Sunday, May 21, 2006

Sunday Scribblings: Three Wishes

If the wish fairy appeared at my window this evening and granted me 3 wishes, I would be unabashedly selfish. Today I am in the mood to wish things for me, for my benefit, for my delight and enjoyment. Most certainly there are other days on which, if the wish fairy came knocking at my door, I would choose selfless wishes like world peace, a cure for AIDS, or happiness and healing for all mankind. But today is not that day...

Here are the 3 wishes that would make my life markedly better:

1. I wish that the palms of my hands and soles of my feet would stop sweating profusely.

Clinically, it's called hyperhidrosis. Practically, it makes my life a slippery, clammy, uncomfortable hell. A person is diagnosed with hyperhidrosis when s/he perspires in excess of that required to regulate body temperature. The increased sweating is most common in the armpits, the palms of the hands, the soles of the feet, and the face.

When I was a teenager, my sweaty palms and feet were a cause of great embarrassment. I never wanted to hold hands with my boyfriend because I was certain that he'd be grossed out by my cold, damp hands and never want to go out with me again. I hated shaking hands with people, and perfected a cupped-handshake technique so that the center of my palm would only come into minimal contact with the hand of the person I was greeting. (Blessed was the day that I moved to Brasil and entered a society where the custom is to greet people with kisses on the cheek, not handshakes!)

When I played capoeira, my bare feet and damp hands would slide all over the wooden floor, giving me a tremendous sense of instability as I kicked and spun and cartwheeled and flipped. As a result of my hyperhidrosis, I was afraid to try many new moves in capoeira, not because I didn't think I had the skill to pull them off, but because I doubted that my hands and feet would support me.

I have a hard time holding onto handrails and poles in crowded busses and subways. If the vehicle makes a sudden lurch, I am likely to fall because I can't form a sturdy grip with my sweaty palms against the smooth metal.

I can't wear many types of sandals because my feet will sweat and literally slip out of the straps. I have nearly broken my ankle trying to walk in high heels, only to have my foot slide off the sole of the shoe. Even if I wear flat sandals or flip-flops, the hyperhidrosis still causes me problems. Since my feet are almost always damp, they are a prime collecting point for dust and grit and any other pollutant in the street. When I come home from a day walking around the city, my feet are literally black and filthy from catching all the grime that other people with dry feet just brush past.

Although I love the sensation, it is horribly difficult for me to get a massage. I spend the whole time stressing out about when the therapist will touch my hands or feet and feel how clammy they are. The worst part is, the more I think about my excessive sweating, the more it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I wish the wish fairy would take away my hyperhidrosis and the social and physical suffering it causes me. There are a few treatments available for this condition, like super-concentrated aluminum hydrocholride lotion and botox injections, but they don't work for everyone and are not as effective for people that sweat on their palms and soles. There is also a surgical procedure that kills the nerves that control sweating, but I'm not even near the point where I'd consider going through this kind of an invasive procedure. So unless the wish fairy shows up sometime soon, there is really no solution in sight for this problem other than to just live with it.

2. I wish that I didn't have a phobia of snakes.

When I say phobia, please understand that I am talking about a crippling fear that makes me cry and shake and nearly go into shock if I happen to come across a snake. My fear limits me from fully enjoying hikes, swimming (fear of sea snakes), reptile houses at the zoo, people's pets, and any other activity or situation where I think there is a remote possibility of me coming into contact with a snake.

Perhaps because I am so frightened by snakes, I have had several close encounters with them in my life, the highlight being my freshman year of high school when I found a 6-foot western diamondback rattlesnake in the front yard of our house in the foothills of the Sandia mountains in Albuquerque. The snake crept its way around our patch of grass, closing in on a rabbit that was having an afternoon snack. I felt like a documentary from the Nature channel was unfolding before my eyes. Sobbing and shaking out of control, I had to keep watch over the snake from our deck so it wouldn't disappear into our storage shed or any other hideout, while my mom called the firefighers to come take the animal away. Thankfully the firemen arrived before the snake was able to strike at the rabbit, and I ran into the house and locked all the doors. The firemen carried the rattlesnake away using one of those snake handling loops. I watched through the window as the big snake writhed and twisted in the loop, the sound of its rattles reverberating all throughout our house. After that incident, I had terrifying nightmares for over a month.

Once when I was 19 I came into close contact with a highly poisonous coral snake, nearly stepping on the creature as I hiked through the Atlantic rainforest on an island off the coast of Rio. Again, I had terrible nightmares for weeks after the incident and was afraid to go hiking for quite some time.

My fear of snakes comes up quite frequently in my dreams, even if I haven't had a real-life encounter. I'll dream of snakes slithering over my body, striking to bite me, chasing after me in an endless cycle where the snakes are always present and, no matter what I do, I can't escape. After these dreams I often wake up screaming or crying, and spend the rest of the day with goosebumps as I remember the images and sensations.

I wish for the wish fairy not to take away snakes from my life and dreams, but for her to change my reaction to them. I wish to never feel my blood run cold, never to opt out of an activity again because I think I might see a snake, never wake up in panic because of a serpentine nightmare.

3. I wish that my mysterious allergies would be diagnosed and cured.

I have a debilitating and totally random case of allergies. Approximately once every 10 days I get an attack that lasts for 24 hours. My nose fills with clear drippy mucus, I sneeze compulsively (think 30 - 40 times in a row), I feel terrible pressure in my sinuses and jaw, and my eyes itch and run. Basically, I am totally useless for an entire day and the only solution is to sleep it off and hope for no allergies when I wake up. Medicines don't work - I have tried Benadryl and Claritin - and am currently taking homeopathic remedies with mixed results.

I am not allergic to any foods, I am not allergic to any pollens, and I am not allergic to animals. I get these allergy attacks no matter where I am lately - San Francisco, Rio de Janeiro, Maputo, Chimoio - always at seemingly random times. My current theory is that these are emotional allergies, triggered by stress. I have read several articles on the internet that document that your body sets off a string of chemicals in times of stress, and that it is possible for a person to be allergic to his/her own hormones. I am almost certain that my allergy attacks come the day after a very stressful event in my life. When I am in a stressful period in general, the attacks are constant every 7 to 10 days. When I am in a calm phase, but have a stressful day or phone call or some other trigger, the attack comes the day after and will not reappear until the next stressful event.

The first time I ever experienced these symptoms was immediately after the huge crisis in my life in mid-2003. I had attacks consistently for 1 year after the crisis, and the finally stopped once the acute effects of the crisis had been resolved. I then spent nearly 1.5 years allergy-free, until moving to Chimoio last year. I had allergy attacks regularly the entire time I was sharing a home and working space with Ricardo and several other friends. As those of you who've been reading my blog for a while know, the situation in Chimoio was horribly stressful for me and, ultimately, unsustainable. Now that Rico and I live in Maputo, my allergies are still present but (I hope) starting to die down. I recently went for 3 weeks without a single attack, only to have a stressful meeting with the IFC set me up for an attack this past Saturday.

Currently, I am still taking my homeopathic remedies and trying my very best to reduce the stress in my life (or at least release it in a healthy way). It would be wonderful, though, for the wish fairy to show up and not only cure my allergies, let me know for once and for all what in the world causes these mysterious and random attacks.


These are my self-centered wishes. Perhaps another day I will share what my altruistic, community-minded wishes would be. Until then, I hope that you enjoy your 3 wishes, whatever they may be!


paris parfait said...

Oh, Ali what a dilemma! I hope you get all three of your wishes! It's true that allergies can be triggered or worsened by stress - or at least I've found that in my own life. I don't like snakes either, but luckily don't come into contact with them too often. Bonne courage!

megg said...

I hope with all of my heart that your wishes come true - that you have an easing of your symptoms. I also want to say, YAY, YOU! For making wishes that are for YOU. Most people have been so worried about that it has changed what they wish for - I am so glad you were brave enough to put your REAL wishes out there!!

Marilyn said...

I love that you posted wishes that most directly impact your day-to-day life. Here's wishing your wishes may come true. P.S. I have a horrible fear of snakes, too.

Living Part Deux said...

I wholeheartedly unite with all your other blog friends to wish for your wishes to come true. The hyperhidrosis situation must make just walking difficult. I know that when I put lotion on my feet and then try to wear shoes too quickly, it is frightening to slide around in my shoes. I'm so afraid of falling. I can't imagine living with that all the time. Snakes - yes, I relate, although I've only had one close encounter. Texas and New Mexico provide haven for some pretty scary sorts - as do other regions you have inhabited. Not being able to breathe normally is so very miserable. All I can say is "bless your heart!" Now doesn't that sound Texan.

boliyou said...

I hope your wishes come true. It sounds like they're all fulfillable.

Not sure if you're aware of this, but there are new treatments for hyperhidrosis. Best of luck!

Kerstin said...

Now this is a very sensible wish list.

Your fear of snakes sounds justified and I cannot believe that you have had so many close encounters with them. I don't mind snakes (unless they are poisonous) but react similarly to spiders.

My ex-boyfriend suffered from hyperhidrosis. He used to take showers BEFORE and after going to the gym, because he was worried that his sweating would produce too much odor (which it didn't). Eventually he used special deodorants and shoe inlays although I don't know if they helped longterm. I hope you will come to terms with this condition, is there no chance that one day it just might stop?

As far as your allergies are concerned I feel for you. If all the tests have come back negative then I would say that your theory about them being stress related is a realistic probability. Stress can cause all sort of psycho-somatic symptoms and they often sort themselves out as you get older.

Thanks for sharing these personal wishes, it is good to get to know you better.

Laini Taylor said...

Your snake phobia was interesting to me -- my sister is a herpetologist specializing in western diamondbacks! The rest of the family is luke warm on snakes, but my mom does have a crippling, virtually heartstopping case of arachnophobia, so I've seen what phobias can be like. Do you see many where you live in Africa?

Safiya said...

I hope your wishes come true too.

Btw, do you still practice capoeira much? It sounds awesome. How agile do you need to be to do it?

Ali la Loca said...

Thanks, everyone for your support on these very practical wishes! It's nice to know that I'm not the only one with snake (or spider) fears, and not the only one with hyperhidrosis (Kerstin's old boyfriend). And as for the allergies, I certainly hope I grow out of them or that they disappear as I get less stressed out.

Rebekah - "bless your heart"...I miss hearing that, complete with Texan accent!

Boliyou - I'd be interested in any information about new treatments you might have. Is there a web site I can look at?

Laini - Wow, western diamondbacks as a focus for a profession! That's wild! Thankfully I don't come across many snakes here in Africa, but I think it's just been luck so far.

Safiya - I don't really do much capoeira anymore, I mostly just dance these days. You don't have to be too agile to do the basics in capoeira, although the trickier moves do require flexibility and, more than anything, guts!

Kristine said...

I have the same problem with hyperhidrosis. It was really bad when I was younger. No one would hold my hand on school fieldtrips. Like you I dreaded handshakes. I have been on the bus and had people tell me my bag was dripping (except it was my sweaty palms holding the railing above them). I have managed to temper this excessive sweating by being conscious of what I wear. This may sound dumb but I wear clothes made of natural fibers and it keeps the hand and feet from sweating so much. I wear cotton shirts, pants and sweaters. I wear wool when it’s cold. I have to read the labels on socks because anything with less than 85% cotton is ineffective in helping to keep my feet dry. I also only wear leather-lined shoes if at all possible. This may limit your fashion selections and yet the difference is so huge that I have found it to be worth the effort. I just wanted to pass along this information because maybe it will be helpful to you.

hidrosiscure said...

Hello and congrats on your blog.

I am working on a website on a related topic – it’s a resource hub with information on hyperhidrosis treatments . I also tried to cover different aspects of excessive sweat, such as facial hyperhidrosis , palmar hyperhidrosis and other forms this condition may take.

Hope you’ll find it useful!


Michael R.
Webmaster –