A woman whose brother was killed at the World Trade Center on 9/11, who had been doing pretty well, becomes unglued upon seeing the trailer for the United 93 movie at the theatre.. Question:
Briefly, my brother died in the World Trade Center. Since the end of August after 9/11, I''ve gotten panic attacks. I was SOOO happy to see that you were coming to AZ in Aug this year and decided to attend your conference. Since then, I''ve done a lot of reading and work and thought I was OK and would spend my money on CEUs I need for my massage license.

Then I went to the movies and saw the preview for that movie about 9/11 and I''m a basket case! I WILL attend your conference, but could you PLEASE say something to me right now to kind of glue me back together? I can''t stop crying and I think my heart is actually breaking. I''m sorry to bother you, but I don''t know what to do.


Dear LD,
I''m sorry you had to get sandbagged by the trailer for that movie. Hundreds of other people had very upsetting reactions to being ambushed in the theatre by those scenes, too, just like you. It’’s unfair, because you don’t get to choose the trailers you watch.

All I can suggest is, let yourself cry. This will pass. It may be more accurate to say your heart is re-breaking. It broke with the loss of your brother, and this is a reprise of that experience - and the anguish will subside again, just as it did the last time. It may rear its ugly head many more times before it''s done with you. This is normal, given the intensity of what you''ve suffered. And even without the traumatic stress of a 9/11, grief is like this - it sneaks up on you and bites you in the butt, just when you''d least expect it to. The times you expect to be sad or upset are easier, in a way, than these sudden, unexpected stabs to the heart, when you''re not ready for them.

The other thing you can do regarding the panic attacks: practice a self-soothing skill on a very regular basis, at times when you are NOT having one - say, at home every morning or evening. This could be guided imagery, meditation, breathwork, yoga... whatever suits you. But do it regularly, so that it becomes so ingrained, that you will eventually be able to call upon the technique when you feel a panic attack coming on, and head it off at the pass. Again, this takes time. But you will be training yourself to self-regulate again.

Please be patient with yourself. It''s not likely to be a straight, linear resolution - this healing process typically has many ups and downs. But the big picture is on your side!

All best wishes,
P.S. You may want to check, but I''m pretty sure the sponsoring organization for my talk, The ConferenceWorks, gives out CEU''s to massage therapists - at least they''ve always done so in the past...

[Ed. Note: LD writes back: I am doing much better, of course. Thank you. See you in Phoenix in August.]