Panic Attack Disorder Is Not A Sign Of Weakness

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“Tunnel vision… every athlete on the planet understands this.

We zero in. We focus on the goal. Head down; eyes forward. It’s in our bones. And we won’t stop until we tightly grip the nucleus of what we’re after. 

But raw ambition and drive are not the only things to create ‘tunnel vision.’

woman lifting weight up to shoulder outside
Courtesy of Kim Parker

Sometimes it’s a byproduct of an uncontrollable and roaring chemical imbalance within your brain. It’s unseen by most, but felt with the force of a lion within the individual suffering.

It’s fastened like a straight jacket to other intrusive and all consuming physical, emotional, and mental components. All are debilitating. All paralyze you in fear.

And it’s not something you just ‘switch off,’ because the power of this chemical imbalance is so often greater than the individual’s willpower. This isn’t about one’s strength. It’s about the brain’s necessity for balanced serotonin.

woman laying on pillow with tears in eye
Courtesy of Kim Parker

From shortness of breath, lightheadedness, racing thoughts, jitteriness, and pounding blood pressure through your neck. To scatterbrained and unsorted thoughts, fear of impending doom at every turn, and senses on such high alert that every sound, smell, and sensation feels too much to process. Heart rate jumps, muscle weakness, tingling in your extremities, feeling like your choking, etc…

All are exceedingly and increasingly oppressive and terrifying. All are the body’s reaction to the chemical imbalance. FEAR becomes a companion you never asked for. And irrationality becomes a familiar friend resurfacing to destroy you.

I’d prefer the former, but unfortunately the latter has been my recent life.

Throughout this entire lifting session, my tunnel vision was very raw and very real. Not because of my athlete nature. But because panic attack disorder buries your judgment and clear sight – especially when the chemical balancing drug you’ve taken for close to 10 years stops working completely. 

woman putting weight on bar in gym
Courtesy of Kim Parker

My legs were trembling and my hands were tingling. But, I REFUSED TO CONCEDE.

I’ve already taken one trip to the emergency room in the past month, thinking I was having a heart attack, only to find out every part of me was healthy.

My blood pressure and heart rate spike because of my brain’s chemical imbalance. My rational filter has taken flight. So my brain is assessing threats at every turn and dumping an avalanche of adrenaline as a reaction.

My doctor describes it as my body always ‘preparing for a bear attack.’ That adrenaline spins everything into overdrive. It’s necessary when you’re actually running from a bear. But it’s NOT when you’re getting out of bed, sitting at your desk at work, or driving to the grocery store to pick up dinner.

IV in the hand of woman with anxiety and panic attack disorder
Courtesy of Kim Parker

I’ve cried more tears in the last few months than I did the entire time I walked with my mother as she approached the end of her journey on this earth. I’ve felt so defeated and embarrassed, that it’s borderline unbearable more days than not. Because that’s what Panic Attack Disorder does: skews your vision and derails your rationale.

Please, please, please talk with your doctor if you’re experiencing any of these things.

There are many treatments available for anxiety and panic associated disorders. Not everyone has to take medication. I do. And I’m okay with that. But I also practice yoga, meditation, and breathing techniques.

woman stands in front of lake doing yoga pose
Courtesy of Kim Parker

There’s no need to suffer, when this has nothing to do with sheer willpower.

You are not weak. You have not magically become frail and defective. Those things are lies anxiety and panic will tell you. And because the logic in your thinking and reasoning is basically an overturned train, you must silence those lies and take your power back.

I’m with you. And there are many who will stand and say the same.”

This article was submitted to Love What Matters by Kim Parker. You can follow her on Instagram. Join the Love What Matters family and subscribe to our newsletter.

Read more stories like this here:

‘My arms are tingling!’ The wind knocked out of me. ‘Um, are you having a heart attack?’ My anxiety went from zero to a million.’: Woman with Generalized Anxiety, Panic Disorder declares anxiety ‘can’t take away my strength’

‘Today, for the first time ever, I had to call an ambulance because of my anxiety. Unable to breathe, I threw up and broke down screaming, ‘Why me?’: Woman shares PSA on reality of anxiety

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