Calling me

This is probably a long overdue explanation. Actually I can’t believe we haven’t talked about this before. But to save hurt feelings and offense, here’s the deal.

Since I’ve been sick, starting with generalized anxiety disorder and progressing to bipolar 2 disorder, I’ve hated the phone!

Well I hate the phone function of my phone. I actually quite like the rest of my phone, and we spend a lot of time hanging out, my phone’s operating system and I.

What I hate is answering the phone, dialing numbers on my phone, calls coming up on my screen, making calls from my phone, talking on the phone.

There are some known reasons why, and some unknown reasons why. I rationalize it as best I can, but at the bottom of everything there is this primal aversion that I can’t remedy; an involuntary reaction that overcomes some of my attempts to change it.

I guess part of the response is about uncertainty. If there is one thing that anxiety fears it is the unknown. It has such a field day when a thing is not known or not fully known. An unknown phone number coming up on my touch screen sends my heart rate, my pulse, my blood pressure, everything fight or flight about me into a tizzy and I put the phone as far away as I can be by arm’s reach and stare at it as it rings, until finally it stops. Then a missed call message comes up on my screen, then maybe a voice mail. It’s a lot to deal with! Suddenly my day’s calendar has exploded! By end of day I have to get up the nerve to open and read the missed call message, and, shoot me now, listen to the voice mail and hopefully not, but possibly, have to respond to it. Having a known contact’s number pop up on my screen isn’t much less exhausting. Answering the phone, opening my ears up opens a direct pathway to my heart by emotions foreign, unknown. Here’s hoping that responding to the message only takes an inner acknowledgement, please not a text and please please please not a phone call!!

So, the uncertainty. What is so uncertain? Everything, to anyone inclined towards anxiety. Who is it going to be, what are they going to want, how long is it going to take, where are you going to be when they catch you off guard? When are they going to call? What are they going to say, what will I have to say? Nothing can be known in advance, and therefore nothing can be controlled which is how I prefer to operate; controlled. I constantly worry about what emotional toll happenings around me will have on me. How much emotional money do I have today, and how am I going to spend it? Because once it’s spent that’s it for me, off to bed to recharge for as long as it takes. It’s inconvenient, but it works. So I feel that I have to carefully monitor the cost of happenings around me, and what capacity I have to pay for them. That’s just how it is.

That’s if I’m having an anxious day. On a depressed day, it’s much less complicated. The sheer act of reaching my arm out to my phone, having to lift the phone up, transport it to my ear, roll over so that I can put the phone to my ear…just far too many moving parts for me! I’m going back to sleep, they can call later. Or never. Let them leave a text message, a voice mail. Let them leave 10, I’ll deal with it at some undetermined later date which may never come, although that brings it’s own anxiety around having something outstanding awaiting my attention and the same what ifs as before, except I can control the when with a beating heart and shaking hands. So, same result, different motivator and vastly different range of emotions assailing me.

Please don’t take me wrong! I love that you care enough to call. The thought behind it is precious to me, always. Consider your good intentions registered and appreciated even if you never get through to me; even if I’m not thoughtful enough to call you back and tell you so. It’s not you that I have a problem with; I like you. It’s my insides that are roiling and writhing regardless of who it is coming across the telephone network. So many lovely friends, and I let you go to voicemail. It hurts me in the heart to do it, but my jiggling stomach and nerves win out most of the time. I just can’t do it, I just can’t pick up that phone! I do mean to get back to you, somehow. I think about it, about how I’ll let you know that I did get your message, I did note your call. I think, maybe I’ll text you later, or maybe this time I’ll manage to talk myself into calling you, you know, later. But maybe I won’t, and I’ll feel bad, very bad about it. Not bad enough to call, necessarily, but bad. I’m sorry. You don’t deserve this kind of treatment, but I so often just can’t find it in myself to do better. Lately I’m improving, but it’s early days, we’ll see how those nerves go.

So, I text. I love texting! I can read and reread your message to get the absolute fullest meaning out of it, then I can draft and redraft my response, leaving some waiting time in between if I need to ponder new information or digest new events. When I’M ready, and composed, and emotionally calm, and in control, I can text you a reply. No sudden information overload, or rush of emotions. No misspoken words, or “I didn’t mean it like that” moment. It’s just better!

I tend to mostly not pick up the phone, except to my husband who is always safe. Some closer friends also are on the okay list, but that list doesn’t apply at all times on all days so if I let you ring out, please don’t be upset or offended or think that you aren’t a great friend. I just don’t have the emotion to spend today, sorry. Not to suggest that you suck the energy out of me; all interaction does, it’s not personal. As a matter of fact, I tend to put my phone on silent. I also tend to leave it around the house, or in my handbag, or upstairs, or in my work locker; I don’t tend to carry it around with me. So it may be the case that I just didn’t hear your call, or see that you were calling, or maybe I did see it and just couldn’t make myself answer. Either way, I still love you! I’m just dealing with my demons!

If I answer a call, it’s like metaphorically throwing myself off a bridge. It’s a mentally drastic action that I can’t take back once I’ve hit that button, risky to my emotional state, putting myself out there exposed and open to injury inflicted by unknowing people. Will I be hurt, will I get through unscathed? Am I okay today and able to get through what this potentially might be? Or will I regret trying to be better by answering? I would like not to assume that everyone and everything is out to get me, and I don’t really. I just don’t have the emotional capacity that I used to have, that “normal” people have. So I tend to be overly wary, overly self protective. Maybe it’s over the top, maybe it’s insulting. But it is what it is.

I know it’s etiquette to return your call. About that. Deliberately dialing a number with the intention of talking to someone brings every bit of fight or flight flooding in, again! How many times can I take this experience without permanently depleting my adrenaline stores? Add to that an enormous lump in my throat so that I can hardly speak normally, and an overwhelming urge to hang up at every ring! If I actually get to say hello, it’s possibly been an ordeal! Mostly. I have good days. Better days. When it’s not so hard. But mostly I’ve had to take myself firmly to task, and work myself up to dialing back.

Here is a not uncommon scenario: I let the phone ring out cos I just can’t answer, then when I feel ready I text you back. You assume I’m free now and wasn’t before so you call me again. I let it ring out again cos you know, then I text you again. Until you get tired of calling me, I guess!

I suppose I’m trying to condition anyone who rings me to leave me a message. Then I can call back if and when I’m ever ready, or I can text you safely from the comfort of my own home, at the time of my choosing, controlled by me, no risk to my emotional self. Texting is good. It’s safe, I can compose what I want to say, I can respond at my leisure, no one rushing me or hassling me, it’s all in my hands, in my control.

But I guess sometimes I need to be challenged to do it the “normal” way, so don’t stop calling. I want you to stop in that I want to stop having to answer, but really it’s your choice and I’m trying to be better, to deal with it somehow. After all it’s the thing, it’s not you. You are my friend, and I like you, so I’m trying. Make me try.

The Brain

[Author’s note: written last Thursday]

Today I…

…Hmmm.

I just realised that a lot of my writing and thinking starts like this.

That’s one thing about being home by yourself for months; you get to thinking about yourself a lot! And not so much about others.

Plus, you know, the whole life-changing nervous breakdown thing that triggers a lot of soul searching, heart searching, mind searching etc.

Plus being in therapy which encourages looking into yourself and understanding yourself and changing yourself. Plus seeing doctors regularly who ask you about yourself and want an answer about yourself.

Don’t know whether it is bad or good but it is what it is. I’m just noting it for my own reference really. Without judgement, just like my psychologist, mindfulness teacher and gratitude life class coach would say!

So today I went to a free organ concert.

This is something that I’ve wanted to do for a while now and haven’t gotten around to. It’s actually something that I’ve wanted to do ever since school camp to Sydney way back, not sure which year; probably about a decade ago though!! We saw the majestic organ at the Opera House but never got to hear it played. So the idea of hearing an organ concert is something that has been lurking in the back of my brain ever since.

And now it popped up for free! Can’t beat that!

So I went along today and took in the concert.

Annoying thing is, I’m not sure if I enjoyed it. Annoying, frustrating, irritating, worrying, concerning,interesting; pick one, any one.

My logical brain appreciated the size and the grandeur of the organ and the work that went in to building such a large musical instrument. It registered the admirable fact that the organ has been in place for a long time and still rings true thanks to dedication of many people. It realised the lovely surroundings from where I sat including the bright colours of stained glass windows, lovely wooden furniture, carpets and heating that made the environment comfy cosy on a freezing cold rainy day. It took in the detail of paintings and carvings and settings that were meticulous and intricate.

My rational brain heard the satisfying chords of the music played and admired the skill of the organist, and the patience of the girl sitting by to turn pages. It was interested by the variety of other people with a like desire to hear organ music in this day and age, and the ongoing support of obvious regular attendees. It was intrigued by the range of notes and variety of styles in which the organ could be played; impressed really to hear fast furious pieces together with traditional classical music and lyrical hymns. It felt obliged to be satisfied overall because really, wasn’t I ticking off one of my longings?

My physical brain was engaged in making sure that I was comfortable. I overheat very rapidly these days because of my medicines so all my coats and scarves were off. But just to be sure my physical brain checked and checked again and found that I was in fact sweating. Seriously, it was 8 degrees outside and I had just walked into a mildly heated draughty room and I’m wiping sweat off my face! Argh. Moving on, my brain was okay with the seating, the position, the view. It was surprised to find the seats in fact very comfy for an old building, and the view to be very nice.

So my brain goes on, looking, checking, assessing, approving and appreciating.

But is it enjoying? Today I’m just not sure. Usually I can feel it; happiness, joy, enjoyment. But today is one of those days where everything is in place, but I just can’t quite get to where I think I want to be.

Is it the medication, is it the condition, is it just an off day? Was it my lunch not sitting well, the seat slightly skewed, the conversation I just had? Was it my planning for tomorrow, my list of others things I’d like to do, my thoughts on dinner?

I think it will take more time and experience before I know the difference and can say for sure which is which.

I’m glad I did what I’ve wanted to do for so long. I’m sorry I didn’t quite get out of it what I thought. Maybe my expectations were not aligned with reality or maybe today’s just not my day. At least I have the blessing of being able to try it again sometime since the concert is a recurring one. A lot of times we don’t get opportunity a second time so that’s definitely in the plus column!