Dean Clough

May 29, 2024

Portico Darwin: Don't Panic (Attack)



<3 Minute Read

Today, I am going to talk about something I have not previously, that being the panic attacks I've had for most of my adult life.  Have you ever had a panic attack? 

They come in different flavors, but if you have or have had them, there is no mistaking one.  For me, it's an uncontrollable freefall that can happen when I'm alone, or with one or a dozen people. 

Everything is fine, and then it's not. 

Anything or anybody or any question or any statement or any situation can bring it on. 

My face feels not flush, but explosive.  I don't combust because the sweat pouring out of me is so voluminous it's just not possible.  I feel detached from both my mind and body, as if the panic attack I am having is not only mental, not only physical, but a third part of my being.  People look on with a combination of fear and puzzlement as to what the fuck is the matter with me?  Many have not seen anyone sweat in quite this manner.

On the subject, I have bad and good news.  The bad news is that, despite a lot of effort, I was never able to completely tame them before I retired.  The good news is that they mostly faded away as I aged and grew more confident personally and professionally.  For example, I never really had a panic attack at all throughout my tenure at TEECOM.   Therapy and reading about the subject also helped.

And now in retirement?  Not even my fragile psyche gets too bent out of shape about an upcoming pickleball match, yet . . .

Ah, retirement.  Why get upset when you can deal with it tomorrow?  Why get upset when it doesn't matter anyway?  But I still have them, although they're increasingly rare.  Which is good, because it's been 35 years.

I remember vividly - and have written previously about - the first (during a business presentation in 1988) and the last (at the Munich airport in 2022).  There was the time I was the best man at a summer wedding and I was standing at the outdoor altar during the ceremony literally melting down in my tuxedo.  But it wasn't the heat:  It was the anxiety of having to give the toast.  Likewise, at a presentation to 3M at their HQ in Minneapolis in 1995:  I had to leave the conference room, as I was drenched after having spoken for approximately 30 seconds.

How can a ham like me be afflicted like this?  Easy, of course:  It's anxiety.  But what's odd is I've also had whoppers for no real reason at all.  Like the time during a quarterly review while working at Ernst & Young.  The review was a nearly great one, but when some (well-deserved) constructive criticism was offered, I nearly dissolved into my chair and had to be excused from the review.  That did wonders for my career, I can assure you.

Actually, I quit soon thereafter to move here to SF, so it didn't matter.  But the hits kept coming.  And nothing compared to owning my own company, from 2001 -  2018.  

I averaged a panic attack every other day during this period, where I designed and then installed the technology in fine homes in the SF Bay Area and beyond.

If you think I'm kidding, imagine not knowing what you're doing . . . in the homes of millionaires and where everyone else on the job site is the best at their respective craft.  That represented the first few years, and then?  

Once I understood the industry, I would think the tech should work, but it wouldn't, and I'd be in a pool of sweat, swearing at HDMI, Comcast, or whatever it was.  Like every day during major builds, and it was worse:  In the days leading up to big installs, I could induce a panic attack, laying in bed at night, imagining everything that could go awry in the coming days.  These regular freak-outs certainly were a part of why I walked away from my own successful business in 2017. 

I write this for anyone else likewise impacted:  You can persevere, move beyond it, and succeed.  Indeed, it was wanting to do something new, vs. the occasional mental moments, that led me to shutter my business.  And the more I came to understand the source of my panic attacks, the more I was able to control them.  As I like to say (and I think it was before Bill Walton?), I am one of the luckiest people you know, and confronting and mostly overcoming these unpleasant moments is a part of that. 

In other words, nothing in life is free.  But that's OK, and don't worry about it.


The mail piled up, what with my Memorial Day post.  Friday's Beach Boys puff piece brought accolades from both Hunter Deuce and Lara Mohair, respectively.

Great write-up.  

But it can't be the "definitive" Beach Boys post without mentioning that Mike Love may be quite possibly the biggest asshole in the music business - and that's really saying something.

Ms. Mohair was a tad bit less aggro, and more cultured.  Shocker.

Enjoyed The Beach Boys content.  The documentary sounds entertaining and informative.  

I'd like to mention another cool combination of music and film which is the SF Symphony “Lights, Camera, Music” series.  Saw Gladiator with the Symphony and Chorus last night and it was beautiful!

As I mentioned to Lara in reply, I love those kinds of performances, where they screen a film, and an orchestra or symphony plays the soundtrack live. 

And is this the famed artist Charles Clough heaping praise on my Memorial Day video?  It is.

The video is beautiful — you’re my new media master!  Also intense about your Uncle Jack!  

Beautiful and intense?  My cousin knows of what he speaks!

Thank you for reading this newsletter.  


"Portico, why don't you just chill the fuck out?"  Says everyone that has met me, ever. 

OK, and to help things along, here is my new fave band (not really, but they are very good and very chill) BALTHVS, and their Killer and aptly named Third Vibration

About Dean Clough