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When You Think You’re Going To Die

When You Think You're Going To Die

Today I woke up at 4:00am and for the first time in four months I could breathe.

Big, deep, effortless belly breaths. The kind that I’m used to breathing on a regular basis. The kind that should be readily accessible to me being a yoga teacher and all.

But for the past four months they weren’t there. I felt like I was like climbing Everest.

One step forward. Five labored breaths. One step forward. Five labored breaths.

I feel like I just got pulled out of the rubble from an earthquake. There’s a feeling of lightness that I haven’t felt since sometime in November.

To be honest, it makes me tear up a little just to think about how good it feels right now to be sitting in this hammock just breathing and writing.

Yes, the past four months have been hell. I’ve been keeping a secret for a while.

And that secret is:

I thought I was going to die.

Seriously. Actually die.

I’ve never experienced anything like this.

The Conference For Men has pushed me in ways that I didn’t even know were possible.

I’ve never been so paralyzed by fear. I’ve never had my body completely malfunction the way that it has over the past four months. I’ve never been so out of control with my thoughts before.

In November, I had my first panic attack. As it was happening, I thought for a split second that I was having a heart attack. It was like my chest was caving in on itself.

I cried myself to sleep multiple times.

Some days I would just lie in bed all day, despite an inbox full of emails and meetings to prepare for.

One week in December, I spent a majority of it getting high, watching standup, and eating Chinese food. That was a brief highlight and a necessary intervention.

Then for the rest of December, I stayed holed up in my friend’s apartment in New York City, wishing I was somewhere warmer.

In January, I cut out my main two coping mechanisms. Yep, I’m still sober and celibate. 61 days and counting.

Without anywhere to hide, I faced all of my demons head on.

Some nights I would lay down in bed and just think for hours. My body would sometimes buzz with nervous energy.

I’d have a fever. Then I’d have the chills. Some nights I’d roll around for hours, talking in my sleep and having crazy, nightmarish dreams.

It was like warfare was going on in my body.

Before I got to EXECUTE I was worried that I was going to completely fall apart beforehand. But luckily, my zone of genius is being in front of people coaching and facilitating. So it was actually energizing for me to be there (and healing).

Then I went straight off to Thailand for the entire month of February, which was crucial for my health and sanity. In between rides on scooters and play dates with tigers, I was up late working on the sales page with Sam and Max and crying next to Lisa and Charmaine.

I’d have a really great day, then a horrible day. This cycle went on all month.

And then yesterday, our new website went online. And over 25 affiliates are already on board to help spread the word.

Today I’m sitting in a hammock in Tucson, AZ listening to the birds while the sun warms the left side of my body.

Welcome to entrepreneurship.

Yes, Resistance made me her bitch for the past four months. So much that I regularly thought I was actually dying.

Yet I’m still here.

And I’m so grateful that I got to have these experiences. I’ve never had a panic attack before. I’ve never felt this overwhelmed before. I’ve never worked this hard on anything before.

This just adds to my body of work when I’m helping someone through the same thing. Now I can actually say, “I totally understood what you’re going through.”

Looking back, there were some crucial elements of making it through these dark times. Here they are, in order of significance.


1. I Asked For Help

It truly takes a village.

Throughout the past four months I reached out for help wherever I could get it.

Dozens of friends got on the phone with me as I vented and bitched all over them. They held space for me to be as crazy as I needed to be. And they loved me throughout the process.

As a man, I honestly think one of my core competitive advantages is that I simply ask for help.

I’m not afraid to look weak. I’m not afraid of scaring my friends off. I’m not afraid of showing them that I’m human.

Thank you everyone who supported me. You know who you are and you know what you mean to me.


2. I Moved My Body

On the days when I was feeling a little better than horrible, I noticed that it was usually because I worked out that morning.

The more I moved my body, the better I felt. The less I did, the more I felt like I was dying.

And I learned that it didn’t even have to be a full workout. Even 5-10 minutes of movement made a considerable difference.

Max and I did Tony Robbins’ Hour Of Power in the mornings when we were in Thailand. Those were some of our most productive work days together.

The more I learn about top performers, the more that I realize that movement isn’t just recommended, it’s absolutely essential.


3. I Got Grateful

During the times when I was really dark, one of the only things that would get me unstuck was sitting down and doing some sort of gratitude practice.

Sometimes I’d just sit and write and write until something got through the darkness. I’d write something like, “I’m grateful for dehydrated fruit,” then I’d chuckle and feel a little release in my body.

Gratitude practices are a staple in the morning or evening rituals of many of the most successful people I know.

If you want some random gratitude sprinkled into your day, download this free app from my friend Karol.


4. I Slowed Down

With cortisol coursing through my body and a mild headache most of the time, I wasn’t able to keep up the same pace that I’m used to.

So I slowed down. Way down.

I wrote less. I cut out unnecessary meetings. I took out everything but the absolute essential to keep me and my business going.

And I didn’t worry about what everyone else was doing around me.


5. I Kept Working

This almost seems counter-intuitive to the point above, but it’s not. I didn’t completely crawl up into a ball and die (even when I wanted to).

I kept working. Step by step.

Some days I had only an hour of good work in me. That was enough.

Wherever you are, there is a single step that you can take that won’t overwhelm you.

Take that step.


Yes, I didn’t die, but at times I felt like I was going to.

And even though there is a risk of me looking like I don’t have everything together, I think it’s more important that I share this story.

Because it’s a story that gets told behind closed doors on Skype chats with my peers. But few of them share these stories publicly. They just hide out for a while.

But I share it because you need to know that wherever you are on journey, there will be times where you might feel like the world is caving in on you.

You might feel like there is no way out.

You might feel like you’re totally going crazy.

You might even feel like you’re going to die.

To that, I say, “Great. You’re making progress.”


PS – Share this with anyone going through a rough patch in their relationship or business.

[Photo Credit]

  • Gail Kenny

    Beautiful. You might enjoy reading Bill Plotkin’s book “Soulcraft.” It might be right up your alley. I’m reading it now and it’s so resonating!

  • Xenia

    I relate ((hugs)) thanks for sharing your story, I always think sharing our difficult times as well as our good ones is positive, even if it touches just one person.

  • Bree Reese

    Again, Mike. Your vulnerability coupled with those moments that are all too familliar just give me goosebumps. So thankful for your ability/willingness to share.

  • Jeffnkr

    Thanks, Mike! I believe we get stronger when we share our weaknesses, and open ourselves up, like you have!

  • Bozidar

    Hey Mike, have you done Inner Child work? In tough times, I learned to go inside of myself, talk to my Inner Child, understand how it feels and tell him: “I love you no matter what! This may work or may not, but just for you to know, I LOVE YOU ….NO MATTER WHAT!”

    • Mike Hrostoski

      Yes, I’ve done Inner Child work under the guide of a licensed therapist. Good stuff. 🙂

  • Rob Burke

    Thanks. This was a great read.

  • Jeremy DeWeese

    THIS is EXACTLY what I am going through right now! WTF, I thought I was the only one, like my experiences were super extreme. I have felt like even my wife didn’t understand, or my business partner who get’s his stress out by training for triathlons. And, as I just turned 40 a couple weeks ago, I thought maybe it was because I am getting closer to “expiring” that I felt this way. There were patches these last few months where I would spend 20 minutes each night before going to bed, wondering whether my heart might explode while I was sleeping, if I could even get to sleep. My business is growing super fast, I’m personally growing leaps and bounds, and I am moving my family across country to California in a short 5 months, so this is maybe the most stressful time I have ever experienced. Because there is so much to do, and maybe because I don’t think other people will understand, I have devoted very little time to expressing this to any of my friends, and I definitely have not been taking great care of myself, even though I KNOW what actions to take. Although I hate to see you struggle as you birth this amazing event, I am somehow comforted by the fact that I am not alone, and inspired that you have found way’s to overcome any obstacles in your way. Thanks for sharing brother!

    • Jessica Scheer

      <3 <3

    • Mike Hrostoski

      Thanks for sharing Jeremy.

      Nope, you’re not alone. I’ve heard this story time and time again. And now I’ve had the privilege of actually living it to get the first-hand experience.

      I think a piece of it for me is that I’ve never had to work this hard before. Things normally fall into place pretty effortlessly. So to have setback after setback and challenge after challenge… well, I’m just not used to it.

      I’m thankful for the lessons in resiliency I’m getting. And I appreciate you (and others) sending me your stories because we truly are never alone in what we are experiencing.

  • Rita Chand

    Mike…I don’t know what I love more. When you write the kick ass posts you know i love, or when you write these ones. The ones that are just raw and filled with all the parts of you that you may think nobody wants to see/hear. It can be tough when you live the life you live and you are the person you are, and people count on you to be that, and then to know that this stuff goes on inside of you as well. it just makes me love your humanness even more. Thank you for sharing this. xo R

  • Mathias

    Hey Mike and Jeremy! Awsome post Mike, right on the spot. Every action you take towards learning why they came will get you closer to even BETTER breath aswell.. I’ve had the same experience with anxiety, that made me change course in life, find out exactly what the cause was, and also dedicated my life to help others get out of them. So my best advice is to keep doing whats working for you AND get some bodywork on the nervous-system (Chiro or Osteopath) and muslework (massage). Get that outside-of-your-own-painbarrier help from somebody else. The human brain works that way that you store most feelings/memories inside your muscularsystem and you need outside help to get it sorted. Thanks for sharing your story both of you!!

  • Cece

    Thank you so much for this post Mike. Your courage emancipates me, nice to know this happens to all of us. Warm Regards, Cece

  • Pingback: Because Real Men Ask For Help | Mike Hrostoski()

  • joshlipo

    I went through a rough few months to start out this year in terms of work. A lot of boundaries pushed. Thank you for letting me know that I’m not alone. Let’s keep fighting the good fight. <3