When Panic Attacks by Karen Tang

“I’m dying.” “Why can’t I breathe?” “What is happening to me?”

These are the thoughts that were running through my head as I gasped for oxygen. It happened so fast, it was a blur. One moment I had been actively listening to my client telling me about their issues and then when I had asked what brought them here, their answer, “Oh, I don’t want to be here.” sent my body into overdrive. It hit like a ton of bricks. My hands were shaking and clammy, my heart rate was racing, tears flowed uncontrollably, and my vision blurred. It was so, so hard to breathe, as if I had an elephant sitting on my chest. And it was almost twice as humiliating as we were in the middle of our role-playing clinical interviews class, where I was the therapist and one of my cohort was the patient, with our professor watching from the next room. I was playing the role of the therapist, that means I’m supposed to be in control, right? But I wasn’t. Not even close.

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