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ontemporary inventors and geniuses have always been quite introverted, and in rare cases, ended up suffering some sort of mental health issue, in many of these instances due to spending too much time by themselves. However, to become a renowned inventor or for someone to be remembered for their craft, you need to spend a lot of time alone understanding your thoughts and your visions.

From that perspective, I consider Tesla as being the biggest visionary ever, as he was imagining inventions and devices that we are struggling to invent today with two centuries worth of technological advancements. Many historians see him as a man who was born in the wrong century, as his mind was way ahead of the 19th century. This wasn’t something that Tesla was initially born with, but something that he gathered from hours of research and the mindset that allowed him to put two and two together.

Mental health issues

The father of modern electrical engineering who brought to us the electric motor, the radar, the radio, x-rays, and other devices that we use to this day was suffering from obsessive-compulsiveness or better known as OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) which refers to forced need a person feels to repeat a certain action or thinking of the same thought over and over again.

Some historians say that this mental disorder actually helped him reach his maximum potential as it made him focus on the same thing over and over again until he managed to achieve his thoughts or bring his visions to reality. At the same time, this may explain why he preferred to spend so much time alone as a complication that can be developed from OCD is anxiety. As Tesla lived mostly by himself, we don’t have much information about his personal life, however, there are some records describing the “obscure” personal preferences he had.

This disorder, as well as other health issues, might have been caused because of his very bad sleep schedule, it is said that Tesla was only sleeping for two hours a day. Author W. Bernard Carlson who wrote Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age mentioned in his book that tesla loved sitting alone in his hotel room in New York with his white pigeon who apparently communicated with him on a daily basis. In my opinion that isn’t strange, but it still isn’t a very healthy habit for someone who was suffering from a mental disorder.

The hand of Nikola Tesla taken by his wonderful artificial daylight. This is the first photo made by the light of the future. (Source: Rare Historical Photos)

Carlson also mentions that Tesla hated touching other people’s hair and also jewelry, especially the earrings worn by women. The author does not mention a reason for hating these things, but we can guess that being introverted and probably also suffering from anxiety, he liked to keep to himself. We also need to acknowledge that anxiety wasn’t known back then, so many people could not understand why he was so introverted. Still, most people assumed that he spent all of his time inventing, meaning that he needed to concentrate.

We are also told that Tesla had an obsession with the number three, doing things in three actions such as three steps or just using the number three. This explained why every hotel room that he stayed in started (or at least contained) three in its number. He would take a small break every three hours of work to refocus his thoughts. The room in which he was found dead in a New York hotel by the name Wyndham was 3327, located on the 33rd floor. The author also mentioned that most of these problems became more predominant in his senior years.

Nikola Tesla in his New York office, 1916. (Source: Vintage)

From all of this, we can see that he was a man that followed quite specific routines, and this can be seen from the diet he followed, eating twice a day — meaning breakfast and dinner — as well as exercising for three hours a day. This information was found in an interview from 1933 when Tesla was seventy-seven years of age. He said that in order to live an energetic life you need to avoid all foods that may contain toxins and that exercise is key to good health, as with no exercise the body produces certain toxins that can be harmful in a long term.

Where did he get his dedication from?

This is a rare person who had dedicated his whole life to making his visions a reality, but what drove him to keep going?

Surely, just like any other person, he must have had times in life when he doubted himself, especially when he did not have much support from anyone as he was mostly by himself. We can presume that his genius was above the whole population at the time as he knew that no one had his vision for the world. Therefore, no one could understand him and it would be pointless to explain to someone why he lived in the way he did, why he was so introverted, and why he dedicated his whole life towards evolving this world.

A glow of nitrogen fills the atmosphere with Tesla sitting in front of his generator (1899). (Source: Rare Historical Photos)

It is imperative to understand that psychiatry was still in its early, primitive stages at the end of the 19th century, hence even if he tried to express himself he would have been seen more like a weird person rather than someone actually suffering from mental health issues. The only thing that made people believe in him was the functionality and efficiency of his evolutionary inventions that, at the time, seemed out of this world.

In the interview taken in 1933, he said that by the age of seventy-seven he lived mostly by himself and isolation helped him concentrate on his work. From the records gathered by W. Bernard Carlson, even until the age of eighty-six, when he passed away, he was still alone.

So, the only thing that does remain to be taken into consideration is his mental health issues, which he seemed to take on as sort of an advantage rather than letting them get to him. Yet again, we do not know how severe his case of OCD was or of other mental health issues he might have suffered from, but he very well managed to combat these mental issues or at least to portray himself in such a manner that it seemed as if his mental issues didn’t affect him, but actually, in a weird way, enhanced him as a person.

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