Today it is expected to reach 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the greater New York City area. At midday the heat is already close to unbearable — except of course that one has to bear it. What choice is there? You can lay down and die, but that hardly seems honorable. What would people say? “It got too hot for him to handle.” If they use a common idiom in a literal way, you know you’ve really screwed up.

For an anxious person, heat as intense as this is added burden, because anxious people tend to sweat more than average. Sometimes they sweat way more than average. I’m one of these people. Since I was in my early twenties, I have sweat so copiously that it has warranted a diagnosis. The dermatologists call it “hyperhydrosis,” and the condition mainly afflicts my armpits. Even in mild weather, the sweat glands beneath my arms become so hyperactive that it seems appropriate to refer to them as faucets rather than glands. As with much in anxiety, there’s a kind of cyclical thing that takes hold: first the underarms begin to sweat a little, then I get nervous that they’ve begun sweating, then my nerves make my underarms sweat more, which makes me more nervous, which makes them sweat even more, which makes me more nervous … until pretty soon my shirt is drenched through and I’m walking around like Frankenstein, hands pinned to my side in a futile effort to hide my affliction.

I suspect that this, above all is, is why I became a writer. It wasn’t so much about loving the English language or having something to say. I just wanted to work alone.

I talk about sweating at some length in Monkey Mind (which, incidentally, comes out in two weeks), but I bring it up here because since I handed in the manuscript I’ve begun taking advantage of a medical procedure that it is fair to say has changed my life: Botox injections.

I don’t know where I first heard that you can use Botox to paralyze the sweat glands under your arms, but I imagine I felt the way the Elephant Man would have felt if someone had told him they could make him look like Matthew McConaughey. Why hadn’t I known about this? What was the catch? There has to be a catch!

But there’s no catch. It doesn’t even hurt that much. The needles are really thin, the procedure doesn’t take long at all, and best of all … it actually works! When I first had Botox injected into my underarms, the doctor told me that, in very rare cases, a patient can suffer from “compensatory sweating.” Translation: the body gets confused that the underarms can’t sweat anymore and transfers the impulse to some remote and strange region of the body.

This freaked me out, because I have terrible luck. So of course I pictured myself having dinner with some friends when all of a sudden my nipples started sweating profusely. But for once my luck held out, and the procedure has worked perfectly. For six months, until the Botox wears off, my armpit sweat glands — my hated glands! — are docile, inactive, dormant. Yes, it looks a little off when I run, because everything else sweats. But I don’t really care. Particularly in this heat, all I care about is being dry and unhumiliated.

God bless modern medicine.

3 Responses to Pits

  1. Rosemary says:

    I’ve had good luck with Traditional Chinese Medicine in so many of the physical and mental ups and downs I’ve encountered in life.
    My doc is an American Chinese MD trained in western med but became disgusted with just masking patient’s symptoms so he went to China and got a degree in TCM so he could treat the whole person and not just one problem.
    Some survival tips he’s given me: sip hot water all day (not scalding but hotter than warm) – I carry a thermos with me. Controlling your breathing is number one priority. I count my breaths which is what my Buddhist (ex altar boy) learned in meditation class. It focuses the mind wonderfully. Slow and Easy.

    I’m a GAD’r, too. Hope this helps


  2. Chris says:

    Botox seems creepy and expensive when you can just get DRYSOL. It stings the first few times but eventually you can use it once per week and it remains effective.
    I will assume you tried that but you never know. BOTOX is so in vogue perhaps you wanted the added benefit of youthful looking armpits.

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