07/07/2014 11:50 am ET Updated Sep 06, 2014

How President Obama and Arianna Huffington 'Rescued' Me So I Can Thrive

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When I saw those hands, trying to force the door of the elevator, I kept staring at them. But they had to give up because the door didn't. And I was alone again: In an elevator stuck somewhere between the 20th and the 19th floor trying to hold back my panic attack. For someone who is claustrophobic, 35 minutes trapped in a small space is a nightmare. But at least I knew by then that the firefighters were trying to rescue me. And if you are a New Yorker, you trust firefighters.

Actually I am a native Italian who moved here almost seven years ago, but my absolute love for New York helped me to become more and more a "New Yorker." So finally the door opened. One of them jumped to join me, and I start to sob like a child, with such a sense of desperation that he asked me if I needed a doctor. But I shook my head. I didn't have time for a doctor: I had an article to deliver! So even if I was not able to breath well and my head was spinning, I said again, "No."

When I was finally able to "escape" the building, I had to sit on the sidewalk because I felt that I was going to faint. Firefighters asked me if I needed anything; again I said, "No." I even rode my bike to go back home, where I wrote my piece about something the President did that day, sent it and skyped with my parents. I am one of the few people able to calm down my dad when his depression makes him incapable to elaborate things in a normal way. My mom and dad are the rocks of my life -- the roots and the soul that make me who I am. Since I decided to move to NY because I was very unhappy in Italy, I knew that the worst thing I was going to face was to be far away from them.

A few hours after my rescue, I was still feeling awful. But I get dressed and headed downtown where Arianna Huffington was going to talk about "redefining success." I had her book Thrive in my bag and a lot of curiosity to meet the woman that was one of my inspirations in my journalistic career. Again, while waiting, I started to feel breathless and dizzy so I decided to leave, but on my way to the stairs I met her and I took that as a sign. And I was right to follow my gut. The more she was talking, the more I realized that "she was talking to me." And I started to ask to myself, "Why are you doing this to yourself?" I had to fight to hold tears. I was feeling so tired for all the pain I was inflicting upon myself. Since when I moved here, leaving behind a reality with some privileges and securities, accepting the challenge to try, finally, to be what I always wanted to be, a journalist in NY, my life hasn't been that easy.

In a time, when usually a person, especially an (southern) Italian woman thinks that everything is settled and stable, I have felt more and more unhappy and frustrated with living in a beautiful country and sadly, hopeless sometimes. My mom, one day, told me, "You have to go, you deserve happiness and here you are not happy." And I forced myself not to let my dad's sorrow stop me. I will leave with this pain forever. When I arrived, I spent a week only repeating to myself: "I want to go home."

President Obama, at that time a candidate running for the primary against Hillary Clinton, saved my life through the pages of his book The Audacity of Hope. He was talking to me, and I listened to him. One day, I will be able to thank him for saving my life twice: then, and last December when a voice on the phone told me, "You are enrolled for the Obamacare." After six years of being unable to have assistance, I felt as a human being again.

But during the years of "fighting to survive and make my dream come true" I had became a "tech junkie," a workaholic and a "multi tasking" freak. I have become addict to the perpetual obsession to be "ready," to be at my best and to say "yes."

Truth is: That day, I so much needed a doctor (I also had the insurance!) and assistance and I said "no" because I was being obsessed with work, deadlines and commitments.

This is why Arianna rescued me, pulling me away from the edge where I was standing.

Walking away, I looked at the beautiful color of the sky and I didn't go home to work, again, as I always do, but I went out with a friend for a drink and I took the next day off. After a "one hour" nap, in the afternoon, I took my bike and I started to pedal without any place to go, any store to visit or any meeting to join. I drove only to enjoy the city and I did. I rode for 18km. I felt tired but a "good" tiredness not the destructive one.

If I were in a rehab, no one would say that I healed but I am making progress. I started to meditate. I am forcing myself to do one thing at a time. My iPhone and iPad are not allowed anymore into the bedroom.

I only have part of my life left and I moved here to be happy. I have to work a lot because I need to pay bills, but I have to protect myself from getting sick or having a breakdown. Because that, I cannot afford.

Also, my article, the one for which I gave up the ambulance, was never published.