• Lori Maney Lentini

You and Your Anxiety Are Not Alone.

Inspirational stories of people living with anxiety and depression show you the way.

A series of weekly stories from real people telling it like it is about living with mental health issues. If you are one of the 40 million living with Anxiety you are not alone. There is nothing wrong with you. But there is a great deal wrong with the stigma and discrimination. If you love someone who struggles with emotional issues I invite you get an inside glimpse of their struggle and join our mission to end the prejudice.

Meet Faith.

Oh “that” Anxiety feeling


I don’t remember a time in my life where I did not have “that” feeling in my chest. You know… “that” feeling. The one where your entire chest is tight, and your heart feels like it’s petrifying with each beat and your breathing becomes so difficult you are convinced you are going to drown on dry land.


As an adult, I know what “ that” feeling is. It’s anxiety. It’s perpetual nervousness and fear that runs on a movie reel like a horror movie over and over until you have all the lines memorized, only to find that someone, something, went behind your back and changed the script. Then it starts all over again.


Many of us can tell you how anxiety exists in our world. Whether growing up with it, as I did or experiencing an event that triggers anxiety, it manifests in endless different ways. I can identify concrete things in my life that contributed to my anxiety, some of which I still have residual effects from to this day. As a child, I experienced abuse and violence that still impacts me. Today, I experience trepidation and fear around large men and in crowds. I experience panic attacks when I think I am in trouble. I ask my boss not to send me emails or text messages requesting to see me when I get to work because it makes me physically ill with worry.


But often my anxiety is more nebulous and less clear as to the origin. It can be hard to identify. When I was little, I was afraid of our house burning down. I still check outlets to ensure everything is unplugged when I leave my apartment. I carry a large keychain because my uncle told me my keys could be used as a weapon. Now I can’t have a small set of keys without feeling unprotected. I panic, thinking the absolute worst has happened if a friend is even a few minutes late meeting me.


As a paramedic, I spent hours logging inventories for ambulances, to make sure life saving supplies where where they were supposed to be. I answer work calls 24/7 because what if I did something wrong and I need to fix it. What if I actually failed and my college made a mistake granting me my degree? What if I am not qualified to be a paramedic? What if my patient died because of something I did? What if I put the wrong tool in the wrong pocket?


What if, what if, what if, what if……


Anxiety, for me, is cruel and unyielding. It incites deep-seated issues of shame and unworthiness that feed into suicidal thoughts, violent ruminations, and severe depression. It wasn’t my fault I experienced violence and cruelty as a small child. It wasn’t my fault my father did not show up, leaving me to sit at a window for hours watching, waiting and wondering why he didn’t love me. It isn’t my fault for experiencing shame, or guilt, or fear. Nor is it my fault my anxiety triggers symptoms related to PTSD, Bipolar Disorder or OCD. But anxiety makes me feel like it is my fault. That I should have control and that I am weak or lesser, for not being able to control it.


Yet, as I said, I don’t remember a time in my life where I didn’t feel anxiety. My early years were filled with this feeling. I thought it was just…normal. It was as normal as the violence, anger, and cruelty I experienced. It was as normal as the death threats and bullying I experienced in school. According to my therapist, my experiences with anxiety were a normal response to trauma.


Normal, normal, normal.


The tightness in my chest, the inability to breathe; my heart feeling like it was turning into stone: all apparently normal. Normal. Normal. Really?


Personally, I don’t believe in normal. Looking back at everything I have been through, and am still going through, nothing is normal. The ever-present anxiety still finds its way in through the cracks in the foundation of the my life. I always had this picture of what I wanted for my life. I wanted to get married, have kids, get a great job and live far from New York. I worked my entire life to achieve this vision and suffered severe anxiety and other mental health symptoms whenever it appeared my life was deviating these goals.

It didn’t matter when I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder in college. It didn’t matter when I developed Obsessive-Compulsive habits stemming from anxiety linked to my abusive childhood. It didn’t matter when my anxieties triggered deep, unchecked depressions and suicidal ideations. It didn’t matter when I attempted suicide twice before the age of 22.


Information on suicide Prevention and help lines. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/suicide-prevention


I believed it would all magically go away once I achieved these things. I didn’t listen to my mind, nor my body, as my anxiety grew and escalated. In 2012, I met my ex-wife and fell completely head-over-heels. I her and it felt the tension in my world ease. We married in 2014while I was earning my associate degree in emergency medicine. I felt untouchable. I had a worthwhile job and was married. I still experienced anxiety on a regular basis. I couldn’t sleep without checking to ensure the doors and windows were locked (3 or 4 times) much to my wife’s frustration. But it was okay. Or so I thought.


I didn’t realize until it was too late, that feeling was still gripping my chest, and was getting worse. I would get panic attacks at the thought of failing as a paramedic. Suddenly, it seemed the idea of having children was impossible. Thoughts of being a horrible parent, the anxiety of carrying a child, of being responsible like that, choked all the air out of my lungs. Growing cracks in my relationship fueled the negative feelings. I felt as if I was going 1000 miles per hour and no one driving. I tried to ignore it. I began to drink myself to sleep regularly and pushed my body beyond its limits.


We had moved to Oregon early in our relationship, and slowly that began to seem like a horrifically bad idea. I felt worthless all the time. My ability to handle work stress disappeared. My wife, was becoming more distant, the increased stress was leaving me sitting alone in my car gasping for air. I thought following my wife to Oregon, even though everything in me screamed no at the time, would help. It didn’t. I quit my job, continued to drink, and struggled under the weight of my thoughts and feelings.


The anxiety of failing in life raged along with the growing anxiety of an increasing abusive situation. I was trapped in the crossfire. It exploded in the spring of 2016. I was thousands of miles away from my support system.. It was a nightmare. My anxiety levels were so high I was physically ill every day and experiencing severe heart and stomach issues. I was isolated, running on alcohol and depression until I snapped. The anxiety of being in a toxic relationship and feeling like I deserved it made me feel pathetic. It was killing me.

I called my family in New York, packed my car with everything I could fit in it, and drove away. I spent two and a half days driving across the country trying to figure out how my life derailed so violently. How did I end up loving someone so blindly, that I didn’t see the abuse until it was too late? How did I let myself be manipulated and lied to? How did I end up so far away from help and home? What did I do to deserve this? I believed the end of my marriage was my fault because something was really wrong with me. It took me three years to understand that something wasn’t wrong with me. To work through the pain of everything I had experienced throughout my life, and not succumb to the crippling tightness that filled my chest whenever my anxiety overwhelmed me.

I still struggle with anxiety and panic attacks, although I have developed a better understanding of what I am going through, and why I am going through it.


Anxiety is both…irrational and rational all at the same time.


It still fills me with shame and fear. It still prevents me from sleeping. It still makes me late for work and appointments. Anxiety forces me to check that my door is locked, even though I just locked it. However, it no longer feels like a death sentence. Anxiety will forever play a huge role in my mental health recovery. This knowledge actually brings me peace. I understand its origins in my life, how it manifests, and have worked hard to strengthen my coping skills.


Recently, I was able to explain to a coworker that I was experiencing a panic attack and I needed a moment. Maybe not in so many words, but they understood. I was able to ground myself, tell myself I was safe, and allow my body to release the tension that had built up so suddenly that it surprised me. While I have developed skills to manage my anxiety and ask for help, the anxiety still catch me off guard. It still constricts my chest, and roars in my ears, and fogs my mind.



But it isn’t something to be ashamed about; not anymore. I take my anti-anxiety medications, and work hard on my mental health recovery, and am open about my story and share my struggles with anxiety. I still get mad when I have anxiety attacks, and there are days where I yell and cry. But this is okay.


It is okay because I realized I am human. I am complex and simple and utterly flawed. But having anxiety isn’t one of those flaws. It just is, and after everything I’ve been through, I am okay with that. If you have anxiety I hope you are too.

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If you are interested in joining our team of Worry Warriors by sharing your story in this series to increase education, understanding, share your coping strategies and help end the stigma of mental health, Please email me at Lorimaneylentini@gmail.com. We can set up a phone interview and explore ways we can collaborate.


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