hi amy, i'm so sorry you're dealing with anxiety attacks. it's one of the worst feelings in the world to me.
i wanted to tell you my experience with meditating and panic attacks and a bit about how i understand them in my situation. first of all, i don't know what kind of meditation you have practiced and i can only speak for the type that i do, bare awareness, focus on the breath and observe the mind as it gets drawn away by thoughts over and over again, gently returning to the breath, noticing how i judge myself and noticing what sorts of thoughts and feelings and stories keep dragging my attention away from breathing, eventually coming to understand alot about the nature of thinking and emotions and what i think of as me). and this practice was instrumental in helping me get through a series of panic attacks i had after my second child was born. i had about 2 weeks of feeling barely able to control my panic and i was able to get through it by being very focused on what i saw, heard and my body sensations, pulling my mind back from any thinking/planning/becoming afraid of how i would cope if the feelings got more intense. i think i got more out of those two weeks than the entire 5 years of my meditation practice before that. by staying so intensely present to avoid losing my mind, i got an enormous amount of insight and peace, much of which i've lost touch with, but not all. i am a greatly enriched person for the experience and i'm very glad it happened to me, as awful as it was at times.
for me, i think panic attacks are a symptom, not the problem. in my case, i had them after each birth and i think they were my psyche's reaction to long-buried pain that was working its way to the surface, helped along by the enormous trauma and cleansing of childbirth. i can't even say what all the pain was from. early, inchoate loss from how i was parented, perhaps.
i can also edge back into anxiety when i think too much -- when i spend too much mental energy planning our future or trying to figure out a way for my life situation to be different/better/perfect. i can make myself feel physically ill when i do this too much. so anxiety is a reminder to me to stop and smell and hear and see what's in front of me and to stop following my thoughts down their seductive/compulsive paths.
this, of course, is just me and i don't know if it has any bearing on your situation. i think it is entirely possible that if you begin to sit again, you will experience more anxiety at first. i think it wants to come up, it needs to be released. and meditation is the perfect way to let that happen. i think it would be extremely helpful for you to find/communicate with a teacher to get guidance in how to work with it when it arises in your sit.
it is immensely empowering to discover that you can sit in the face of fear that feels as though it will swallow you whole and just watch it, with whatever measure of curiosity that you can muster, and see that it passes, and that it is, in fact, completely insubstantial.
i'm not sure what resources you have where you live, but one teacher i have found particularly helpful is shinzen young and he has a very good website -- www.shinzen.org
i believe. if he hasn't gotten too busy, he may still be replying to email questions. i haven't checked his site in a while. he also trains the more experienced meditators in his retreats to act as facilitators for others who have questions about their practice, so you could perhaps have some telephone conversations with one of them. feel free to pm me if you want more info about him. in fact i may have some taped talks of his on this topic, which i would be happy to send to you.
i wish you ease and peace with whatever you choose to do,
edited to add: oy! sorry for the multiple posts. i'm on an ancient computer and kept getting system not responding msgs when i tried to submit the post. i did want to add that i just saw that you're in vermont. that's where shinzen lives most of the year. i'm near LA, where he has one of his main retreat centers.