facing fear

I have come to the realization that, for the past two years, I have been suffering from a somewhat intense fear of the telephone. I hate when it rings and I hate when I have to call someone. But I never recognized this for what it was. I used to love to talk on the phone. I loved to hear from people on the phone and call friends & family to catch up. But lately, not so much. I just assumed that I was sick of the phone. I thought, especially at my old job in Philly when I was on the phone a lot, that I was just tired of talking on it so I didn't want to call anyone after work. I didn't realize that after we moved to New York, it didn't change. I was on the phone first not at all, and then once I got a job here, much, much less than before. But I still didn't like the phone.

However, on the infrequent occasions when I do talk on the phone, I nearly always enjoy the conversation. There is nothing I value more than my family and friends. I love to talk to them. Until very recently, I didn't acknowledge or realize the discrepancy between my dislike of the phone and my enjoyment of phone conversations.

I think that I have been in complete denial of my fear. I have a fear that every time the phone rings, it will be bad news. Something bad will have happened to someone and I can't face that. Now that I have identified that the fear exists, now that I've realized that the feeling in my gut when I pick up the phone to answer or dial is actually a sudden knot of total panic, understanding where the fear came from was the easy part.

The news of my brother's death came via phone, late at night, from my parents. About 5 months before that, we heard by phone that our nephew had died, and though I knew it was coming, I heard by phone that my dad's mom, my Mamie, had died.

This phone fear, though until now I had been in complete denial that it existed, has stopped me from making a lot of phone calls, personal calls of all kinds. From calling family members to say hi, or on special occasions, all the way down to making appointments. It did not interfere with business calls at work, I suppose because I had no personal connection to anyone I call there. Strangely enough, or maybe it's not, this fear does not extend to calling or answering calls from my parents, from whom one of the worst and scariest phone calls of all came. I can only assume this is because I talk to them so often that the fear, if it ever was there with them, has worked itself out. I love talking to them and never feel that fear when it comes to calls to or from them.

Now that I understand what is happening, I am trying to overcome it. It is almost worse to understand this fear than it was to just believe that I disliked talking on the phone, even though it meant missing out on a lot. A couple of weeks ago, I made dentist appointments for M and me. This past week, I made appointments for physicals for us. That may seem totally trivial and ridiculous, but it is actually a step forward for me.

This week, I am going to call my good friend T, with whom I have actually been playing phone tag for a couple of weeks now. I called immediately after getting home from work the couple of times I tried to call. I think I did this because I figured she wouldn't be available to answer. Some part of me in the pit of my stomach desperately hoped she wouldn't answer. But I want to catch up with her because I miss her a lot.

I'm also going to call my friend and former college roommate, A, whose wedding I attended with my mom in the middle of our crazy moving weekend last weekend. We left M, my dad, my mom-in-law & dad-in-law, and my sister-in-law & her husband here to continue with moving/unpacking and left for Pennsylvania. We drove down for the wedding and the beginning of the reception, but did not get to chat much (she was a little busy!). I can't wait to tell her how beautiful the wedding was, and how much I like her new husband, and ask her about how everything went after we had to leave.

My fear is creeping up and threatening to stop me from making these calls, but I am going to take two steps forward by making two phone calls. So I don't know if you'll see this, A & T, but if you do, we'll talk about it when I call you this week.

Even as I was writing this, that fear has creeped up. A big part of me wants very much to delete this whole post and try to go back to the denial. But I'm taking deep breaths, and I'm going to publish it. I need it off my chest in order to help me move forward and figure out how to get past this. I don't know how at this point; I only know I need to. In the meantime, if you fall into the category of my friends or family that I've been neglecting, just know how much you mean to me and how much I love talking to you & seeing you. Just give me a little time to work through this.


maresi said...

I'm so glad you shared this with us, A. What a breakthrough! Self-evaluation and discovery are marks of wisdom. You take your time, and when you feel like calling, call. It will get easier with time.

EDH said...

I understand. I actually turned our phone ringers off a while ago. We have an answering machine (as opposed to voice mail), so we can hear who's on the other end when they leave a message, and just pick up if we want to. It's much nicer for me than the piercing ring of the telephone, which as you know I associate with bad news as well. I suppose I could try to transition to using the phone ringer, but I guess I'm not ready yet... and it IS much quieter!

Thais said...

I TOTALLY understand-I had a similar fear right after my dad died, since the new (although expected) came via phone-Email me (REgit99@hotmail.com) I think it is good you ha ethe insight to recognize it as a fear - maybe you are not ready to deal with it, but the first step is recognition.
I love you lots - Oh! I am totall curious about your move!!! I might be in the city this wednesday depenidng on work and my back ( i fell at work) drop me an email!

Green said...

Maybe you don't like calling people you care about because you subconsciously think you're causing them that shot of panic when their phone rings, and since you know how scary it is you don't want to be inflicting that on those you love? Mmmmm hmmm. That'll be $95, see you next week. Hi back. :)

Chris said...

Really interesting post, and I have to say it's making me think too. I too have been avoiding the phone like it's plague. I've blamed it on my job--which for a long time required way too much phone time, but currently does not. I've blamed it on the annoyance of the number of calls ones receives having a house on the market and people calling to see it all the time. I've blamed it on being tired.

But, your post makes me think perhaps there is another root to this, becuase I know when I started really hating being on the phone and that date would correspond to my mother's death. Oddly, I didn't get called about that. I was sitting there in her house with her at the time. And yet, I can't deny that when the phone rins I feel my stomahc do a flip flop as a matter of course. Thought provoking. Thanks.

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