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Learning to manage my anxiety and panic attacks with running

Michael was one of the very first people to like us on Facebook and he’s been such a great cheerleader for the cause ever since! He’s always passing along awesome videos and articles about mental health my way AND he even tattoo’d the Run Arrows design on his leg. I’m so in awe at Michael’s tenacity and will to run no matter what. I hope you enjoy his journey with running and mental health as much as I do! Thank you, Michael!


Michael triathlon picture

I started running in August of 2012 when my son MJ was born. I wanted to be around to see my children grow up, so I knew I needed to start exercising and in the process of running, I quickly fell in love with it. Like many runners, I worked up to my first 5k and then knew I had to go keep going. In the Spring of 2013 I ran my first half marathon and in the Fall of 2013 I ran the Detroit Full Marathon. Running was such a great way to exercise and to keep my head clear.

Fast forward to the Fall of 2016. My stress levels were at an all time high and my “pot of water”, so to speak, began to overflow. I felt run down and worn out and one morning I had a severe panic attack. At the time I thought it was a heart attack and that I was going to die. When I was a kid, my father had open heart surgery, so I’ve always had anxiety around my health ever since.

My panic attack was so bad I almost passed out. It was terrible. Of course, I went to the hospital, where they ran all of the normal heart tests. They all came back fine. The doctors explained how my stress and anxiety had actually caused the panic attack.

Unfortunately, that was just the first of many attacks like that one. I was very scary and depressed.

Something had switched inside me that morning. Now, anytime I felt a little out of breath from doing anything slightly physical, I panicked. Sometimes, while just sitting at my desk at work, I would have panic attacks for no reason. That proved to be a huge problem for running. The thing I had used as a relief was now something I feared. For a few months, I couldn’t even walk around the block without fear of panic attacks. I was constantly checking my pulse and blood pressure. I was a mess.

Getting Help

run arrow tattoo

Thankfully, my wonderful wife Ginger helped me realize I needed to seek out help. I saw my doctor who prescribed medicine and a visit to see a therapist. With their help and the medicine, I was able to get my stress and anxiety to a manageable level.

At some point during the winter I was able to get the courage to get back into running. It was during this time that I found the Still I Run community. I immediately knew that I was meant to find out about Sasha and the community. It fit perfect with where I was at in life. Even though I have health anxiety and panic issues, #stillirun.

For my 35th birthday in February I even got a tattoo of the arrow logo and I look at it each day because it is a reminder that no matter how afraid or scared I may be, I have to find the courage to get out there and run. I am now in a place where I am able to enjoy most of my runs again. I am so thankful for this community and the people here.


By Michael Camilleri

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