This was a significant week as we wrestled in Krav Maga class. This may not sound like a big deal, but wrestling is where I first experienced panic attacks and they built up to increase in frequency and intensity. I vividly remember the feelings of confusion and fear that came the first time I had a panic attack in wrestling practice. I had wrestled the previous year and enjoyed it, but it hit me hard, I couldn’t breath, my mind began racing, my only thought was to escape and feeling of impending death if I didn’t get out. I eventually quit wrestling as the attacks were constant and I began experiencing anticipatory anxiety, where I would have anxiety and panic attacks thinking of the panic attacks I would experience at the next practice.
It has been 14 years since I wrestled and in Krav Maga, there are drills that involve ground moves and escaping being held down. These drills drove a lot of anxiety, but have become a comfortable feeling with constant exposure. Last class was a definitive progress check as at the end of class we practiced full on wrestling. I hesitated as nervousness began and I questioned if I should make an excuse and sit the drill out. I focused my attention on diaphragm breathing and began using realistic thinking exercises to reframe my thoughts. I have made enough excuses and missed enough events to last a lifetime. I decided to take this drill one step at a time and see how it went.
As the timer started, I felt comfortable and was smiling on the inside as I knew how much it meant to be back on the mat, where the panic all began. I quickly felt at ease and concentrated on the drill, it felt great to be back and not have any anxiety, I was fairly relaxed. As I began getting tired, this is when the panic generally started, but focusing on the fact that I was safe and could breathe, it was not an issue. We wrestled for 15 minutes and I walked out of the gym knowing that a large hurdle had been cleared. This was the affirmation that I needed to mark how far I have come in the past 2 years.
From feeling lost, afraid, and at times, paralyzed with anxiety to even eneter the gym, to walking in without hesitation and now returning to wrestling without fear, I know that recovery has been made. By going back to wrestling, it feels like I have come full-circle, except I am not the same person I was 14 years ago. This person has now experienced the darkness anxiety and panic can bring to one’s life and how recovering adds strength, confidence, and the belief that one can achieve anything envisioned in the mind.
I write this post not to impress you, but to impress upon you that progress is possible. There will be challenges faced, but if you face your challenge, you will come out a stronger person, with added perspective, and the question will not be “what can I do?”, but “what do I want to achieve?”
Best wishes on your journey, challenges are presented to give us strength.