Fun with OCD

You wouldn’t know it unless I told you, but I’ve written over five thousand words today and deleted all of it. I’d like to think that makes me a great writer. Like Ernest Hemingway who once said, “I write one page of masterpiece to 91 pages of shit. I try to put the shit in the wastebasket.” But that’s not the case with me. I take the shit, and the masterpiece, to the nearest incinerator and watch it burn. You see, I have OCD.

And because I have this wonderfully annoying condition, I have a lot of anxiety and the kind of crippling self-doubt I wouldn’t wish on anyone. So I delete what I’m working on and try again. And again. And again. And maybe, I produce something worth sharing. But more often than not I don’t think so, and the cycle repeats until I lose interest and go and do something else.

If you’re wondering why it’s taking me so long to write another book, now you know.

Well, technically, I DID write another book, but it was a ghostwritten thing, so it doesn’t count. It’s good. You should read it. I’m convinced you’ll hear about it in the not too distant future if the release isn’t botched, but that’s not in my hands.

Anyway, for years I’ve joked about having OCD, but it was never officially diagnosed, and I didn’t want to do anything to treat it out of fear it’d keep me from being funny. Because make no mistake, there’s no secret to writing jokes. You just keep sharpening the idea that you have until it’s just right and then you go test it out, tweaking what you need to until it’s gold. OCD is handy there.

But OCD isn’t handy for much else, and my personal life has been a mess for an extraordinarily long time. Definitely since 2012 when I got divorced and used traveling around the world and living out of hotel rooms as an excuse to not deal with my shit, but if I’m honest, my personal life has been a disaster since forever.

Put me in a professional setting, whether it’s onstage talking to thousands of people or in a conference room with one, and I’m awesome. Put me out on a date, or with someone that I don’t need to sell anything to? Forget it. Can’t do it. I’m completely withdrawn.

This year (March 2016 to now) has not been good. Some of it is my fault, some of it is not, but in life one of the things you figure out real fast is that you can’t waste time thinking about things beyond your control. You can work to mitigate potential problems or engineer things to increase the odds of your success, but after a certain point, you can only do so much, and it’s up to other people. And other people can be dumb and irrational.

So, I’ve decided to work on the things I can control.

I’ve been using Talkspace for almost six months now. It’s an app that lets you text a therapist and even do a weekly video chat with them depending on what plan you have. The video chat feature is nice, except it immediately cuts you and your therapist off at 30 minutes, even if something important is going on. So that can be deeply frustrating because you’re spending as much time talking and listening as you are watching the clock and hoping it won’t cut you off. A good therapist won’t do that to you in person. They’ll know when to stop the session, but they’ll at least finish the thought or discussion before closing things down. The Talkspace app doesn’t do that because it was built by “tech people” and tech people don’t care about how we interact with each other as humans. They only care about scale and efficiency.

Despite that technical annoyance, I like the therapist I have, and honestly, I don’t know how much longer I’m going to have health insurance, so TalkSpace is a pretty good solution for me at the moment. Even if I think I need to see someone in person regularly (and I think I do. So does the therapist.)

So at the therapist’s urging, I finally did make an in-person appointment with a psychiatrist just recently. She confirmed that I do in fact have OCD, so it’s no longer just a running joke. She also recommended I take something for it, which I’ve been doing. It’s been a week, and I know it takes like a month to see a difference, so I’m optimistic. I’m not so thrilled about the side effects, but given that dating is off the table while I’m stranded in upstate New York, that’s fine. I’m not going to sweat it.

Why am I telling you all this?

I believe that talking about depression and mental health is important. The odds are good that someone you know is affected by it in some way.

But I also think this has been a huge problem for me over the years. This condition has harmed my writing and ability to produce a much-demanded follow-up to “Social Media is Bullshit,” and my relationships with a lot of people. So, you should know what the deal is.

I’m not going to lie to you. I was at a Barnes & Noble in Union Square on Thursday, and I saw multiple books from people who had released their first book after mine came out in 2012. This was deeply frustrating. I’d like to write more, but I’ve got this problem I’m trying to solve.

I also had wanted to write about depression and startups here on this blog, but I’m honestly not feeling so hot about startups and tech people these days. It’s going to take an extreme amount of convincing to get me even to consider working with another tech company again.

That means if I want to talk about depression and OCD, talking from the perspective of startups or a startup founder isn’t something that appeals to me anymore.

But talking about it from the viewpoint of someone whose new book leans hard into self-help / self-guidance while giving marketing advice, then it does make sense to share all this here with you. Because we’re now at the point where I’m going to (attempt) to write and post ideas and concepts found in the new book so I can test them out and see what sticks.

I also believe that posting about this stuff could be helpful to you, because if I can, with help, get past whatever obstacles I’m facing and put out the second book, given the complete and total lack of resources that I have at my disposal presently, then there’s no excuse for you, you know? You can do the same.

So, let’s do it together.