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To the Tutor Who Had a Surprising Reaction to My Panic Attack

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My year would have turned out much worse were it not for you.

On this particular morning, I woke up to my heart racing so fast I threw up. Driving to university that morning was horrible. I remember feeling dizzy and lightheaded at the thought of having to spend yet another Monday being in class from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. with no breaks, constantly doing things that put me out of my comfort zone — from physical education to drama.

I got to my 8 a.m. class and already felt defeated, but I knew I had to calm down. I sat down, waiting to be told what to do. While I waited, I could hear the hum of everyone else in the class chatting. My heart started beating faster and my hands went numb. At 8:05 a.m., one of the tutors asked us to take out a pen and paper, telling the class about a revision ungraded test we were about to take. I knew it was no big deal, so why did I want to run away and hide? Our other tutor was setting up the gym, and suddenly the room became smaller and I felt myself starting to hyperventilate.

We were told to get into groups and do some warmup activities. Everyone was moving into the gym, but I was stuck in my own little world of panic and worry. I was drowning and I just wanted it all to end. Suddenly, I stood up and both tutors looked at me. I found my voice and asked if I could speak to you, wondering if I could do a makeup class because I wasn’t feeling well. It was probably pretty difficult to understand what was happening to me. But I didn’t think you would care, I mean after all, I’m just one person who you see for three hours once a week. I’m a nobody to you.

But you guided me outside so I could feel the air on my skin, even though I still couldn’t breathe. It was a few seconds too late and I was already well into a panic attack. I could barely talk and I don’t remember what I said, but I started to hyperventilate. I felt utter terror – it was the first time I had a panic attack in front of another person. And your reaction surprised me.

You told me it’s OK. You held my hand as you talked to me. I don’t know how long it took, but you calmed me down.

The rest of the semester you helped me through the course, giving me extensions, letting me send in drafts, coming outside to check on me when I would leave the classroom, sitting with me, and even taking me to see someone to make it easier for me. And even though it’s not your job, you made sure that I was going to be OK.

You asked how I had made it this far without any support. Well the answer is simple: in my mind, I had no other choice.

Thank you for not leaving me alone on those horrible days where it all fell apart. I did not know how good it felt to have someone help me until you did. It took me three years of university to finally notice that the tutors are there to support their students and just want to see them succeed. It has been such a horrid year, but I want you to know that without you, it would have been even more unbearable and there would have been no way I could have actually finished my degree this year were it not for you. So thank you for showing me there are people who care and the world does not end if people find out that you are not OK.

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Thinkstock photo via DGL images

Originally published: September 6, 2017
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