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When Panic Takes Over

My screenwriting professor is lecturing; everyone is taking notes. It’s happening again. My stomach is burning, my chest is tightening, air seems like a foreign substance trying to slide down my closing throat. My head is numb, the room is closing in on me, I’m no longer in control. I grip my desk trying to ground myself as a full panic consumes my body.

I’m sitting in class, but I can’t seem to understand a word the professor is saying. I slowly try to release the death grip I have on my desk. I need something to calm me down — anything. My shaky hands grab my water bottle and clumsily unscrew the top. I force a sip of water down my throat, hoping it will bring some fragment of relief to my body. It doesn’t. I’m still shaking. What do I do? I need to leave. I need to escape from this room immediately. Can I even walk? What if I just stand up and fall over? I can’t sit here anymore. If I do I might faint, lose the last bit of control I have.


I’m sitting in class, but I cannot wait another second. I’m doing it. I’m getting up. I quickly pack up my bag, trying to be as quiet as possible. People are starting to notice me. I keep my head down, avoiding eye contact with everybody.

Leave Haley, you need to leave.

But what if the professor calls me out? I can’t even speak right now. He will think I’m disrespectful and I’ll do poorly in the class. Oh God, my heart is pounding harder than before. I take my last ounce of strength and stand up.

Holding my breath, lifting one brick leg at a time, I make my way to the door. People are turning. I hear them shuffling in their seats, wondering why that girl is leaving after only 10 minutes of class.

I’m embarrassed. I’m ashamed. I’m terrified.

I look up and my eyes fixate on the threshold between suffering and freedom. For those who didn’t already notice my desperate escape, the opening of the creaky lecture hall door brings their attention to it. I’m in the hallway where I can finally breathe. I’m starting to come down now. Exhausted, sweaty, and limp-legged, I look down at my phone. 8:10 a.m. – it’s only the first class of the day.

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