"I Beat My Panic Attacks with Karate"
Within two years of discovering karate, my panic attacks stopped altogether and I was able, under my doctor's guidance, to stop taking medication (as a very welcome bonus, I also dropped about 10 pounds). But the real test -- a solo trip like that terrible one to Germany all those years ago -- didn't present itself for another year. After a discussion with my psychiatrist, I decided to book a trip to Arkansas to visit a business acquaintance whom I had never met in person. Armed with a just-in-case supply of the anti-anxiety medication Xanax, I packed my bags and headed for the airport.
It could have been the perfect storm of panic attacks: I was on a plane (scary) on my way to meet a person I had never laid eyes on (scarier) in a place I had never been (scariest of all). But miraculously, nothing happened. That night, alone in my hotel room, I practiced deep breathing and meditated. I performed kata in my head. The Xanax stayed in the bottle.
I believe that karate was my salvation. Not only can I now handle speaking in public, I actually enjoy it. I can travel anytime, anywhere, with anyone without having a panic attack. I know that a pounding heart, shortness of breath, or clammy hands are just feelings, not portents of doom. I have nothing to fear.
Originally published in Fitness magazine, February 2006.
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