I woke up this morning an hour earlier than I had to and couldn’t go back to sleep because I was nervous. It’s not like I wasn’t still tired because I hadn’t slept well between weird, anxious dreams and laying awake worrying about this morning. I tried to take my mind of it by browsing social media and playing games on my phone, but I was still stressing out about it while I had a shower and got ready. I was strangely aware of my heartbeat, as I watched the fingers on my clock moving closer to 8:00 am. Running the scenario through my head for like the 20th time, I just wished I was already done with it.
Why I was so anxious? One might think I had an important job interview, a presentation infront of a lot of people or anything else people might find in any way distressing. But all I had to do was make an appointment with my doctor and another one with my gynecologist. I wasn’t nervous about the appointments itself, I never had a problem with that. The thing that made my heart rate fasten was the thought of making a phone call.
I’ve been anxious about phone calls as long as I remember. And it always went further than our generations general disregard of direct human interaction. I still grew up in the olden times when we didn’t have mobile phones as kids and you had to call your friend’s landline to arrange to hang out in the afternoon. I usually tried to make them ring me so I didn’t have to call them and have their mum pick up. I liked all my friend’s mums, but I still saw it as a hard task to say the words “hello it’s Alli, may I speak to xy.” Over time I aditionally got uncomfortable with answering the phone at home. I usually avoided it and let my mum get it hoping and praying nobody was calling to me. It went so far that my heart started racing any time I heard our phone ring. I felt better about it the closer I was to the person. I didn’t have a problem calling my parents or my best friend. With other friends I was way more uncomfortable, but talking to strangers on the phone was my nightmare.
My mum of course didn’t understand that and got pissed off frequently by me refusing to call anyone unless it was inevitable and making a fuss about it. She thought I was being a ridiculous teenager, when in fact the thought of picking up the phone made me feel sick with fear. I forgot how to form sentences just by looking at it.
I can’t even say what it is. I don’t have a problem with talking to strangers in person most of the time. I’m not even scared of public speaking. Maybe it is being judged, not being able to read the persons body language and facial reactions or the fear of not knowing what to say. I don’t know. What I know is it’s not rational.
A few years ago when I became more aware about mental illnesses, I googled it for the first time, because I started to think that maybe it wasn’t just that I’m overly shy and perhaps I wasn’t even the only one with this problem. Turns out I’m not. I found lots of articles about the phenomenon, describing the situation excactly like I experienced it. In this research I found out, that it was in fact a form of social phobia. There are no stats how many people suffer from it, but it’s more common than one would think. You can even find courses or ten step plans to deal with it on the internet. Finding out about it helped me a lot, as to be honest I had always felt like I was weird because of it.
Of course it didn’t get better immediatly, but I found out for myself that it actually got easier the more often you did it. In a journalism course I took we had to call potential interview partners, which totally freaked me out at first. But after I managed to make myself call the first few, it kept getting easier and easier especially as it was always the same conversation. A few months later I had an internship at at radio station, where my main job was to call people and answer the phone. Funnily enough I didn’t struggle with that, because I could kind of “hide” behind the corporate identity. As I read in the articles during my research, a lot of people also get anxious about the phone in the workplace. After I finishing the internship I was convinced I was over my phobia, but I’m still not. I still let my mum make my dentist and hairdresser appointments when she calls them to make ones for herself. I still shake when I have to call my gyn. And I’d still rather write 20 emails than make one quick phone call. I don’t know if that will ever change,but I guess I’ll just have to deal with it. Luckily, the problem about calling friends disppeared by itself by the wonderful invention of the internet and our generation’s preferance for text messages. (Seriously thanks guys)
So I mainly wrote this, that if you read this and if you know the feeling I described, you won’t feel alone anymore or weird about yourself like I did. And so you can show your mum that is in fact an actual phobia. Buuut, so this whole post wasn’t a complete waste of time here are also some coping mechanisms you can try next time you have to use that particular application on your smartphone.
- Ask yourself what excactly you are scared of. You will see there is nothing reasonable to be afraid of.
- Think about the worst outcome that could happen, which most of the time is nothing that’s actually bad.
- Think through what exactly you are going to say. If there are more things you have to adress make a list so you don’t have to be scared to not remember everything. You can also write down important information they give you.
- BREATHE. Take a few deep breaths to calm down before you press the call button.
- What always helps me as well is playing with a pen or scribbeling on something while talking to the person.
- Stand up. Standing up doesn’t only give your lungs more room to breathe but you will also feel taller and more confident.
- If being anxious about making calls, really affects your life or job, don’t hesitate to talk to a therapist about it. There is no reason at all to be ashamed!
In the end I also managed to call my doctor. As he told me to make an appointment with a specialist I will have to call in there soon as well. And there are a million of other phone calls to come. And I will have to conquer my fears again and again and again- But even though I’m struggling, in the end I know that I can do it, because I’ve also done it a thousand times before. And so can you. Good luck !
Love Alli xx