Trigger Warning: this post may contain content that can trigger a shift in mood, comfort, or mental status. Proceed at your own risk.
One of the things that really bothers me about my illness is how it’s got its tendrils wrapped around almost every aspect of my life, making normally simple tasks difficult or impossible. One of the best examples of this is answering the phone, or rather, how I’m unable to.
It started happening while I was still at work. At first I was just dreading getting phone calls. Then I would sit there and stare at the call display and be unable to answer the phone unless I was sure I knew who it was. It finally got to the point where the phone would ring and I would get up and leave my office because I was afraid of who was calling or what they may have wanted. The same thing was happening at home – the phone would ring and I would try to ignore it or wait until it was done ringing and then check the call display log to see who called.
Here’s what happens when the phone rings: my pulse and breathing speed up, I start to sweat, and there’s an uncomfortable feeling in my chest that reminds me that a panic attack is probably on the way. All I can think about while the phone is ringing is that someone’s calling to call me back into work, wants to question the legitimacy of my illness, or has terrible, world-shattering news to tell me. I feel like a frightened little kid who wants to hide under a piece of heavy furniture – just because the phone is ringing! It’s embarrassing and frustrating at the same time.
I have tried Exposure Response but as I have no control over when the phone rings, it’s difficult to get myself ready for it. I’ve tried changing the ringer volume and sound but that hasn’t helped either. I’m not sure what the best course of action is at this point but I think this is something I need to work on with Dr C. If I ever want to get back to work (and I do want to get back to work), I really need to be able to reliably answer the phone.
Even typing the previous sentence out makes me feel silly. I’m a 40+ year old man who gets scared whenever the phone rings. I understand that mental illness has a lot of manifestations, but of all of them that I’ve experienced so far, this one has to be right up there with the most embarrassing.
I am hopeful, though. Dr C and Dr W have guided me through many dark and scary corners of my mind and I’m able to do a lot more than I used to. Hopefully this will be no different.