Thursday, June 16, 2011

My Secret Phobia

I don't have a lot of phobias. There are things I fear of course, but for the most part they are healthy fears or what I would rather term "common sense caution". But I will confess right now to an extremely ridiculous phobia that I have. Ridiculous as it may be, it is very real and makes certain aspects of my life....well, stupid frankly!

We are a society addicted to phones. Not content to have access to them only at home, we now are tethered to them 24/7. And we use them for a bazillion things other than merely having a conversation. And I'm pretty cool with those other bazillion things for the most part. Especially texting. I love texting sooooooo freaking much! Why? Because it means I don't actually have to speak into the danged contraption. Sigh......there, I've said it. I will go to great lengths to avoid actually having to talk to someone on the phone. The thought of it makes me feel a little woozy. There are a small number of people I am completely comfortable talking to on the phone; they are my partner, my kids and those friends I have known the longest. Outside of that I would really prefer to just text.  If my phone rings and it shows up as a number not in my contacts, I will not answer it. Period. They can leave a voice mail and then we'll see. This is a tactic lots of us use but for me it's not only about avoiding those we don't want to communicate with at all. It also has to do with my general dread of a phone conversation.

The absolute worst for me is needing to call someone that I don't know at all. Such as when I need to schedule an appointment. Or call to get information I need. Or deal with a customer service person. Where this gets to be a big problem, is that the fear is so strong that I will put off making really important calls for things that really should not be taken lightly. For instance, putting off calling to schedule medical appointments. Or not calling about something that has the potential to affect me financially.

Typically, I will make the call when I absolutely must. Many years ago I had a close friend that was going through a very rough patch. I talked to him on the phone frequently. We had a conversation in which I became very concerned that he was suicidal. He lived over an hours drive from me so I couldn't get to him myself quickly. Not knowing what else to do I hung up from him and immediately called a suicide prevention hotline. I didn't even hesitate then. I just did it. They were great and gave me the information I needed and reassured me that he was most likely not going to hurt himself, but that it would be best for me to go ahead and drive out to him if I could. I was so glad I made that phone call. And so glad that in what felt like a life or death situation, my phobia did not stop me from doing what I needed to do.

This is the very first time I have told anyone other than my partner about this fear. It's a pretty embarrassing thing to admit to. I feel like most people would think it is incredibly foolish to be afraid of such a silly thing. And I have never really thought that anyone else had this problem. But recently I encountered someone else who admitted the very same thing. I was so surprised because she is a successful business owner and someone I respect a great deal. I decided to do some investigating and learned that this is a very real anxiety disorder. It sometimes goes hand in hand with general social anxiety disorder but not always. It comes in varying degrees. I am not alone!

I learned that it is common in those who were extremely shy as children, which includes myself. While I got over much of my shyness and do fine interacting with people face to face most of the time, the phone phobia has lingered on. What amazes me is that once I actually make the call I almost never have any fears during the conversation. I am fine. And relieved. So with a lifetime of experiencing nothing bad happening, why do I continue to feel so anxious about making a call? Just the unknown I guess. And maybe THIS time I will sound like an idiot. Who knows? I found websites that actually address how to cure yourself of this problem. Most of the tips are things I already do to some degree at least. Like having a script of what I want to say so that I won't have to think on my feet as much. Also psyching yourself up by recalling previous phone experiences that went well. Sometimes the only thing that does it for me is that I have to just WANT whatever it is bad enough to put myself through it. I usually will eventually make the call. It's just a long drawn out thing where I avoid, avoid, avoid, and avoid some more until my back is up against the wall. It would be nice to not go through that in the first place. Every now and then I surprise myself by calling right away. But not often enough!

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