‘I started having panic attacks. Bad ones. No rhyme or reason for them. It greatly impacted my life.’

Courtesy of Rita K. Dills

A few years ago, I started having panic attacks. Bad ones. No rhyme or reason for them. My triggers seemed to be large crowds and driving. It greatly impacted my life. I was unable to drive the short commute to work. I had to get rides from friends and family members to work and everywhere else.

I felt such panic if I was in a room with more than a few people. It feels like you might die, at least that is how it felt for me. I tried everything to control them. Medications prescribed by the doctor. Techniques to control them taught by the counselor. Nothing seemed to help. They just became a way of life.

I was controlled by the panic for years. PSA: If someone in your life is suffering from panic attacks, anxiety disorders, or depression, please never, ever tell them to ‘just get over it.’

Believe me if it were that simple, we would do it in a heartbeat. Then my friend Mistie got us tickets to see Garth Brooks in Knoxville–in Neyland Stadium–with almost 85,000 people.

You see, she knows I love all things Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood. I was so excited. I was also absolutely freaking terrified. I almost backed out so many times. I cataloged every excuse I could use in my brain. As much as I wanted to see Garth, the panic was overwhelming and the concert was still weeks away.

Courtesy of Rita K. Dills

I reasoned that I had seen Garth on the World Tour with Trisha years earlier. I could make it without going to this concert. Probably no panic attacks if I stayed home, you see. As the concert got closer the panic was still there but so was the desire to go. I prayed a lot. Looked at my old concert photos. Realized that Mistie had done so much to get the tickets. I decided to go.

I made a plan. I would just find the exits as soon as we got there in case I had a panic attack. I was still terrified. Mistie drove all the way down from OH to pick me up in NC, then we went to TN. I was a wreck. I went from excited to nervous at least 100 times on the 2½ hour trip.

Mistie was awesome. She was so encouraging. “One Step at a Time.” and “You get to go to a Garth concert at the end. Just remember that.” were the affirmations of the day. We did everything from parking to getting to our seats, one step at a time.

Rita Dills (writer) and her friend, Mistie

I won’t lie. I was feeling panicked. I did find the exits, just in case. I just kept telling myself, Garth concert at the end. When the opening act started, I still felt panicked and uneasy. I wasn’t sure I was going to make it.

I did meet the nicest Garth fans who distracted me by telling me about all the concerts they had been to. That helped. Then the countdown for Garth to come on stage started. I was still panicked but the excitement in the stadium was contagious.

When he came on stage, it was electric. The concert was amazing from start to finish. I laughed, I screamed, I cried, I sang. But, I didn’t have a panic attack. I got so lost in the music and so lost in the performance, that I forgot everything else.

It was soothing to my soul. I am not saying that going to a Garth concert can cure panic attacks. If that were the case, he would be even more popular than he is now, if that’s possible. I am saying there is a reason that Garth is the Entertainer of a Lifetime.

Courtesy of Rita K. Dills

After the concert, I found doing some things a little easier. I went to restaurants. I attended large family functions. I went grocery shopping. By March of this year, I was driving again. Mostly locally, but well enough to get to work and do errands.

Garth and Trisha are always playing when I drive. I find it helps. This week’s tunes have been We Shall Be Free, Every Girl in this Town, That’s What Cowboys Do, and Shallow.

The pandemic has made things interesting to say the least. I am still driving. No large crowds since March, but I am looking forward to my next concert, whenever it’s safe to do so! Right now, if you are struggling with something and you feel like you might be stuck in the struggle forever, don’t give up!

Things can change. Sometimes you find comfort and strength in the most unlikely places. Don’t get me wrong, some days are a struggle. I will face it because I went to a stadium with 85,000 people and it was freaking amazing!

About the author:
This story was submitted to Positive Outlooks by Rita K. Dills. If you wish to submit an essay (reflections on life), personal story (inspirational or humorous) or something that you witnessed that inspired you, please go HERE.