panic disorder dr margaret rutherfordI remember my first panic attack.

On a Sunday morning in my hometown.  My mid-20’s. In the back balcony of our church.  Singing a solo.  As I had done 1000 times before.

But this time was different.

This time there were things going on in the background of my life that only I knew.  Inner turmoil.  Pressure.  Vast disappointment in myself that I was trying to hide.

Outwardly still attempting look normal.  Successful.

I was a mess.  But didn’t recognize it.

So what at times could be a lilting soprano performance was that day a complete flop.  As soon as I tried to take my first breath, my body began to tremble underneath my choir robe, so much so that other choir members reached out to steady me.  Sweat was running down my skin.  I couldn’t hold out the notes in the song.  I felt as if some “thing” had invaded my body that was completely unknown to me.  I had never felt like this.  The organist kept staring at me, worried really. “Who are you and what have you done with Margaret?”  People in the congregation looked curiously over their shoulders toward the balcony.

It was finally over.  The longest song in the history of musical performance.

When I watched Dan Harris on ABC the other morning, reliving his Good Morning America on-air panic attack, I knew exactly how he felt.

I had missed that event.  10 years ago.  I had a 9 year-old then.  Morning TV shows just weren’t happening for me.

If you watch the tape, you can see it in his eyes.  That look of sheer helplessness.  “What is happening to me?  I feel totally out of control and I have to get out of here!”

He actually handled himself quite well.

Millions of people suffer from anxiety and panic disorder in the United States.  It is our most common mental disorder and there are several categories (explained in the above link).   Furthermore, it is depressing to have anxiety.  Frequently someone who experiences it has to deal with some form of depression as well.

A lot of people think they are having a heart attack when they are actually having a panic attack.  Shortness of breath, hyperventilation, heart racing, sweating.  It’s still important to check it out medically but don’t feel silly if they tell you it’s anxiety.  It’s difficult to tell the difference.

I am going to get a copy of Mr. Harris’ new book.  10% Happier.  I like the name for one thing.  He doesn’t promise the entire world.   He supposedly prescribes meditation as a great source of relief from his anxiety.  I know he is right.  It has helped many.

I myself denied for years that I had “panic.  I attributed the humiliating event described above as due to something I ate or some weird twist of bad luck.  I refused to believe that someone as “confident” as me could have something “wrong” like that.  It didn’t fit what I needed my persona to be.

Until it happened again. A few months later.

And again.

Finally a couple of years later.  I was trying to walk into a simple party. Where I knew people.  Felt welcome.

I had to walk out because I was shaking so much.

I started losing jobs as a jingle singer.  I would audition for the solo.  My voice would be too shaky to get the job.

dr margaret rutherford panic disorder

I hated my panic.

I went into therapy finally.   But didn’t get better until I found a therapist that told me I had to quit hating.

I will be curious about Mr. Harris’ journey.  I will read the book.  Get back with you.

I am ready to share more of my own.

Just so you know.  I don’t hate it anymore.



You can hear more about mental health and many other topics by listening to my podcast, SelfWork with Dr. Margaret Rutherford. Subscribe to my website and receive one weekly newsletter including my weekly blog post and podcast! If you’d like to join my FaceBook closed group, then click here and answer the membership questions! Welcome!

My new book entitled Perfectly Hidden Depression has arrived and you can order here! Its message is specifically for those with a struggle with strong perfectionism which acts to mask underlying emotional pain. But the many self-help techniques described can be used by everyone who chooses to begin to address emotions long hidden away that are clouding and sabotaging your current life.

And there’s a new way to send me a message! You can record by clicking below and ask your question or make a comment. You’ll have 90 seconds to do so and that time goes quickly. By recording, you’re giving SelfWork (and me) permission to use your voice on the podcast. I’ll look forward to hearing from you!


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