Leaving Work Behind

How Overcoming Panic Attacks Helped Me Understand The Path To Success

Written by Tom Ewer on September 21, 2011. 21 Comments

How Overcoming Panic Attacks Helped Me Understand The Path To SuccessIt was a normal day, like any other. I was a little tired perhaps, but that was not unusual. I was heading to my local phone store to buy a brand new iPhone 3G. I am a bit of a technology geek, so I was pretty damned excited about it.

I sat down with the sales assistant and started to go through the usual rigmarole of tariffs, contracts and so on. After a short while, I started to get the sensation of feeling trapped. I was sat with this perfectly pleasant lady, but I realized that if I were to get up and run away, I would make a complete fool of myself. But I wanted to go. I needed to get out of that situation.

I broke into a sweat. My heart started racing. I felt nauseous. A voice in my head was screaming at me to get out of there. That voice was almost completely drowning out the only prevailing logical thought: “What on earth is wrong with you? You are not in any danger. Why are you panicking?”

I quickly made an excuse and left. There I was, stood outside the store, without a new iPhone. I quickly calmed down, but I was both mentally and physically exhausted. My body had just experienced a completely unexpected and bizarre trauma.

That Was Just The Beginning

Over the next few months, I started having panic attacks on a regular basis. They typically came about in situations where leaving would be considered unusual. Trips to the cinema, dates, meals, bars…I once walked past my barbers three times in a row without being able to push myself over the threshold. Getting my hair cut was the ultimate fear – I could hardly leap out of the chair and run off with a half-cocked haircut, could I? Don’t worry, I look back and laugh at that too now.

After some time, it became clear to me that the panic attacks were having a huge effect on my quality of life. I came to a realization – I would either have to tackle the issue head on, or simply lay down and accept that this was how my life would be. To me, that seemed like an unthinkable outcome.

Do Not Accept Failure

And that is the best possible attitude you can have when it comes to success. Put yourself in a position where there is no alternative. Understand why it is that you can’t live without the success that you need to achieve. If your desire to succeed is great enough, you will have all the motivation you need.

I’ve personally taken this to an extreme, by quitting my job. That may not be for you, but it sure as hell puts you in a situation where success is necessary, not desired.

If you approach your business like failure is not an option, you will be blessed with enormous willpower. Every time you find yourself discouraged by short term issues, you will just need to reference the status quo to provide yourself with the motivation to push on.

The Importance Of Mindset

So consider your mindset. Have you found the reason why you crave success so much that you cannot possibly consider failure? If you cannot find that, then perhaps you do not want it enough. Having said that, I truly believe that everyone can find it in themselves to create a mindset whereby success is the only possible way forward.

In a sense, overcoming my panic attacks was easy. Although it required an enormous amount of willpower and no small measure of mental exertion, I was determined to overcome it, as there was no other feasible option.

Find out why you can only accept one possible outcome, and use it to fuel everything that you do.

So what drives you? What makes success a necessity for you, rather than an aim? Let me know in the comments section below!

Photo courtesy of kaiki01

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21 Responses to “How Overcoming Panic Attacks Helped Me Understand The Path To Success”

  1. Kelly McCausey
    September 22, 2011 at 3:31 am

    “Find out why you can only accept one possible outcome, and use it to fuel everything that you do.”

    Great advise!

    The work I put my hands to must provide income and flexibility – any other outcome is crap and I won’t tolerate it 🙂

    • Tom Ewer
      September 22, 2011 at 8:49 am

      Hey Kelly,

      Thanks for popping along! It’s great to see you here. 🙂

      That’s a great attitude you’ve got there – take no prisoners 😉


  2. Rochelle
    September 23, 2011 at 8:19 am

    Oh gotta love panic attacks.
    Brilliant advise. I enjoy reading your posts

  3. Steve Purves
    October 3, 2011 at 10:29 am

    Hi Tom,

    When I saw the subject of you new project in your newsletter, I though it was a good topic. Panic attacks and anxiety can be a difficult one for people to talk about openly and admit, there is still a lot of stigma attached (which is unjustified) to this as a mental health issue.

    So I think It is a brilliant subject for a site and I think it will really help people, as a personal story is far more reassuring than the more clinical information available online.

    Panic attacks can change your life or the worse but can also be positively in the long run, if it makes you implement changes and if you can successfully manage them. Ago 6 years ago they made me give up smoking, change my outlook and start running to lose weight (the latter I am still working on!) but that was positive! and I don’t really get bothered by now.

    I am looking forward to seeing how the site develops.


    • Tom Ewer
      October 3, 2011 at 2:40 pm

      Hi Steve,

      It’s great to see such a positive reaction, as it is of course a sensitive topic. I hope that I can bring some ‘reality’ to the issue, being a sufferer myself.

      And as for finding the positive in all things – that’s a great attitude, and one that we can all learn from.



  4. Ruth - The Freelance Writing Blog
    January 18, 2012 at 9:22 pm

    A very candid, honest and helpful post Tom! I don’t suffer from panic attacks (thank goodness) but I do have a MAJOR phobia of flying. And the principles that you’ve outlined ring true relative to that challenge as well. Mindset has a lot to do with it – mind over matter, right? I force myself on to planes since I’m not altogether willing to give up travel; but it’s rough!

    Thanks for this post Tom.

    • Tom Ewer
      January 18, 2012 at 9:55 pm

      Hey Ruth,

      Since you have a major phobia of flying and have flown before, you’ve probably had a panic attack! Fear of flying is no fun at all – I used to know someone who had it so bad they had to be medicated.

      And although it seems corny, yes, mind over matter is the key.

      Thanks for stopping by 🙂


  5. mike
    January 18, 2012 at 9:44 pm

    I went through some similar issues not too long after I graduated college. Not sure what brought it on.. maybe compounding stresses in my life.. But after the first one, it seemed to snow ball. Getting up and walking out of social situations was always awkward.. It got to the point where at times I’d rather stay at home then put myself in certain situations.

    I eventually got it under control thankfully.

    Great post and thanks for sharing your story.

    • Tom Ewer
      January 18, 2012 at 9:57 pm

      Hi Mike,

      Sounds like we shared a pretty similar journey. It’s great that we have both been through it and come out the other end stronger!

      Thanks for sharing your story 🙂


  6. karen mulhern
    January 19, 2012 at 3:00 pm

    you wrote (of mindset) —>Have you found the reason why you crave success so much that you cannot possibly consider failure? If you cannot find that, then perhaps you do not want it enough.

    This is absolutely true! Until you can identify the reason(s) you really aren’t ready to succeed. I think this is where people fall short of so many goals. It isn’t the economy, or the location, or anything EXTERNAL you hear them blaming for their failures.

    Look inward…that’s what i always say!

    great blog Tom! I’m very happy I found you!

  7. Smitten by Britain
    July 3, 2012 at 3:09 am

    Hi Tom,

    I have suffered with panic attacks for the last four years. I had one two years ago while visiting Mount Vernon near D.C. that was the worst every. It was an old home of course and the rooms were very claustrophobic (or very small.) It was a very hot day too. Long story short the anxiety was so bad that it went on for nearly a week and I nearly ended up being admitted to the hospital. Instead I went to group counseling which helped tremendously along with some good drugs to take until I learned some new coping skills. I still see a therapist monthly. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has really changed the way I think which has made a massive difference. I used to be someone who feared everything even travel to which is the love of my life! The last time I was in London I had a major panic attack on The Tube. NOT fun! Dealing with anxiety is will always be a life long process for me but I will never let it stop me from getting the most out of life.

    Best of luck to you and know that you’re not alone.


    • Tom Ewer
      July 3, 2012 at 4:47 pm

      Hey Melissa,

      I am very fortunate to be able to say that I never really experience panic attacks any more. Like you say, dealing with it is a life long process (i.e. sometimes I still have to consciously check myself from descending into one), but for all intents and purposes, I am recovered.

      I wish you the very best with your anxiety and panic attack issues. Let me know if I can be of any help.



  8. Brian Sommers
    July 11, 2012 at 5:57 pm

    I have had lots of panic attacks but thankfully not in a very long time.. eating healthier sure helps. I don’t wish panic attacks on my worst enemy.. they are a terrible experience.

  9. Yasmin
    August 15, 2012 at 8:16 pm

    Panic attacks helped me to reevaluate my life as well and gave me the motivation I needed to make necessary changes as well. I took a pay cut by leaving an extremely high stressed management position, in order to provide me with less stress and the ability to work on my goals to become self-employed.

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