Renee Antonia writes about learning to breathe

I am pleased to welcome Renee Antonia here at Choices. She’s participating in a WOW! Women on Writing tour of her book, I’m Not Okay. Renee has written a sensitive and meaningful guest post about her struggle with anxiety and how she found a community of people going through the same thing that helped her through. With mental illness it’s always best to communicate our stories. That provides a two-fold benefit: it helps erase stigma and helps us understand and rid ourselves of the demons that plague us. Thank you for telling us your story about overcoming your demons.


Learning to Breathe While You’re Drowning

By Renee Antonia

There are many times throughout my busy work week that I realize I haven’t stopped to take a breath.  Between working, writing, friends, and family I forget to breathe.

After one of these realizations, I stopped and asked myself why?  Why do I work myself so hard that I forget to stop and take a breath?  To embrace and enjoy what I have?  To be content with my present?

It took me a while to find out that the answer was my anxiety.  If I kept myself busy all day.  If I didn’t stop to think about how tired or exhausted I was.  If I got caught up in a routine that kept me going all day.  If I did all of that, then I wouldn’t think about my anxiety.  Then there was less of a chance that I would have a panic attack in my car.  Then I wouldn’t be worried about someone asking me if I was okay, because even if I wasn’t, I didn’t have the time to explain it to them.

The crazy thing was that it worked.  It did keep me from having anxiety attacks.  It did help me get through some tough days.  But, not in a good way.  I was basically detaching myself from my body.  I wasn’t letting myself enjoy life.  And, to top it all off, I wasn’t breathing.

So, I had to come up with a way to breathe, which was a lot harder than I initially thought it would be.  I had went so long with this desire to muffle my anxiety, that the second I decided to let myself begin to feel it again, I almost broke.

It’s not that I wanted to feel the anxiety, but if I wanted to live again, I had to live with my anxiety again.  I had to do all of the anxiety inducing tasks that I forced myself to give up before.  I made myself go through drive-thrus, even if I knew I would have to back out of it before actually ordering anything.  I made myself drive behind big trucks even though it felt like my heart was going to melt inside my body.  I made myself do everything that I deprived myself of before.  And, it was scary.

It was a tough few months, that was only made worse by the fact that I had no one to talk about it with.  I tried therapy, but after a couple months, I didn’t see any progress.  I tried reaching out to family and friends, but I ended up feeling more like a burden than anything else.

Then I turned to this crazy little thing called the internet.  I started looking up ways to handle the heaviness of my anxiety, and I found a whole community of people who were going through the same thing as me.  Suddenly, this subject that was so taboo, was normal.  I was able to listen to stories of people who were experiencing the same thing I was.  My anxiety stopped being a huge elephant in the room, and then I found it easier for me to breathe.

Around this time, I started writing, I’m Not Okay, and it helped me understand what I was feeling.  Having to break it down into words helped me learn about the disorder that I thought was too complex for anyone to understand.  It helped me to stop being so scared of living with anxiety.

With all of the research that I did on anxiety, or mental illness in general, I was never able to find a concrete answer on how to not only cope with it, but thrive with it.  And, I’m glad I didn’t.  Mental illness is not one size fits all.  Sometimes what will work with one person, won’t work with another.  You need to learn how to breathe in your own ocean, not anyone else’s.

Learning to breathe while you’re drowning is one of the most challenging things you can do.  However, it’s also one of the most rewarding.  The second you understand that your illness does not make you a minority, but instead brings you into a community, breathing and living will become that much easier.

Summary of I’m not Okay

When she wakes up in the morning, the first thing that goes through Alejandra’s head is whether or not she will be forced into another anxiety inducing situation. The struggles of being a young adult living with an anxiety ridden brain becomes too much for Alejandra to deal with. So, with the help of her friends, she forces herself out of the bubble her anxiety has placed her in. She learns to conquer the fears she once thought would destroy her and learns to rely on herself more than she ever has. 

Print Length: 203 pages
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Publisher: BookBaby (June 24, 2017)
ISBN-13: 9781483598062

I’m Not Okay is available as an eBook at Amazon.comBarnes and Noble,  and Apple iTunes. 

About the Author of I’m Not Okay

Renee Antonia grew up in the Los Angeles area with four siblings and two wonderful parents. Having such a strong support system enabled her to decide who and what she wanted to be. However, this question haunted her for years, because she couldn’t quite pinpoint what exactly she saw herself doing for the rest of her life. She began to read a lot, hoping to find inspiration between the pages of a book. It was at this time that  she realized one thing. She loved sharing, reading, and writing. Renee decided that she wanted to be a writer, and since that day, she has taken any steps necessary to achieve that goal.

You can find Renee Antonia at:


Renee Antonia’s Blog Tour Dates  

April 23rd @ The Muffin

What goes better in the morning than a muffin? Come by Women on Writing’s blog The Muffin and read our interview with Renee Antonia and enter to win a copy of the book I’m Not Okay.

April 24th @ The World of My Imagination

Flex that imagination muscle when you come by Nicole’s book and writing blog to read her opinion on Renee Antonia’s book.

April 25th @ Bring on Lemons

Get out that lemonade, when you check out Crystal’s blog today and see what she thought about I’m Not Okay by Renee Antonia.

April 26th @ Madeline Sharples Blog

Renee Antonia will be a guest writer today at Madeline Sharples’ blog and will be talking about mental health, a very timely and important subject.

April 27th @ Lori’s Reading Corner

Plant yourself into your reading corner while you read Lori’s blog, where you’ll have a chance to read another guest post by Renee Antonia.

April 28th @ Bookworm Blog

If you can’t get enough books, come by Anjanette’s bookworm blog to find out Renee Antonia’s thoughts on mental health.

April 29th @ The Page Turner

Kayla over at her blog The Page Turner will be hosting Renee Antonia, who will be sharing her thoughts on short stories.

April 30th @ The Nerdy Bookcase

Come by Molly’s blog The Nerdy Bookcase to read her thoughts on Renee Antonia’s book I’m Not Okay.

May 1st @ Mari’s #WriteON!Journaling Blog

Make sure you visit Mari’s blog where you can read another guest post by Renee Antonia on the poignant subject of mental health.

May 2nd @ Coffee with Lacey

Drink coffee and read Lacey’s blog today where you can catch Renee Antonia’s thoughts on the books she is currently reading. You can also find out what Lacey had to say about Renee Antonia’s book, I’m Not Okay.

May 3rd @ Write Like Crazy

Today’s blog post will want to make you read like crazy when you catch Renee Antonia’s thoughts on short stories over at Mary Jo’s

May 4th @ Phytallic Blog

May the 4th be with you today when you visit Phytallic’s blog and read her opinion on the book I’m Not Okay.

May 5th @ Bookworm Blog

Can’t get enough books? Well come by Anjanette’s blog today when she shares her thoughts on the book I’m Not Okay and interviews the author Renee Antonia.

May 6th @ Mark Hunter’s Blog

Stop by Mark Hunter’s blog to find out Renee Antonia’s thoughts on writing while working full time. Also, Mark interviews the author to tell us more about this incredible writer.

May 7th @ A New Look on Books

Take a new look today when you stop by Rae’s blog A New Look on Books when author Renee Antonia shares her thoughts on short stories.

May 8th @ The Page Turner

Kayla over at her blog The Page Turner will be sharing her thoughts on Renee Antonia’s book I’m Not Okay.

May 9th @ Life, So Daily

Renee Antonia will be stopping by Alicia Rust’s blog Life, So Daily and sharing her thoughts with a guest post on mental health.

May 10th @ Write Like Crazy

You’ll want to read today’s post over at Mary’s blog Write Like Crazy when she shares her thoughts on Renee Antonia’s moving young adult fiction book, I’m Not Okay. You can also enter to win a copy of the book too!

May 11th @ The Faerie Review

Come by Lily’s blog at The Faerie Review to find out her thoughts on Renee Antonia’s book, I’m Not Okay.

May 12th @ The Faerie Review

Stop by The Faerie Review again when blogger Lily interviews Renee Antonia about her book. See what this young adult fiction author had to say!

May 14th @ Life, So Daily

Come by Alicia’s blog Life, So Daily to find out her thoughts on Renee Antonia’s book I’m Not Okay.

May 18th @ Strength4Spouses

Renee Antonia will be over at Wendi’s blog Strength4Spouses and will discuss mental health. Maybe this will give you strength to talk about this subject with those closest to you.

May 21st @ Strength 4 Spouses

The last stop on the tour is over at Wendi’s blog Strength4Spouses when she shares her thoughts on Renee Antonia’s book I’m Not Okay.

Congratulations on your book tour, Renee. Choices wishes you huge success with your book, I’m Not Okay.


  1. Nicole Pyles says

    Excellent post! Mental health issues certainly don’t have a one size fits all approach and that is something that is so important to remember. Thank you for sharing!

  2. Thank you for sharing my post! I hope that understanding more about mental health can help whoever needs it.

    • Madeline Sharples says

      Thank you for being here, Renee. Open communication about mental health is so important. I always welcome people to post about their mental health experiences.

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