A big update on my last few months

This is my first blog post in almost six months, the longest lapse I’ve ever had. Hi! How have you been? I’ve had a rough year but I’m doing better now and wanted to catch you up on some things.

  • In June of last year my right vocal chord was paralyzed. During a simple surgery on my neck some nerves stopped working for reasons not entirely understood. I was still able to speak, but I was suddenly a very quiet person, unable to raise my voice. I was told it was likely permanent and if I recovered it could take up to a year. This had a profound effect on my mental health, as I wrote about in my newsletter. I thought my public speaking career was over but more profoundly had the first identity crisis of my life. Every social interaction was now a major challenge. Two months later my voice did slowly start to recover (it’s nearly 100% now), and I can’t express how grateful I am for this turn of events.
  • Ironically the audiobook for How Design Makes The World released days before all this happened. I didn’t get a chance to promote it as my professional life entirely shut down just a week later. But still, the cosmic absurdity of these two events did make me laugh.
  • For months I’ve struggled with anxiety, depression and PTSD. I’ve never had serious issues with mental health before, but this crisis sent me into the darkest of places. I lost all interest in reading and writing, two of my most favorite things to do. I found watching movies (another favorite), or listening to music (same), too triggering and my ability to communicate in person or over the phone was significantly worse. My sense of isolation and brokenness was profound. Peak tragicomedy was calling the speech therapy clinic on the phone to make a first appointment, the only way to contact them, but they couldn’t understand what I was saying.
  • I’ll write more about this entire experience someday and what helped me on my path to recovery (there is so much junk mental health advice out there). I’m doing much better now but still have more work to do.
  • I returned to FT work a few weeks ago, rejoining Automattic. In this crisis, I lost most of my motivation to work on my own and to pursue writing books. This was shocking: given my ambition for most of the last 20 years was to write as many books as I can. I discovered a deeper need for connection and teamwork, something I’m sure the pandemic contributed to. I wrote about Automattic in my 2013 book The Year Without Pants, an early book about remote work, and it has felt so good to return. My role there is as a product and design coach to the company, helping teams to make better products. I’m grateful to Matt Mullenweg and everyone there who has welcomed me back.
  • I’m grateful to everyone who reached out. So many of you wrote me long emails or sent messages checking in on me and trying to find ways to show support. I don’t know that I’ll ever find a way to repay you, but I do hope to be writing and creating more soon.
  • I’m doing much better now. If you follow me on Twitter you’ve noticed my activity is back up as I’m able to read and write again, something I never imagined I’d lose the ability to do. I can’t express how grateful I am to the universe for this turn of events.

I’m not sure what’s ahead for me. This has been a profound and unexpected time of reexamination. I’m old enough (I turn 50 this year) to have felt I knew myself well, but now find I have more questions than answers. I promise to do what I can to share what I learn.

One thing I’m sure of: I’m grateful for the writing and speaking life I’ve had so far and I have you all to thank for it. Thank you.

4 Responses to “A big update on my last few months”

  1. Monte

    Hi Scott, thanks for sharing your story so openly. Having physical and mental health challenges at the same time probably intensified both. That’s rough. May you continue to heal from both.

  2. Dave

    Wow what a turbulent and challenging time for you Scott. Glad your voice is returning, but that doesn’t mean the emotional impact won’t take time to heal.

    Great to hear you’re returning to Automattic. The Year Without Pants dropped about a year before I lost my job and kind of fell into freelancing and new ways of working outside of standard, sit in the office structures. So your experiences there gave me pointers on how to be adaptable to the uncertainty and collaborate digitally with new people around the world. So thank you.

  3. Jim Hunt

    Hey Scott. I replied to your update email with my contact info, which I won’t put here in case these comments are public. Please do reach out anytime. It only would I love to reconnect and catch up, it would be my privilege to help as a friendly ear during difficult times.

    Best, -Jim.

  4. Eva

    Hi Scott, luckily we 1972’ers are tough cookies ;-) So glad to hear you are on the mend. Also very happy that you’re back at Automattic. Truly great people there.


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