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How I Got Healthy: Part One: Panic Attacks and a Work in Progress

While the anxiety attacks are gone, and I feel really great most of the time, I am still a work in progress. I am eager to embrace what's ahead for me as I continue to grow and evolve. I truly feel lucky to be happier and healthier, but always learning.
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My name is Julie Sacks. I'm a well-being entrepreneur. This is the first in a two-part series about my journey from emotional exhaustion to the best version of me -- mind, body and soul.

How I Got Healthy: Part One: Panic Attacks and A Work in Progress

The first time I had a panic attack at age 23, it came out of nowhere. I remember it clearly. I was sitting at my desk talking to my colleagues, and suddenly I felt as if I had lost my balance, even though I was sitting. It was as though I was looking through some strange glass, and everything felt unsafe, as if the ground beneath me wasn't solid. It was terrifying.

I had just moved to the United States from England. Estranged from my family at that time, due to a very difficult relationship with my mother, I thought I was leaving my problems behind for a new adventure. However, these panic attacks, sometimes up to 20 a day, made me an emotional wreck during this big adventure of mine.

I felt so afraid, alone and paralyzed. When a panic attack overwhelmed me, I just wanted to crawl into a ball and disappear. A psychologist wanted to put me on prescription medication to stop the attacks. I was desperate, and I would have given anything to have immediate emotional peace, but I knew that what I needed was to find out why I was experiencing these attacks. I felt that if I started medication I might never stop, and that frightened me more than the attacks themselves.

Panic attacks ruled my life for years, popping up at the worst times -- when I was at my most stressed or at an important meeting or a social gathering. I tried to mask them by self-medicating with alcohol as an escape, which just made me feel so much worse. I somehow held it together, day after day, to hold down a full-time job and support myself. But just holding it together is no way to live your life.

I could not ignore that I needed a long-term solution, but I knew from day one that the answer wasn't medication. For me, as I understood it at the time, medication would only suppress the pain but not release it. I made a very personal and pivotal decision to reject medication and found a therapist who would work with me, without it.

I dove into natural therapies, such as meditation, hypnotherapy, acupuncture, Reiki, exercise, yoga, and eating real, unprocessed foods. I started with one therapy and added others. I had to experiment and get myself out of a cycle of eating junk food, drinking too much and not getting enough rest. I educated myself and read everything I could find that was healing and inspiring, including Deepak Chopra, Don Miguel Ruiz, Michael Pollen, Daniel Goleman and Eckhart Tolle. Through trial and error, and making hard personal choices, I got a hold of my emotions, my anxiety and reduced the attacks.

I finally got to the bottom of my attacks and realized they were caused by an emotionally turbulent relationship with my mother, and the fact that I was adopted. Through this journey of exploring how to get healthy, I repaired my relationship with my mother, and I discovered the power of mind, body, and soul working together for wellbeing. The more things I did to help myself, the better things got for me. Some of us can be tempted under stress to eat unhealthy foods, not get enough sleep, neglect exercise or self-medicate with alcohol or drugs. I learned that when I do take good care of myself, even thought it might be challenging at times, I feel calm, connected and well. This "aha" has changed my life.

It wasn't until I was about 35 years old that I felt really okay. But, I knew there was more work to do. Now, in my 40s, instead of looking for things outside of myself to make me feel better, I focus on my desire to lead a healthy life, period, and I know what it takes to do it. The time I invested in peeling back the layers, one by one, has made all the difference. I don't need to make healthy choices. I want to make healthy choices every single day.

Each of us faces different well-being challenges, all highly personal. Perhaps you're one of the 34.9 percent of U.S adults struggling with obesity or one of the millions experiencing overwhelming stress without the tools to cope. Maybe you're just struggling to make everyday healthy choices, confused about what to eat to be healthy. You are not alone.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution, and the idea of getting healthy might seem daunting. Try making one small change at a time, like drinking more water instead of diet soda, and make an impact on your life right away. Experiment, like I did. Find what helps you feel better, and go for it. Search for and soak in the stories of others who have carved their own personal paths to well being, and be inspired enough to act on what you learn, a little at a time.

While the anxiety attacks are gone, and I feel really great most of the time, I am still a work in progress. I am eager to embrace what's ahead for me as I continue to grow and evolve. I truly feel lucky to be happier and healthier, but always learning.

To be continued... in Part 2: My Dad's Last Words On How to Live My Life

Julie Sacks is the Founder of Vie, a modern movement for wellbeing, which features, a web site with a growing community that includes experts, partners and thought leaders on mind, body and soul. The site offers educational and inspirational content, celebrity interviews with doctors, athletes and chefs -- all focused on how to live your healthiest and happiest life. Vie is purpose driven, and donates 10% of all profits back to the community in a partnership with the Sylvia Center, an organization which inspires children to eat well -- so that they may lead healthy and productive lives.