Friday, 7 August 2015

Living With Telephonophobia

Black Rotary Telephone at Top of Gray Surface

Since I was sixteen years old I have been afraid to make, or receive, phone calls. Put a ringing phone in my hand, and I'll feel as if you've handed me a live grenade instead. So intense is my fear that I can count on one hand the amount of times I've called a close friend to chat. It's a debilitating and, at times, embarrassing, phobia. But for many years I didn't realise it was a recognised phobia, nor that 2.3 million people in the UK suffer from it.
What is telephonophobia then? This is my experience of telephonophobia...

antique, box, call

I cannot answer a ringing phone, mine or otherwise, nor make calls. I am at the top end of the spectrum, so to speak, with how intense my phobia is. Others are merely apprehensive about making, or receiving, calls. And my phobia is rooted in a traumatic experience when I was fifteen, nearly sixteen, as well in my own insecurities.

I had a long-distance relationship when I was fifteen that ended very badly. I don't recall who dumped who, although the aftermath of the breakup would lead anyone to conclude I did the dumping, but my now ex did not take it very well. He began to bombard me with phone calls, which I would put through to answerphone, and leave me hate-filled messages telling me to kill myself, calling me a fat b**ch and so on. When I finally blocked his number, he had an army of friends send me nasty, and sometimes threatening, messages. This all finally stopped when I changed my phone number, and I tried to move on from the incident.

The thing is, something like that, it never leaves you. Yes, he was a bully. Yes, it was just texts and voicemail messages. No, I don't think for one second I was in any real, physical danger. He was all bark and no bite. But his actions, and his words, left a mark on me, and every time a phone rang, I anticipated abuse. 

That explains receiving calls, but making them? As I mentioned earlier, that is down to my own insecurities. When I make a phone call I feel as if I an making a nuisance of myself; as if I'm calling at an inopportune time. I worry I won't have anything to say, or that I'll say the wrong thing. And, going back to my delightful ex boyfriend, I worry the person on the other end of the phone will be less than pleasant.

cable, call, communication

Only a year or so ago it was impossible for me to make my own appointments over the phone. I couldn't reserve a table at a restaurant, or speak to clients on the phone at work. I can now, after a lot of hard work with a support worker, phone companies - to make appointments, to talk business. My heart rate rises a little, my palms get a little sweaty, and I can't say I enjoy it, or do it out of choice, but it's a necessity and I can, nearly ten years later, do that, at least. And on good days I can answer the phone; although it still feels like a live grenade in my hand! What I can't do, yet, is make more personal phone calls; to friends, for a chat. But I'm working on it, and I hope, one day, to have completely rid myself of telephonophobia! But if I don't? Well, I'm lucky to live in a time where more people prefer to text/email/Facebook each other, than actually call!

Do you have any strange phobias? Or not so strange, for that matter? I'd especially love to hear from anyone with a similar phobia for making, or receiving, calls!

*none of the above images are my own; they were taken from a Google image search. 

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