machine once a week for many months now with great success! However, in early October, I noticed my hands were starting to sweat a little more than usual. I was really concerned about this and felt like I might have formed an immunity to the machine.

To help, I started doing treatments more than once per week. At one point, I was using it three or four times in one week. Still nothing was working.

I remembered one of my readers from NYC had said that the water here is pretty soft and sometimes doesn’t work well with Iontophoresis. Until October, I hadn’t had an issue with the water or effectiveness of the machine. I was told that adding baking soda to the water can help by adding minerals and electrolytes.

After adding baking soda to my treatments, I noticed a significant difference. My palm sweating is now more under control. Adding baking soda does make the treatments a little more uncomfortable. It irritates my skin a little more, but it’s worth it!

Sweathelp.org has an article dedicated to Iontophoresis. In addition to baking soda, it says you can even try crushing Robinol tablets in the water.

I’ll let you know if the baking soda continues to work!

 

 

 

 

Entire Medical Journal dedicated to HH

Last week, I received an email from the International Hyperhidrosis Society stating that an entire issue of the Dermatologic Clinics medical journal was dedicated completely to Hyperhidrosis! This is ground-breaking news and I wanted to learn more. The issue is found in October 2014, Volume 32, Number 4. It covers topics such as:

  • Prevalence of HH
  • Impact of HH on Quality of Life
  • Special Considerations for Children with HH
  • Topical Therapies
  • Iontophoresis
  • Botox treatments
  • Oral medications
  • ETS surgery
  • Emerging therapies
  • Resources for patients and sufferers
  • Incorporating diagnosis and treatment into Clinical Practice

You can purchase the entire issue or individual articles. This is a really exciting breakthrough for people with HH. The issue will be available to medical specialists and provide education on our condition and the latest treatments available! Just another big step in the right direction for universal awareness and understanding.

How Do You Play Flute With HH? An inside look (with video)

Hi all! I hope you’re having a great start to August!

Next month, my quintet, Washington Square Winds, and I will be releasing our very first full length album, THEY’RE ALIVE! The official release date is September 7.

With that in mind, I have decided to share some of my music with you today. Francis gave me the idea for this post as he said he was curious what it’s really like to play a musical instrument with HH. He’s a trombonist, himself! I included a video to show you my thought process when I play and how HH affects me.

This video was taken during my graduate flute recital at NYU in 2011. I’m playing Ian Clarke’s The Great Train Race. It has a lot of cool extended techniques like playing 2 notes at the same time, singing and playing, and explosive air attacks. This was before I started Iontophoresis treatment, so I was definitely sweating a lot at this point.

  • Another thing I worry about is also related to my appearance. HH typically comes with excessive blushing (as if excessive sweating wasn’t enough). Generally when I’m performing and really nervous, my chest and neck blotch up like crazy!! Amazingly, in this video, you can’t really tell! But as I play, I’m constantly thinking about the audience’s perception of me based on what they see, versus what they hear. In the past, I’ve had people ask me if I was okay after a performance because they saw me blotch up. This bothers me a lot because I don’t want the audience to be concerned about me during my performance. I would rather them just listen and enjoy- no matter what I look like.
  • Having sweat on my hands makes it really uncomfortable to play my flute. I’ll be trying to focus on the music while I feel drips of sweat rolling down my arms or starting to feel the pads under the keys get squishy with moisture.
  • HH is also uncomfortable because it makes my fingers swell- A LOT! It can be difficult moving my swollen fingers fast when I need them to. You can tell that right around 45 seconds in this video, there’s a difficult fast passage that could have been a lot cleaner! My fingers weren’t just cooperating!
  • Sometimes the sweat on my fingers will cause me to slip off the keys too- especially if I’m going fast. At 2:17, it’s barely audible, but my finger slipped on a key and I played a wrong note. I recovered really fast though!
  • A clear picture of my mental state is apparent at 2:52. Remember I was playing this without sheet music in front of me. I forgot what came next and paused a little too long!

This was back in 2011, but I still get these same feelings. My philosophy nowadays is: “You love music, so play like you love it. The audience will see this in you and the music will flow more freely”.

I hope you enjoyed listening to some of my music! If you would like to hear more, please ask me about our upcoming CD!

In the meantime, you can check out my flute website: carynfreitag.com
and my quintet’s website: washingtonsquarewinds.org

Thank you for reading,

Caryn