Mental Health Series: Panic Attacks – Emily’s addendum

Emily first shared her panic attack experience here and had never had a panic attack while running. But, unfortunately, she has since her survey was posted—actually it was during a workout, not just a training run.

She was kind enough to send an update and share her experiences.


Update:

Since taking this survey, I can now say that I have officially experienced a panic attack while running. In the middle of a workout, about two-thirds of the way through a race-pace 5k, my throat suddenly constricted and my chest felt like it was being squeezed in a vise. No longer able to take a breath, with a pounding heart, I stopped to reset. It was honestly a little hard to tell the difference between my pounding heart from the pace I was running and the panic pounding. I tried to restart but kept having to stop because I felt emotionally overwhelmed and unable to focus. I eventually made it to the end, but when I stopped I was shaky and felt like crying. There were still 3 miles to go to get back to my car, and I took it slow with my training partner. When I got back all I could do was lie on the cement of the parking lot, trying to breathe and figure out what the heck just happened. As I was driving home, I burst into tears and had to try to compose myself before going into the house. My chest hurt for three days afterward, I could barely get out of bed the day after because I was so exhausted, and it took at least 5 days before I felt normal again.

I have a theory:

Until that workout, I thought I had been handling this pandemic pretty well. But I underestimated the stress of isolation, lack of routines, and struggle it would be to fuel myself adequately. When I feel anxious, I tend to lose my appetite. Combined with the stress-inducing environment of most grocery stores mid-pandemic, I had avoided the store and as a result had been eating less and less for a few weeks. I had also been neglecting my usual spiritual, restorative go-to’s (my current living situation is not super conducive to doing them). To top it all off, there is a lot of stress in the world right now and even if I wasn’t consciously aware of it, maybe my body picked up on those cues from my environment and they built up to a point where I could no longer ignore them. Maybe I was fooling myself and trying to downplay the stress in my life; but my body knew better, and knew how to get my attention. The slow, restful days without a forced agenda following the panic attack were what my body needed, and probably needs more of in general, right now.In conclusion: This pandemic is rough. Especially if you’re trying to train through it. Don’t dismiss your body’s cues or reactions, even if it feels ridiculous. 


This Mental Health Series on panic attacks was created to help us all feel less alone in our anxiety. If you’d like to contribute to the project, please submit your own story here: Panic Attack Survey.

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