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Everything is an Emergency: An OCD Story in Word & Pictures

Everything is an Emergency: An OCD Story in Word & Pictures

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Jason Adam Katzenstein

Harper Perennial; Illustrated edition, 256 pages

A New Yorker cartoonist illustrates his lifelong struggle with OCD in cartoon vignettes frank and funny

Jason Adam Katzenstein is just trying to live his life, but he keeps getting sidetracked by his over-active, anxious brain. Mundane events like shaking hands or sharing a drink snowball into absolute catastrophes. Jason has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, a mental illness that compels him to perform rituals in order to protect himself from dangers that don’t really exist. He checks, washes, over-thinks, rinse, repeat.

He does his best to hide his embarrassing compulsions, and sometimes this even works. He grows up, worries about his first kiss, falls in love with making cartoons, moves to New York City — which is magical and gross, etc. All the while, half his energy goes into living his life, while the other half is devoted to the increasingly ridiculous rituals he’s decided to maintain to keep himself from fully short-circuiting,

Then, he fully short-circuits.

At his absolute lowest, Jason finally decides to do the things he’s always been told to do to get better: exposure therapy and medication. These are the things that have always freaked him out, and they continue to freak him out. Also, they help him recover.

Everything is an Emergency is a comic about all the self-destructive stories someone tells himself, over and over, until they start to seem true. In images surreal, witty, and confessional, Jason shows us that OCD can be funny, even when it feels like it’s ruining your life.

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