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Dermadry® BLOG

Interview with Hyperhidrosis Advocate Maria Thomas of My Life as a Puddle

By Sam Nardi / 2021 Jun 9th
Dermadry Team

Learn more about hyperhidrosis and treatment options with the blogger of  My Life as a Puddle! For Hyperhidrosis Awareness Month, we talked with Maria Thomas, a hyperhidrosis advocate, about living with excessive sweating and how she started her advocacy journey.

Watch our interview to learn more about excessive sweating, iontophoresis treatment, the importance of opening up about the condition, and how Maria is advocating for hyperhidrosis patient rights and recognition!

About Maria Thomas

Maria Thomas is a passionate writer, patient leader, and hyperhidrosis trailblazer. Her blog “My Life as a Puddle” is about hyperhidrosis. She has lived with hyperhidrosis nearly all of her life and offers a unique perspective on a condition that can be mentally, socially, emotionally, and professionally debilitating. She launched her blog in 2011 and has been a hyperhidrosis advocate ever since. Watch our video to learn more about the condition and her work!

In Conversation with Maria Thomas of My Life as a Puddle


Video Transcript

Amanda: Hello, my name is Amanda Colapelle and welcome to Dermadry Segments! For today's episode. I am joined by Maria Thomas, a hyperhidrosis advocate, and also creator of My Life as a Puddle. Thank you very much for having us!

Maria: Hi Amanda. Thanks for having me.

Amanda: Just to go a little bit more into the questions we're going to start off by going through your journey and also going into explaining about hyperhidrosis, that’s what we want to go through.

Maria: Yeah, sure.

I'd love to know your journey as a patient and as an advocate for hyperhidrosis. Tell us a bit about your journey with hyperhidrosis.

Maria: So the earliest I remember sweating is around age seven. I went to a private Catholic school kindergarten through second grade, and I always remember having to wipe my sweaty hands on my Catholic school uniform.

Not being able to play games like “heads up”, “seven up” or “red Rover” because my hands were sweaty and nobody wanted to hold my sweaty hands or touch them. And then around age 12, I finally asked my mom, you know, why am I so sweaty? What's wrong with me? Because I thought it was just me. So she took me to our primary care physician and they prescribed us a prescription antiperspirant and that didn't work very well for me. So I kind of just. Dealt with it throughout the years. And then it wasn't until age 19, when I started doing just some random internet searches and I came across the term hyperhidrosis. And so I did my own research and then I found a dermatologist and went to the dermatologist and said, I think this is what I have and not once did I hear the term hyperhidrosis all throughout, you know, my adolescence, I was the one who had to find that term myself.

And then I tried a bunch of different prescription medications. Unfortunately none of them worked for me. And then when I was 30, I became a volunteer for a continuing medical education activity. And I got botulinum toxin injections in my hands, and that was really what started me on my advocacy journey.

If you would have told me, you know, 10 years ago that I would be blogging about excessive sweating and trying to help other people, I never would have believed you.So, yeah, I've been blogging about hyperhidrosis at mylifeasapuddle.com for almost 10 years now. And it's been really rewarding, I've met a lot of wonderful people.

I've spoken to members of the FDA and pharmaceutical companies and really kind of made this my own. I had no idea what I was doing when I first started, but you know, each new experience brings you new learning opportunities.

Amanda: Wow. That's amazing. And it's an amazing story and a total. You could totally see the life cycle as well.

Maria: Yeah. Yeah, definitely.

Amanda: How severe is your hyperhidrosis and how does it affect or shape your everyday life?

Maria: Well, when I had the botulinum toxin injections in my palms, I was told by the dermatologist there that I had the worst case of palmar hyperhidrosis he had ever seen. I mean, my hands still to this day, they can literally drip puddles.

So I definitely have a severe case. I have palmar and plantar, so I have sweaty feet as well as sweaty hands. On really bad days. I can have groin sweating. if I'm in a job interview, for example, I can have full body sweating, and be worried about sweating through my clothes in a professional situation like that.

I would say my hyperhidrosis is severe and it impacts everything. I mean, it's rare that I'm not thinking about my sweating and trying to plan my day around it, trying to determine what the weather is going to be like so I know what clothes to wear. Where am I going to be in my office? Do I need to turn the air conditioning on? Do I need a fan? Do I need a towel? Do I need to change of socks for later in the day? All of these little things that dry people wouldn't think twice about, I think about constantly.

Amanda: Wow. And that's actually super interesting. There's a lot of patients also that we speak with that have similar situations. And I was speaking to someone about a week ago and they were actually seeing that when, even when it comes to silk sweaters, like for the summer, especially, she felt so shy and embarrassed about that. And she was like, it's usually on a day-to-day basis, but in the summer, it just kind of, there was that ripple effect. So it's something that does affect a lot of people. And I'm really happy that you're actually able to speak about it and share your experience and your journey.

Maria: Yeah. You know, there's a quote by CS Lewis and it's something to the effect of friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: “you too? I thought I was the only one”. And that's the thing, you know, we're all suffering in silence for large amounts of time during our life. And we think we're the only ones going through this and it just takes one person to say, you know, I've got this sweaty thing going on and then. You know, the ripple effect happens and you can create a community around it.

Amanda: Which is very, very true. It’s actually great to have a community and everyone to be able to share their experiences and their story and that creates that safe space for everyone.

What were the challenging experiences that you went through because of hyperhidrosis? I know you kind of touched upon it a little bit, but what was a real challenge that you went through?

Maria: Gosh. I mean, I have so many different examples over the years. I would say in school, especially the older I got, test taking in high school and in college even, was hard.

You know, I would develop anxiety over my sweat. I'm not sweating because I'm nervous, but I'm nervous because I'm sweating and there's a huge difference. So a lot of people with hyperhidrosis can develop anxiety, situational anxiety. So test taking becomes a trigger for my sweating.

So I'm worried about my sweating ruining the paper, you know, soaking the pencil, soaking the desk. And so then, you know, you get into that kind of negative thought cycle and you can't even focus on taking the test because you're so worried about your sweating. And had I known about hyperhidrosis back in high school and my early college years, you know, I would have asked my instructors and my teachers for accommodations and, you know, simple things like being able to take the test in a room by myself versus having to take the test with everyone else in the classroom and then being surrounded by others and having to worry about that sweating while I'm trying to focus on the test. So that's, you know, an example from when I was younger. And then the older I get, the more professional situations I'm placed in.

So job interviews are very difficult. I'm constantly planning my outfits for the job interview, going into the restroom right beforehand to run my hands under cold water, stuffing my pockets with paper towels, making sure that the folder that holds my, the copies of my resume is plastic or manila colored because any type of colored file folder, the ink will come off on my hands.

So just little things like that I have to be really conscious of. And then, you know, once I do get hired for jobs, I remember I was having to work an event and we had a Q and A session. So I was the one holding the microphone and running it up and down the aisles for people in the audience who had questions.

And I distinctly remember handing that microphone to a doctor, no less, because I was at a medical event. I handed the phone or the microphone to a doctor. And he literally picked up the microphone and went like this, and looked at me, looked at the microphone and was like, why is it so wet? So that was absolutely mortifying.

So after that work event, I had to tell my coworkers, you know, I'm happy to help out at work and at these events, but you can't put me in situations where I have direct contact hand to hand contact with someone, because then my sweaty secret is going to be revealed.

Amanda: Wow. I liked that they actually took that in consideration and they're trying to also help you. And thank you for sharing those tips and tricks that could actually help others that do suffer from hyperhidrosis. I feel like everyone likes to hear each other's stories and. It's very personal. And I really appreciate you giving those little tips and tricks. Sometimes, like even for the folders, for example, there's not a lot of people that may think of that, or sometimes they do, but they're unsure, you know, there's so many little tips and tricks that not everyone is aware of.

And I think a cool way to share and bring upon.

Maria: Yeah. I have lots of tips and tricks that I've developed over the years!

Amanda: Knowing that it is hyperhidrosis month. What do you want people to know about hyperhidrosis? What are you currently doing? What are the current initiatives that you're working on? Hw are you spreading the word during the month?

Maria: Yeah. So I just wrapped up an interview with the executive director and co-founder of the international hyperhidrosis society. That video is posted on my website now, I'll also be releasing another interview with a psychoanalyst later this month. Her name is Dr. Claudia Louise. And we're talking about hyperhidrosis and mental health.

I think that's an aspect of the condition that some people don't think about necessarily, but it can affect your mental health. It can cause depression, anxiety, social anxiety. Some people don't want to leave their house because their sweating is so severe, especially people with craniofacial hyperhidrosis, where they're sweating on their head, on their face.

You know, that's probably the most difficult type of hyperhidrosis to hide. So I really feel for those people and. You know, you're not alone. 365 million people worldwide have hyperhidrosis. So you're not the only one you don't have to suffer in silence. And also I would say don't give up hope for number one, a cure, you know, we all want a cure for hyperhidrosis. We all want to live in a dry world like everyone else does, but until we find a cure, there are a variety of treatment options available. And it's important to remember that each person's body is different. So what works in my body for hyperhidrosis may not work in someone else's body and vice versa.

So, you know, just do your research about all of the treatment options that are available. Don't be afraid to ask for what you need, whether that's asking your doctor for a prescription or asking your family for support or your friends for support. And telling them what you need. You know, I have several friends who have little babies, and so if I go over to their house and hold their babies, they know that I might need a towel nearby.

So if my hands start to sweat, while I'm holding the baby, I can just quickly wipe them off. You know, just little things like that. Just use your voice and don't be afraid to ask for what you need.

Amanda: Exactly. Going into the anxiety and depression aspect. That's actually a topic that isn't always necessarily spoken about, it is considered kind of a taboo topic. What would you give when it comes to tips and tricks or your way of dealing with it? Or have you dealt with it before? When it came to those little anxieties?

Maria: I would say I've definitely had really bad days when it comes to my hyperhidrosis. And there have been days where I've cried over it.

You know, I've been at work before and we're in a meeting and I get up from my chair and people can see the sweat mark from my groin sweating, you know, and they, and they look at it and then I'm just mortified. So I've had experiences like that, that, you know, just make me feel horrible inside. Um, and it makes me not want to talk about it.

But the biggest thing that helped me was just starting to use my sweaty voice. And at the same time too, not being a victim. You know, we are so much more than our hyperhidrosis. So each time we can push ourselves to do a little bit more, to maybe try something new, that builds our confidence and it builds our courage and courage is a muscle that you can strengthen.

So I would encourage people, you know, each day do one little thing to see if you can get through it. And then each time you get through that situation, it builds your confidence.

Amanda: Wow. I really like the courage aspect. That's beautiful and really well said. I think you, I think that's something, a message that should be shared. And especially now, now I'm in a moment of during COVID-19. I think that's something also, we need that human aspect. I think that's really a really nice message in a little bundle.

Maria: Thank you.

Amanda: Switching gears a little bit. What are your thoughts on tap water iontophoresis, such as Dermadry as a treatment option for hyperhidrosis?

I think iontophoresis is definitely a valid treatment option. It's noninvasive, it's relatively straightforward for how to use the treatment. It can be a bit time consuming and, you know, I would, I would say that you don't definitely don't get results right away, but if you stick with it, it can be a successful treatment option for a lot of people.

Amanda: We try our best to tell people about the treatment schedule. And sometimes it is difficult for certain individuals that have a busy schedule or sometimes, you know, there is, it takes a little bit of time for that three to five days, but yes, that's kind of what we're trying to get that aspect and trying to make people understand about iontophoresis and that there are other options out there and something that could be in-home as well.

Maria: Right. And I think right now, especially during COVID-19, we're all sitting at home anyway. So now might be a really good time to try iontophoresis because you have more time to devote to that treatment schedule.

Amana: Yeah, exactly. Okay, when was your first time that you encountered, um, or heard about iontophoresis? Through a dermatologist? LIke what was the cycle like?

Maria: I first heard about iontophoresis, uh, through the International Hyperhidrosis Society. They have a pretty robust website and they've got a treatment section on their website.

And so that was when I first heard the term and saw some of the companies, menu manufacturing, those devices. So I would say I heard about it, you know, about 10 years ago when I first started advocating.

Amanda: Wow. And when you first started advocating, what kind of gave you that little push to feel so comfortable speaking about it?

Maria: I became comfortable finally talking about my hyperhidrosis because I was validated when I had my experience as a patient volunteer. That was the first time that I walked into a room and, and didn't have to apologize for who I was and for how my body behaved. I felt like the people in that room on that day understood me, they understood my body, and then knew how to help. So that was really empowering for me. And then I came out of that, that symposium that day, just feeling like, you know, maybe people would want to hear my story. And I mean, it sounds so random, “Oh yeah. I'm just going to start blogging about hyperhidrosis, I'm going to start talking about sweat”. It's such a niche audience, but everyone has a story. And there's someone out there who has a story similar to yours, and all it takes is for one person to start to speak up and then they can create that tribe and people find each other. And, you know, I mean, my experience has been so rewarding.

I mean, you know, we're having this interview right now, you know, that never would have happened had I not started releasing my sweaty secret because it is, it's a secret, it's a sweaty, shameful secret for so many people. But once you start talking about it, it's so rewarding, you know, and you don't have to tell the entire world, but even if you tell one person in your immediate circle, “Hey, I have this thing it's called hyperhidrosis, it's not all of who I am, but it's part of who I am”.

Amanda: And that's also why we started Dermadry segments. We wanted to have these interviews with doctors, dermatologists, advocates, influencers, anyone that could actually speak about it and get their word out there as well. It's not just always about the treatment.

It's also really about speaking about it. There's so many people that are kind of shy and shy away from it. And then that creates more anxieties and then kind of more division, you know, when you go into a job interview, for example, when, when you want to go shake that hand, you're kind of super hesitant.

And then that kind of sometimes could create some type of like friction or so on and so forth. So I think spreading the word, like you said, it's building that courage and kind of spreading it around and this is a time of need, especially during hyperhidrosis month to speak about it.

Speaking actually about hyperhidrosis. What do you see for the future in terms of its developments? So it could be in the treatment itself in research, or actually spreading the word. So what do you see the future like in these aspects?

Maria: Gosh, that's a big question. I would say treatment-wise. I would love to see more treatments that act locally rather than systematically in the body.

So they treat one area at the point of contact versus having to, you know, for example, if you had to take a pill that acts systemically and has to go through your entire body versus just treating the external area that's sweating. I would also like to see more affordable treatment options. And having kind of a social equity piece to that, you know, there are people all over the world who have hyperhidrosis and don't have access to these treatments.

They can't afford the medications or the devices used to treat hyperhidrosis. So, you know, funding, scholarship opportunities, something like that to really get these treatments into the hands, into the sweaty hands of people who need them most. And then as far as awareness, you know, I just encourage people if you have hyperhidrosis start talking about it, you know, find a support group, visit my website, visit the Dermadry website.

You know, there are resources out there, but I would also caution people to, to do their research and don't rely strictly on a support group or the first ad that you see in an internet search result, do your research, you know, a lot of the time when you come across an internet search, you know, you'll see paid advertisements.

So just make sure you're doing your due diligence before you select a doctor before you select a treatment option before you decide, you know, who your top resources are going to be.

Amanda: Yeah. Yeah. Even when it comes to picking a doctor, sometimes there's patients that are so hesitant to even speak about it, that they shy away from even speaking to a dermatologist or speaking to even their own family.

So I think this is a perfect month to show that and advocate for that and allow that communication to flow easily.

Maria: Right, I absolutely agree. And also better educating doctors, not just dermatologists, but doctors in general, you know, these are our signs of hyperhidrosis. These are symptoms. I mean, the symptom of hyperhidrosis obviously is the sweating itself.

But if there could be some type of checklist that all doctors could have in their office, that's part of their general intake form. You know, then the doctor would be the one initiating that conversation instead of having to rely on the patient to develop enough courage, to even number one, get an appointment in the first place. And number two, bring it up when they're sitting on the exam table, sweating through the exam table paper.

Amanda: And I think that is a good point. I think now slowly but surely things are progressing in that. I know there's a lot of doctors that now are actually being aware and starting to speak about it a little bit more with their patients. So I think the future is looking pretty bright when it comes to advocacy in the hyperhidrosis world.

Maria: I think so, too.

Amanda: Very positive approach! I know you have so many useful tips that you've already given already during this segment, but are there any other really important tips that you would love to share with someone that is listening right now that does know or does suffer from hyperhidrosis?

Maria: I would say, just try to set yourself up for success, you know, analyze the things in your environment. So if you have an office job, find a small desk fan that you can bring to work, you know, throw a couple of hand towels in your desk drawer that you can wipe your hands on. If you have sweaty hands, you can tell your employer, you can disclose it to your employer and let them know if there's a spot in the office that's closer to an air conditioning vent. I would prefer to be near that. You know, I find, I personally do a lot better if I have airflow. So if I can feel air moving across the room, whether that's from a fan or an air conditioning vent, that really helps me do better.

Bringing a change of socks with you in a bag, a change of shoes, even a change of clothes. You know, sometimes we think, “Oh, you know, I've got the perfect outfit on. It's completely sweat friendly”. And then we go about our day and something happens that triggers us to sweat even more than we think we might have, that we've got a backup, a backup pair of clothes.

Yeah, little things like that. Apply your antiperspirant at night to clean underarms because your body temperature gets lower at night, so that will help the product to better absorb and make sure, you know, the difference between an antiperspirant and a deodorant. An antiperspirant reduces sweat, a deodorant just covers up the odor.

Amanda:There's a lot of people that do ask the questions even with us, or even can they use the Dermadry product, for example? Well, I'm using a deodorant and we're like, yes, of course, you can still do that. You know, you need a balance of both as well.

And sometimes like, with the odor as well, there's, you know, there's so many ups and downs with it. Sometimes there is none, sometimes there is, and we want to really make sure that people know that difference as well.

Maria: Right!

Amanda: Are there any final thoughts that you would like to share on your experience with hyperhidrosis or anything related to iontophoresis?

Maria: I would say if you have hyperhidrosis, just realize that you are so much more than your condition. It's part of who you are, but it's not all of who you are and you can transcend your circumstances. There's a quote by Dr. Maya Angelou that says I can be changed by my circumstances, but I refuse to be reduced by them.

So the choice is yours. You know, you can be a victim or you can be a victor. And like I said before, all it takes is just one little step each day to build your courage and your confidence. So maybe that first step is reaching out to Dermadry for help with, with, you know, hyperhidrosis treatment. Maybe iontophoresis is your next step. So just take the next step and, you know, you'll feel better eventually.

Amanda: Yeah, that's actually beautifully said and. In all. And I think that's really important to share, and I really hope that this could actually allow that conversation to happen. I hope people will reach out to you and talk about their hyperhidrosis and keep sharing that community. And especially, like I said, in this time at home, sometimes you feel, you know, you're overthinking or you get different types of anxieties. And I think it's an important time, especially now, to share that.

Maria: Absolutely.

Amanda: Thank you very much, Maria, for joining us today and sharing your experience and your thoughts, and thank you very much for listening to today's episode! Have a good one.

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