Monday, July 10, 2006

Taking the Plunge

“If you want to overcome your anxiety, you’re going to have to face your fears and confront the monster you fear the most.” These words come from Dr. David D. Burns, author of the self-help classic Feeling Good. So what does that mean for folks with hyperhidrosis? Do you go up to someone on the subway and say, “Excuse me, sir. Would you mind holding my sweaty foot for a moment?”

As much as I would enjoy watching such a scene during my usually uneventful subway commute, you might first try another tactic. IMHO, I would suggest starting small and with folks who know and love you well. For me, it was a big deal when I told a few close friends. One was very compassionate; another didn’t get why the sweat was such a big problem.

After those baby steps came bigger breakthroughs….including one at a week-long yoga retreat workshop 10 years ago. As you might guess, the folks who go to yoga retreats also enjoy holding hands as a group. I like to make fun of this “type” of person, as if there is a type. The truth is, I’m one of them. Hey, some people like NASCAR. I happen to like tofu and twig tea and communing with people who say things like “Just be.”

So I signed up for a “Radical Self-Acceptance” workshop, which turned out to be a place where you could really let it all hang out. Here, primal screams were about as common as “would you please pass the salt” at Thanksgiving. After hearing about all the problems others had, from STDs to distant dads to cheating hearts, I figured I’d add my sweaty palms to the mix…it would probably be anticlimactic. So I disclosed to the group that I am afraid to hold hands with others and why.

As I spoke, someone reached out and held my hand. I remember how incredibly good this touch felt. A self-built barrier between me and others was beginning to crumble. For the rest of that week, during those previously dreaded group-hug hand-holding team-building moments, many in the group rallied behind me. They even sought me out to hold my hand. Maybe my sweaty palms weren’t as gross to others as I had thought?

This doesn’t mean that I suddenly had dry palms or became anxiety-free in social situations. But it was a big breakthrough… a reason to hope.

More on Dr. Burns coming soon…

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