South Charlotte

She overcame anxiety and now helps others

Agoraphobia, as defined by the Mayo Clinic, is a "type of anxiety disorder in which you avoid situations that you're afraid might cause you to panic."

The anxiety can grow, eventually manifesting itself in such a way that a person is afraid to leave the safety of his or her home.

Many have endured the disorder, including celebrities like actor/director Woody Allen, actress Kim Basinger, singer Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys - and even Dr. Sigmund Freud.

Robin Fine, originally from the Washington, D.C., area, could be added to that list.

"I had my first panic attack in 1986. I believe it was directly related to a difficult person in the company I was working for," Fine said.

A University of Maryland graduate with a degree in public relations and journalism, Fine went to work for Hilton Hotels in Washington, D.C.

"President Ronald Reagan's assassination attempt occurred at (the Washington Hilton hotel), and we in the public relations department were always trying to get that out of subsequent headlines," Fine said.

Her panic attacks continued; on one occasion, Fine was taken to the hospital emergency room. Doctors there sent her to a psychiatrist, who prescribed anti-anxiety drugs.

"I felt better, but the medicine had side effects," Fine said. "It felt like I was living in a bland, monotone place."

She got off the medicine after 10 years. Within those 10 years, Fine also left Hilton Corp. and went to work for a small technology firm that eventually became America Online. She also met the man who would become her husband, David Fine.

"David lived in Pennsylvania, and I lived outside of D.C. We had a long-distance relationship for a while," she said.

In 1992, the city girl moved to what she describes as a charming, quaint area in Pennsylvania. She and David got married in 1995.

Robin Fine's anxiety attacks became more intense, however, and her panic attacks got worse. She began avoiding all situations and people she felt might cause the attacks.

Fine's husband was very supportive, she said; in the beginning, she was able to go out shopping if her husband was with her.

Eventually she quit her job and became mostly housebound.

"I stayed home all the time cleaning. I finally realized I needed more than a psychiatrist prescribing me pills to get better," Fine said.

She found a psychologist who helped her, using relaxation therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy.

"Through therapy, I was finally getting better," Fine said.

Her husband was offered a job in Germantown near D.C., and Fine felt back in her element.

"I didn't thrive in the rural environment. Returning to a city to live helped me a lot. I was able to get off the medication," said Fine.

In 1997, her daughter, Rachel, was born, and in 1998, a son, Mitchell, joined the family.

Fine noticed she had felt no anxiety while she was pregnant. Her husband was given the opportunity to move to Charlotte in 2005, and the family jumped at the chance.

"Charlotte satisfied all the points on our list," she said.

Fine began seeing a therapist even though she had been doing very well.

"I wanted to ward off any potential anxiety," she said. "My therapists were terrific and were able to nip potential attacks in the bud."

Happy with her progress and with both children in school, Fine returned to school herself to get a graduate degree. She wanted to be a therapist to help others.

Fine learned about anxiety management and graduated with honors. She then joined Cameron Valley Psychotherapy and Counseling Associates near SouthPark.

"I became a colleague where I was once a client," Fine said.

The Fines live in the Ballantyne area.