I hurried home after work with excitement pulsing through my veins. My best friend of over six years had finally bit the bullet and agreed to join a gym with me, and tonight was our first night. I dug through my clean laundry and found my best sports bra, gym pants, and comfy t-shirt, donned my black Nike’s and pulled my hair into a high pony. I was ready to get fit. The gym parking lot was filling up as we arrived, and after I put my car into park the excitement in my veins turned to anxiety in my chest.
What the crap am I doing here?
Muscle toned men walked through the front door, chugging their protein shakes and pre workout. Fit women bounced around the gym looking like Instagram models, and here I was; a very large women in old sneakers scanning the gym for a place to hide. Nothing about me shouts gym goer and I felt as though all eyes were on me as I climbed on to the treadmill in the back of the cardio section. I plugged in my earphones, pulled up a Youtube video and started my very slow journey.
30 minutes Karisa, you can do this.
Next to me, my best friend plugged away at his workout, switching speeds and inclines, and would flash a sweaty smile my way here and there. I was doing it! The lady next to me was running about as fast as Dash from the Incredibles but I didn’t let that get me down. I was walking, which is way better than sitting on my couch in front of my TV. I picked up my pace, increased the incline and made sure to monitor my heart rate, when out of the blue a panic attack struck. All at once I had an impending sense of doom on my body. My chest grew heavy, my heart felt as though it would explode from pounding so hard, and my already sweaty body felt as though I had just gotten out of the pool.
You see, I have a panic disorder to go along with my anxiety disorder, and exercising is a big trigger for me. As my heart rate increases and my body sweats, my brain recognizes these things as panic attack symptoms and it springs into action.
On the treadmill, I quickly lowered my speed and made my way to the side of the cardio room, hoping no one could see me. Tears filled my eyes as I worked hard to slow down my breathing and tell myself that I was fine; nothing bad was happening here. This wasn’t the first time I have had a panic attack in a gym and I am sure it won’t be the last, but I knew I couldn’t let myself leave only 15 minutes into my workout and feeling more defeated than ever. I took some deep breathes, got back on the treadmill, and began my walk once more. I ended up finishing my 30 minutes on the treadmill and I have to say, I was proud. It wasn’t the hardest workout and it certainly wasn’t the prettiest, but I conquered my panic attack and finished what needed to be done.
I have let my anxiety and panic disorders run my life for many, many years. I have used them as a crutch to get out of things that I’m afraid of like making new friends, going to new places, and finding love. I have become an obese woman because I am too afraid to change my life due to the panic any change brings me, but this time I refuse to give in to fear. I will be at that gym as many days as my fat body can handle and I will be anxious, afraid, and nervous, but I will no longer let those emotions control my future.
I can do this.