Justin Timberlake doesn’t have anything on me. He might have brought Sexy back (God love him for it) but I brought Crazy back. With JT, Sexy was just there, strutting across the music video with him. With Crazy, it took me a while to realize he was riding shotgun again.

I finally noticed Crazy when I was sitting in the ambulance, hooked up to the heart monitor, with the paramedics telling me I was okay. I was looking out those tiny windows in the back doors and the entire ambulance compressed in upon me, crushed into me, and the only thought screaming through my head was, “I NEED TO GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE!.”

Out of the corner of my eye, in the midst of the panic attack, Crazy was grinning foolishly and giving me the thumbs up.

But back to the panic attack. There is not a damn thing you can do. Deep breaths, they are telling me: in through the nose, out through the mouth. I’m not having a heart attack. But Crazy is sliding up to me: no, you’re not alright. You’re dying.

Basically, I’m mind-screwing myself. This, that and the other thing, with Crazy urging me on, started a complex set of physiological responses. Tightness in the chest, pain in the arms, blurred vision, light headedness. Everything I ever imagined a heart attack might be. Everything that can be associated with a panic attack. My rational mind is listening to the paramedics, listening to myself, and I know I am fine. But then Crazy is yelling in my ear, drowning them out.


You just have to ride it out sometimes…

It started a while back. That’s the thing about Crazy. He can sneak up on you and you don’t even realize he is there. It is just a nudge and a push, here and there. I had been to the emergency room a few times with chest pains and shortness of breath. Hey, with my family history and the way I abuse myself with caffeine and nicotine, you get this stuff checked out.

Blood work, EKG, chest x-ray, and then the run through with the cardiologist. Everything is fine. Cut down on the caffeine. Cut out the nicotine. Play more golf. Get your head out of work. Yeah, tell that to the damn doctors I work for. Or my mortgage company. Or that prick of a real estate agent that screwed me pretty good. Or…

…but that’s just life. My business is changing and I need to change with it, adapt and grow. My body is also changing I’ve been told. 44 is not 24 and I need to learn the differences. Adapt and grow.

As I failed to do anything about the stress, Crazy creeped into my bedroom at night. That’s someplace you can really mind-screw yourself.

It is one thing to worry about the events of the day and the events of tomorrow. You might feel this ache in your chest, a tingling pain, maybe a shortness of breath. My rational mind is telling me that it’s being 44, stress, and that I am okay.

Crazy, though, is laying next to me, squeezed up against me. He’s saying something completely different. He’s saying: you will not be waking up tomorrow. It’s done. You’re over.

The terror you feel when know you are about to die is awesome in scope. You can bat it away, chase it away, snuggle up closer to your wife, but that dread just drowns your mind.

Seriously: I am under doctor’s orders to play more golf. But I am having as much luck with that as I am the smoking and coffee.

A while back is when the palpitations started, though I had no idea what they were. In a terrible kind of way, they felt good. There! That flip flop! That was defiantly not some phantom pain or far removed pressure. It was definitely my heart! There is something wrong!

–and if I had looked out the corner of my eye just then, I would have seen Crazy nodding and grinning.

I just want to make my damn Hawley retainers. It has been the cornerstone of my business for decades, my bread and butter. But more and more orthodontists are switching to those vacuum formed clear aligners that they can make in-house and save themselves a few bucks. The studies I have read that touts their comparability or even superiority to Hawleys are crap. Don’t get me started. But you have to wear retention for the rest of your life, and you have something that lasts 5-10 years compared to something that lasts 6-12 months? Yeah, anyway…

Adapt, diversify, learn and grow and start working seven days a week to integrate new technologies and new marketing. And that’s when Crazy started riding shotgun. More stress, more coffee, more cigarettes, and the panic attacks started while I was in my car.

It had not been a tiny little nudge or push this time. It had felt like my heart did a somersault in my chest. And then I almost lost consciousness.

And then the rage hit as Crazy is laughing manically while tapping out the rhythm of the palpitations on the dashboard: You’re dying, buddy! This is it! The big one! And you’re going to die driving into work on your day off! Two days before your office is finally finished!

With the rage came the panic attack. With the panic attack came the call to 911. And there I was in the ambulance.

That ambulance became my entire world. It was something out of the movies, when a submarine goes too deep, and the pressure crushes it. I was in the middle of that crushing.

That is when I finally noticed that I brought Crazy back. Yeah, JT doesn’t have anything on me.

I was about to rip myself out of the gurney and burst through those back doors into the open air, the open world. Then, I caught him, and looked Crazy straight in the eyes. –he hates that, tries to look away, but I know how to hold him there— He stops laughing and the pressure eases. He backs up and I can hear the paramedics again. He tries to squeeze himself into the corner out of my sight and I start feeling a little bit embarrassed.

“Okay, Fucker. You’re back.” I nod. Acknowledge. “But I know how to get rid of you.”

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