Conquering the High-five

by Ohm Deshmukh ’25
Ohm Deshmukh ’25 has come to grips with an embarrassing condition.
Ohm Deshmukh ’25 has come to grips with an embarrassing condition.

The words “Let’s play Ring Around the Rosie” struck fear into my 7-year-old heart. Aside from it being a dull activity, a teacher usually initiated it, which meant I had no choice but to participate. My fear stemmed from hyperhidrosis, a condition I had been diagnosed with that causes excessive sweating from my hands and feet. The symptoms are exacerbated in times of stress, such as tests, tennis matches and playing the piano, making it quite an inconvenience. On the rare occasion my hands were dry, I would worry about them sweating, which would cause them to sweat even more. Social situations were awkward, primarily due to the “dreaded handshake” with adults or high-fives with friends. Frequently, I would have to wipe my hand on my shirt, which had to be made of absorbent material, and hope the other person didn’t respond with disgust. I often hesitated, not wanting to make others uncomfortable, or worse, damp.

As I got older, I became more involved with activities and met more people, and my dripping hands started to impact my self-esteem. For example, during piano recitals, people scheduled to perform after me often had to wipe down the piano due to the sweat I left behind. During tests and speeches, my papers would often be wet, blurring the ink. This made it difficult to concentrate and made me anxious, which affected my motivation. At times, my condition was almost unbearable; as a result, I quit playing the violin, which I had played for five years, and almost quit the piano.

As I entered high school, I decided to stop making my condition a crutch for my excuses and turned it into an opportunity to better myself. I realized that to conquer my condition, I had to train myself to choose my response. If I had a piano recital, I made sure to come prepared with my own cloth to wipe the piano after my performance. When taking a test, I would carry a blank sheet of paper to overlay my answer sheet to prevent it from getting wet when writing or bubbling in answers. If I lost my grip on my tennis racquet, I would simply wipe my hands and re-grip it more firmly. I slightly altered my technique to account for my racquet slipping by holding the racquet face more openly, widening my stance and adding more spin to my shot.

Not only did this change in mindset alter the way I approached my activities, but it also gave me a new confidence in myself. I felt that I could handle new problems and any pressures that I faced. I was able to objectively perceive and accordingly react to my thoughts and emotions when necessary. Whether it was a high-stakes tennis match or exam, I learned to subvert my anxiety and fear of losing the point or getting a question wrong, similar to my experience with hyperhidrosis, by focusing my full attention on the task.

In hindsight, I believe hyperhidrosis has been a blessing in disguise. It has taught me to persevere, identify creative solutions and to learn to laugh at myself. I now recognize that I can choose how I respond to any situation I encounter. Conquering handshakes, high-fives and a phobia of “Ring Around the Rosie” has encouraged me to take ownership of my challenges, develop creative solutions and deal with awkwardness. I now extend my hand with confidence and a smile.

Ohm Deshmukh ’25 is a neuroscience major from Garnet Valley, Pa.