First of all, finding this site was a step in the right direction. I found it about 3 years ago. First because I was researching reflux surgery, but happily I found the anxiety forum as well. It is a great site!
I was born with underlying anxiety, but it was always manageable, until 2007, right around the age of 40. I was in an extremely stressful job, and out of nowhere started to have panic attacks when giving presentations, and worst of all, like you just had, while driving - mostly on the highway, or places I didn't know well. Also in the store etc. Or, just out of nowhere for no reason????
I was so against meds because my dad was always on them and he seemed to get worse. I tried numerous therapists and it just didn't click originally.
I fought my family doctor on anti-depressants, but did agree to a benzo that I could take "as needed" to save my job; Klonopin. It was helpful, and still is, however, your body always needs more over time because it gets used to the original dose. I keep it in control though, and so does my doctor.
Less than a year ago I agreed to go on a low dose of Lexapro because he is trying to ease up on my use of klonopin. He has upped my does of Lexapro, but I still need both for now. Have to admit, I forget to take my Lex every night, but I do take it most nights. Notice little difference, or maybe it is why I feel a bit better?
I also try a lot of natural rememdies; Rescue Remedy by Bach, and I did go to a good therapist for about a year. I have a bit of break through here and there, but I am grateful to find this blend that works for me. My ultimate goal is to not need either, but that means I have to keep working on the mindfulness techniques, and probably head back to therapist.
Maybe, due to your job, a benzo would help in the short term, but a word of cautions; while I in no way think I am addicted to them, I think they are an easy quick fix until I can "find" time for more natural remedies, which I never find the time for.... that's the warning. But I work with clients and I can't very well test myself without the benzo too often for fear of losing my job. I panicked in front of clients a couple times prior, and never want to go through that again!!!! They say panic surfaces from the fear of just having one, and I think that is what I experience.
I applaud you for making it back from that trip. I know that terrible out of body experience when driving, and fighting it the best I can until I could get out of the situation - so scary!!!! I've had little "light" episodes I easily work through with meds, but test myself off klonopin when I have no where to go for a day.
Our illness is different than taking a pill for high blood pressure, or using insulin for blood sugar, but nonetheless, it is a troubling disorder, and there are meds to help ease the burden while we try natural remedies. Much like diet and exercise can get someone off meds for sugar, or blood pressure, that is what I strive for with anxiety. I use them until I know I can ease off and heal myself with the correct behaviors and practices. Best of luck to you!!!! Virgo Girl