Needles. 100 of them, full of Botox, are being injected into my armpits. $1000 later, I am beaming.
How did we get here?
Puberty brings us all changing bodies, but for me, it brought sweat–a lot of it. Beginning at age 12, I sweat through a t-shirt in a minute, through sweaters on the coldest nights, and even through my winter coats. Growing up brings us all many changes, and for me, it brought Hyperhidrosis.
Hyperhidrosis is a condition of excessive sweating. It can affect people’s hands and feet, and for me, it concentrates in my armpits.
In high school, the mandatory light grey gym-shirt was my worst nightmare. An otherwise straight-A student, my gym marks quickly declined due to “dress-code violations”. I was too ashamed to tell my gym teacher what my black sweaters were concealing. Other students asked, “Aren’t you hot?”. While internally melting, I’d coyly explain that I’m just always cold.
I hated my armpits. I Googled surgeries to remove them. I tried every antiperspirant on the market, even 20% aluminum chloride. My underarms were left burning, bright red, and, get this, still sweating.
Girls and women are taught that femininity means occupying a body that is attractive, clean, and controlled. I was failing. My body was messy, it was uncomfortable, and it was physically leaking. Every day, the dark wet rings forming under my arms brought me feelings of embarrassment, disgust, and fear of anyone noticing. Because girls don’t sweat, right?
Maybe embracing my sweat could be a feminist statement, but having constantly wet armpits affects the way I move through the world. Hugs are stressful and my arms always have to be on the bottom, never on top. I can never offer a friend my jacket. Colored clothes are off the table. Only somebody with Hyperhydrosis knows that only certain shades of black conceal sweat. I can never, ever, put my hands in the air like I just don’t care. Because I do care. A lot.
This was my life for many years, surrendering to black sweaters and arms glued to my sides, until I couldn’t take it anymore and decided to act. I had spent years researching cures for Hyperhidrosis. I came across electricity meant to zap your sweat into submission, technologies to microwave your armpits, and celebrities getting Botox. Challenging my fear of needles, I booked an appointment. I was skeptical, but had nothing to lose.
I arrived at the doctor’s office among women in for their aesthetic touch-ups. The doctor greeted me and asked two questions to reach a diagnosis. Have you tried 20% aluminum chloride? I said yes. Do you only wear black? I said yes. She said it must be hard, I agreed.
I laid back and lifted my arms over my head, and for the first time, I was glad to have my sweat seen. She prepared the Botox, and I queried whether it will be enough. She assured me it would. Excitedly, I expressed that I hope this works. To my surprise, the doctor responded: “No it will work, this will change your life”. She was right.
The needles did not hurt, the idea of paralyzing my sweat glands made me feel back in control. But, it took me a while to trust my body again. While my armpits were no longer marked, my self-esteem was. The first time I wore a colored shirt I couldn’t stop checking my armpits, feeling I had phantom Hyperhidrosis.
For three months, my armpits were perfectly dry, I finally felt clean. I enjoyed this cyborg body that couldn’t sweat. Once I knew I could trust my body, I felt on top of the world. I jokingly asked my friends to guess where I got botox, finally being able to talk about what I had been going through.
Yet on that fourth month, rushing through the airport after Christmas holiday, I felt a bead of sweat roll down my arm. I stopped in my tracks, I felt sick. I had gotten used to occupying this ideal body. Not only did I stop sweating excessively, I had enjoyed not sweating at all.
Botox isn’t permanent, and it is very expensive. Sweat is normal. Everybody sweats. But when sweating occupies the majority of your time, it can become unbearable. Maybe one day, I will embrace my sweat, but until then 100 injections of Botox every six months is enough to give me my body back.
*Originally published in The Cambridge Cult: Cleanse Issue