Sunday, February 04, 2007
Scarier Than a Stephen King Novel
I’m finally going to address IT. You know, IT, the phobia that has held me back in the past and continues to haunt me. IT is my telephone phobia.
How long have I had the telephone phobia? I am quite sure that it goes back at least to high school, and since I wasn’t really allowed to use the telephone much prior to that I’m not sure how long before that I would have had it. It is definitely related to social anxiety although I can handle live face to face interaction better than telephonic conversation.
What is the extent of this telephone phobia? My first memories of it are of being afraid of making telephone calls but being okay with receiving them. I later went through a phase where I was afraid of both making and receiving telephone calls. Not only would I not make a call, but I wouldn’t answer one either. If nobody else was home I’d just let it go to the answering machine. A few years ago though I found that I was much better off answering a telephone call than letting it go to the machine and having to actually make a call back later. At this point, I will answer almost any telephone call although I always check caller ID first.
Making telephone calls, on the other hand, can cause me to go into a full blown panic attack. Just writing about it is making my heart beat faster and my breathing shallower. I absolutely hate to make telephone calls. To me there is nothing good about making a call. There are only three people I can call without triggering the phobia – W, N, and BJ. To call anyone else requires me to spend time psyching myself up for it, convincing myself it will be okay. Sometimes I try to write a script for myself beforehand. Mostly all any of this does is make me have more time to think and get nervous about it. In some ways, it almost seems better if I have to make a call immediately because then I don’t have time to think about it so much. I’m better at making a call if somebody says “Call Sue and ask her if she knows anything about that check?” and then stands there waiting for me to do it right then. At that point, I just take a deep breath and do it. If, on the other hand, you were to ask me to call Sue when I get a chance to ask her about the check then I’ll put it off as long as possible and spend much to much time worrying about it and dreading it. Almost the worst is when I’m told to call Sue tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. Now I know exactly when I’ll be forced to do it, and the clock moves so slowly until the appointed time. Then time starts to fly and before I know it it is 10:03, then 10:08, then 10:10, and at some point I begin to panic because now I’m so late making the call I’ll be even more embarrassed.
I want to get over this phobia or at least get control of it so that I can make telephone calls when telephone calls are required. I don’t hope to ever be one of those people who can just pick up a phone and make a call just to chat incessantly about nothing, but I least hope to get to a point where I can make necessary appointments for myself, where I can call and order a pizza, where I can call family and friends to share news with them.
So just what is it that strikes terror in my heart when faced with the need to make a phone call? I daresay that there is something underlying the list I’m about to give, something that is at the crux of the problem that I can’t quite put my finger on or won’t allow myself to consciously acknowledge. I am trying to open myself up to figuring out what that thing is, and am hoping that by bringing this out into the light that I am on my way to doing that. Here, then, are the things of which I’m aware that terrify the begeezus out of me:
• Fear of interrupting the person at a bad time
• Fear of sounding like an idiot
• Fear that I won’t make clear why I’m calling
• Fear that I will say too much
• Fear that I will say too little
• Fear that the recipient of the call will not be nice to me
• Fear that the recipient of the call will belittle me
I don’t feel like I’ve explained any of this well. Rational discourse on this issue is supremely difficult for me. At this point, I’ve got to stop writing and go calm myself down now.