Harvard Square in high summer is crisscrossed with tourists, but inside the university all is serene. Those academics who stay behind to work can enjoy the empty seminar rooms, loose deadlines and short queues at the cafeteria.

Samantha Power used to dread such periods of calm. The former US ambassador to the United Nations, and foreign policy and human rights adviser to Barack Obama, was afflicted for most of her adult life with intense anxiety attacks that left her unable to catch her breath, as well as inexplicable but excruciating back pain. She called them “lungers” – a term coined by a former boyfriend who witnessed her struggling to draw air into her lungs.

The symptoms would ambush her during the holidays, and later, while she was a freelance correspondent covering the Bosnian war, when the shelling stopped. “I had them in the summer of 1995 when there was a brief ceasefire,” she says. “I was like, what is wrong? I can’t breathe. There’s a ceasefire and I can’t breathe. That should have been a clue that something was a little bit amiss.”

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