The first time it happened, I was at a ZZ Top, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Bob Dylan concert. I had watched the first two acts and was coming inside from an intermission. My date and I got back to our seats and Bob came on stage. About 3 minutes into his first song, I felt odd and slightly nauseous. I sat down, thinking it would pass. I must have turned white as a sheet because my date turned to me and asked if I was alright. I told him that I wanted to get some air because all of a sudden I couldn't breathe and I thought I was going to be sick and didn't want to do it in the crowd. As he was leading me past the other concert goers, I collapsed. He reached back and pulled me up to get me out of there. There were paramedics there and he took me to them. They put an oxygen mask on me and were asking me questions. I was having a hard time paying attention, my ears were ringing and I felt so awful that I was wondering if I was going to die. They loaded me up in the ambulance and took me to the hospital where they monitored me. Nothing else happened and I seemed to be fine so they let me go home. I was tired but felt good and after some rest, I was back to my old self. About a week later, I was on stage for a choir concert when I was feeling the same way. I quickly left the stage before I passed out and my mom later told me that I had gone completely white and she thought I was going to collapse. I knew by this point that something was wrong.

It would start with a little tickle in my tummy. Then the small of my back would tingle and I KNEW it was coming… an anxiety attack. If you suffer from anxiety attacks, then you know what I'm talking about. You know that you're about to have an attack and the knowledge that it's imminent only feeds the attack. I would have problems if I ever ventured to go outside of my "comfort zone," which included work, home, and church. If my husband (then boyfriend) wanted to go to the movies, I felt one start. If my mom wanted me to go shopping with her, I would instantly get nervous. Then, as soon as I got out of my area of comfort, I start to sweat, my heart pounds, I get dizzy and my hands and feet get numb, then I feel sick and have to race to the bathroom where I could spend up to an hour, unable to leave. The feeling of panic was overwhelming and almost brought me to tears. In my head, I KNEW I wasn't going to die, but it still felt that way at times. After suffering daily, sometimes several times each day, I finally have my anxiety under control and my life is the way I always wanted it to be. I can go anywhere I want and I even got on an airplane for the first time and enjoyed it! This previously would have set off my anxiety and I'm not sure I could have forced myself to do it. I will let you in on what gets me through this debilitating condition.

1.) God - even before I found a drug that helped me control my anxiety, I would feel myself starting to have an attack and I would begin to pray. I asked God to please help me and I trusted Him to be with me and I knew He was there. Many times this was enough to avert an attack. If I could slow down the attack long enough to find the peace inside of me that comes from knowing tha He would take care of me, I could do anything!

2.) Medication - I tried a couple of different drugs before finding Effexor XR. This drug has changed my life. All of a sudden, I'm able to do anything. I rarely have any breakthrough anxiety and other than being a little more tired than normal (and it's not by too much) I have no side effects. This is a non-addictive medication and I have been taking it successfully for over 7 years and it's still working as well now as the day I started it!

3.) Deep Breathing- This always sounded pretty hokey to me but it works very well. One of the reasons it works so well is that you concentrate your entire mind on the breathing. You breathe deep and slowly in for a count of 10 and out for a count of 10. As you're counting, truly focus on the counting and proper breathing. If you can really focus, you distract your mind from the panic and anxiety.

4.) Support Groups Online - I found some great support groups online where I could talk to people who were going through the same thing. Some people had the EXACT same issues that I did and that meant that there wasn't something terribly wrong with me and that I would be able to get through. It also felt good to be able to help others. In some of these groups, you can ask a specialist questions and get some great answers from them and also from other group members.

5.) Education - I got a couple of really great books at my local library and in them were some great coping tips and explanations. Something that really helped me was just being able to understand the physical things that were happening in my body to cause my attacks.

So, whether you suffer from anxiety, panic, depression, or any number of other mental/hormonal/emotional issues, don't just suffer in silence. Talk to your doctor and find something that works for you. Don't let any of these ruin what could be a very full and great life - you deserve better than that and it CAN happen! God bless and stay well.