People who have never experienced a panic attack often judge the anxious person harshly.
The outsider has no real comprehension of what is happening to the person experiencing a panic attack and wonders why they fear to do the simplest things.
I know myself that I could not understand how overnight I went from being a confident young man to someone who became anxious of common everyday situations.
Going places took on a whole new dimension as I constantly evaluated if being there might trigger a panic attack.
I had to force myself to do very simple things like go to the cinema or drive in traffic. As a man that type of anxiety really erodes self confidence, as so much of male self esteem comes from being perceived as strong and brave.
…but here I was afraid to queue at the bank!
I know this to be true because I have worked with many people from the 'bravest' professions around. Firemen, policemen, soldiers. All of them admired by others for their bravery.
Some of these individuals would actually prefer to run into a burning building than stay awake at night with a panic attack.
That sounds strange but it isn't really. In a burning building they knew what to do and how to handle the situation. During a panic attack they felt powerless and out of control.
What you have to remember is that panic attacks and general anxiety have no relationship to the level of courage an individual has. In fact it has nothing to do with the world out there, -it is a problem born out of an internal crisis.
It is easy to feel brave and fearless in the world when your internal world feels safe but when you feel those internal walls have been breached by fear, then your confidence is rocked. The danger you fear becomes internal. Your psychic foundations feel vulnerable.
That is where the crisis originates. The doubting of your ability to handle the sensations shakes your inner confidence and that is what the fear feeds off.
It is a crisis of confidence in your body and mind's ability to handle the stress. This crisis however does not stop the bravery.
People with anxiety actually do the bravest of things.
They get up each day and get on with life. Picking themselves up after each and every setback. It does not make headline news but it counts because it is real bravery, true courage.
To the untrained eye it does not seem like such a big deal to simply drive out of state, attend church, or go shopping. However for the person with anxiety, that experience can be a massive accomplishment, especially if they have tried and failed many times before.
The good news is:
This bravery does not go unrewarded.
Once the person has triumphed over their anxiety problem, they develop an inner strength that the average person never gets to develop.
You see, no matter how many brave things you do in the world, if you have not been challenged on an inner level, then you miss out on the opportunity to develop real inner strength.
That is the hidden opportunity anxiety presents to you. To become a bigger person than you already are. That is what you take from the challenge of anxiety.
It does not matter if you have not reached that point yet. The journey is unique to everyone so do not judge your progress against others.