Panic Attack in a Wetsuit

I never understood the depleting power of a panic attack until I had one myself.

A few years ago, I stood on the bank of a local reservoir, wearing a wetsuit. It was my first triathlon in open water.

I had normal pre-race jitters. If I could make it through the swim, I felt confident I could finish the rest of the race.

blogphoto-triathlonThe announcement was made for us to swim out to the starting line. I treaded water and took deep breaths to calm my nerves.

The gun went off and the chaos began.  Oh mercy! Waves splashed in my face. Arms smacked my head. People swam over me.

Being a first-timer, I had started near the back but that didn’t erase the mayhem. I swam to the outside in attempt to find calmer water and get my swim stroke into a rhythm.

All of a sudden my wetsuit felt tight and constricting. It was hard to breathe and I panicked. I wanted my wetsuit off.

I turned over and swam backstroke, hoping it would help me breathe. After a minute I felt better and began swimming again.

My wetsuit felt tighter and I was now hot.

I could see a lifeguard in a kayak observing me. Oh no! Please don’t yank me out of the race. I’m okay.

My pride took over. My coaches and friends were waiting for me at the finish line. How bogus it would be to say, “Well, I quit after 5 minutes in the swim because my wetsuit felt tight.”

I continued to switch back and forth from freestyle to backstroke and eventually was able to swim freestyle to the end.

The next week I shared the incident with, Kevin Everett, one of our coaches who is also a professional triathlete. He pointed out my mistake was that I had not done a warm up prior to racing.

“You need to wake up your heart and prepare it for what you’re about to do. Trust your preparation and then go. You got it! You’re ready.”

Boise ironman swim

Photo by Amy Carey – Active Focus Photography

I followed his advice prior to my next triathlon and my swim went so well.

We all have goals and dreams but sometimes life gets in the way. Externals invade and throw us off. Before we know it, self-doubt shows its ugly face.

I struggle with self-doubt but my coach’s words are now a tool I use to fight it.

Prepare your heart. I need a strong heart both physically and spiritually in order to be all that God has created me to be.

Physical strength requires movement. It doesn’t have to be long and hard. A ten to twenty minute walk will do wonders for my mood.

Spiritual strength requires me being still and quiet before God.

I believe there is a strong connection between the two and that God desires both for us. Consistency is key.

Trust your preparation. Once I’ve done the work then I should be free to trust it. However, this is where doubt attacks me. Doubt is a door that allows stronger and more negative emotions to enter in. I must proactively choose to believe that I’m ready.

Go! I can prepare and be ready physically and emotionally but unless I act on it, I’ll be a spectator, standing on the bank watching others achieve their dreams.

God wants us to have an abundant life. Go for it!

Do you ever struggle with self-doubt?

Have you ever had a panic attack?

What helped you overcome it?








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