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.

Open letter

Dear Catherine,

Time has passed.

Has it made you wiser, given you insight, inspired you to take a good hard long and most importantly honest look at yourself?

Are you able to discern the enormous damage that you allowed to come to pass both to people and to the the departments that you are responsible for?

I wonder if you see it yet, or if you are still blindly adhering to a terrible principle which is as misguided as it is illogical.

I believe you are a nice enough person. Except you work for an evil corporation; how can that sit well with your conscience?

You seem to have some intelligence and yet you prefer to be given instruction than to use your insight to evaluate ideas as they are presented to you.

Are you just doing whatever it takes to hold on to the job that gives you the giant diamond rock, the expensive watch and the Lexus? Is that all this is about?

If that is the case then you have been very facetious in telling us you wanted the best for us etc etc and blah blah blah.

We can’t believe a word you say in any case. Once a person has been proven false, it is very unwise for anyone to place their trust in them again unquestioning.

You said you felt you were ambushed. Of course you were!! You allowed and possibly even facilitated the worst happenings that have ever been seen! Things we couldn’t have imagined!! You damaged people, health, trust and the organisation, not just in the here and now but you have caused such severe damage to come to pass that people will still be casting this up to you for years to come!!

Do you realise this? Do you actually understand the enormity of what you have allowed and contributed to? Do you realise the damage, the disruption, the failure that will be attributed to you for years and years?

You wouldn’t listen. You know nothing, you came at this with no knowledge or experience, and yet you were the one talking, and not ever listening. I watched you at the point of crisis when you wanted to be seen to be listening: 90 minutes of us talking and you wrote a paragraph at the most. Of course you weren’t listening!! Once again it was a PR stunt, like all your meetings and gatherings and here’s to the future toasts!!

You are despised. The only way you can ever change that is to turn back time and not allow what you allowed! Without that, you may think that we are moving on but we will never forget what you did, what you allowed, how you behaved, who’s interests you really had a heart. Not ours, that’s for sure.

I can quote you my own personal experience with you. In difficult times you said to me in the corridor that you will always be there to support me. What a load of rot!! I told you how you could support me, and you ignored it.

Well let me tell you this. I have suffered through the pain and inconvenience of irritable bowel syndrome, the stress of an immune cell disorder, the fear of generalised anxiety disorder, the utter despair of depression and now the swings and roundabouts of bipolar disorder.

I lay them all at your feet.

You had opportunity to intervene in a timely manner and you neglected your responsibility. It’s that simple.

You failed me.

And not just me.

I could name names but what good would it do? You won’t help. You’re useless. You like to sound interesting and supportive but its all words. You will never do anything that contends with your management structure. You will always put your own interests first. You will always sounds nice and do absolutely nothing to help!

So good riddance to you as a manager!

I’m much better off now, job-wise. If I could work that is. Which I can’t. At your feet.

It might be easy for me to move on but the destruction left behind will stand for years as testament to the truth we told you, which you ignored and are living the consequence of, whether you see it or not. You probably don’t see it. You were never very good at opening your eyes. Deliberately blind in fact.

Useless, destructive, self-centred. That’s you.

Don’t ever think that we won’t all remember. We’ll remember. We went through hell because of you. Personally, professionally, mentally, physically.

We will remember.

If our paths ever cross again it will not be in your favour. You are a hurtful, willful person and our sympathy was long ago distinguished.

If I could have one wish concerning you, it would be that you would finally see; truly really wholly see what has happened and what you allowed. That you would see the damage you have done, the careers you have affected, the pain you have caused, the difficulty, the stress, the fear, the uncertainty, the heartache. I would have you see all that you have done to the people you were responsible for and how you have failed to be an effective useful manager.

I don’t wish you harm, only that you would see and feel the harm that you have caused and allowed to come about; that you would finally learn!