anxiety · phone anxiety · phone phobia · ramblings

No End To Anxiety

The cycle of anxiety goes a little something like this for me:

1) Be faced with a situation that makes me anxious

2) Struggle internally over getting the situation done and over with ASAP, but ultimately, 7 times out of 10 I will choose to avoid the problem.

3) Spend the next few days or weeks thinking about the problem while continuing to avoid taking any action to solve it, which increases my anxiety

4) Become a vegetable/robot who is fixated on the problem and is unable to focus on anything else. Loss of interest in activities, a decrease in verbal communication, and insomnia.

5) After some time, due to the mental strain of avoiding said problem, either finally choose to face the issue head-on or let go of it.

5) Following this resolution, find something else to worry and obsess about.

6) Repeat steps 1-5.

Today I made a phone call that I purposely put off from making until now. Two days ago I received a voice mail from a potential employer, Alan, who might be interested in hiring me. Oh dear.

My telephone correspondence with Alan began roughly two weeks ago when I was given a number to call about a job opportunity. It took me about a whole week to steel my nerves and make the damn call, and this was only after my mom (who, incidentally, is the one who gave me the number to call) asked if I had phoned in yet. Of course I did not admit to her that I’ve been avoiding it, but the fact she asked me about it gave me an almost necessary pressure to call.

In this kind of situation, I was already anxious about calling in the first place. The terror of dialing a number I am unfamiliar with, having to talk to a complete stranger, being unsure if I sound coherent and assertive enough, etc. But then I became anxious about the possibilities that might come from the phone call. Would I survive the call unscathed?

For that whole week of avoidance, my mind was swimming with what-ifs. Yet I settled for not putting an end to my own agony by making the call. Instead I was content to think about the call that might never happen and tuck it into the furthest corner of my mind, unsure if I wanted to pick it up and deal with it eventually. This, in turn, was like poison seeping into my life little by little each day because I knew I was making a futile attempt to run from anxiety but it just made me worse. These things always have a way of bleeding out no matter how I try to contain it. I started feeling moodier, less in the present and constantly wanting a distraction to ground down my real emotions so I wouldn’t have to think about my feelings. I slept horribly. I stayed home a lot, unable to motivate myself to go out and involve myself in extracurricular activities while I was still anxious about the call I had yet to make. Always, always it was on my mind.

I’m a very private person about my anxiety. I do not discuss it with my family. In the past, I was burned a few times where my parents or my brother expressed exasperation that I was being avoidant. Maybe they didn’t mean for me to feel shame and embarrassment from their reactions but the memories of it were enough to strengthen my resolve to work on my anxiety on my own terms and to not be open with my family about it. It does sound a bit lonely to admit I am shutting them out somewhat, especially since I can’t say for sure what their reactions would be now if I revealed my struggles to them. But I’m also technically an adult and I feel I can be responsible for myself and my own mental health. Anyway, this reason is why I was not honest with my mom when she asked if I had called yet. I did not want to feel humiliation if she ended up getting annoyed with my behavior, and at worst, I did not want to be given a lecture. Oddly, it was the fear of her reaction and how mentally exhausted I felt over being avoidant that I made the call the following day.

The call went fine and lasted less than 3 minutes. The employee I spoke with stated Alan was actually on vacation and wouldn’t be back till the next day. I had so many ideas about how the phone call would go but I never expected to be told this. A temporary relief enveloped me. I got an answer to what I had been avoiding, but immediately afterwards I was freaking out because I left my phone number so Alan could call me back when he was available. Next day, I got a call from an unknown number. I silenced the call and saw that the person left me a voicemail. I could see myself in my mind’s eye playing the voicemail but I was too afraid to actually do it. Ugh.

And so this commenced another cycle of avoidance, although this one was relatively shorter. I don’t know how I made myself call. Maybe it was Alan’s voicemail and hearing him ask me to call him back. Or maybe not. I’ve gotten tons of voicemails before where people request a call back from me but even that does nothing to assuage my fear of calling and conversing with the person. What usually happens is I do not call back. But I did this time. I already experienced what it was like attempting to get in touch with him and now he was trying to contact me. It was just before dinner time that I found a quiet place in the house and dialed his number. My thoughts were racing but I didn’t want to slow down because I knew if I had time to think about how scared I was, I would start hesitating.

Alan was pleasant to talk to. He gave me the job details and we even spent some time discussing his business’s financial dealings with the bank my mom used to work for. I asked a few questions about the job. Get this, it is a mostly customer service job where I’ll be answering calls and taking calls. Ha, the irony of my phone phobia comes full circle. At the end, I got his email so I could send him my resume. He agreed to get back to me by sometime next week.

After the call, I felt like a huge burden was lifted from me. This was an amazing turnabout in my mood when moments earlier (before the call) I felt anxious, unhappy, and distracted, so much so that I was zoning out when my dad was talking to me.

However, during the week, I was insufferably on edge, waiting all day and every day for Alan to call me. Every day that I received no phone call, I was both relieved and frustrated over the outcome. Relieved because this meant I didn’t have to deal with potential anxiety over making myself answer my ringing phone. Yet frustrated because all sorts of accusations rose up in me. Maybe he didn’t get my resume and I sent it to the wrong email? I checked it. It was the right one. Perhaps he is just really busy. He did tell me that he would call since he has no time whatsoever to reply to emails. I decided to give it a few days. Then I began floundering and assumed there was something wrong with me specifically. I bet he did look at my resume but thinks everything on it is shit. He has probably concluded you are not worth his time. Who are you kidding? Almost everything on your resume is volunteer work except for that crummy remote data entry job you did this summer. Yep, there was my attempt at self-assassination.

Despite all this, my one glimmer of hope was to recall the compliment he gave me on the phone. He said I have a nice voice and even joked that I speak better English than him, which seem to be assets he wants for someone who’ll be answering the phone line at work. I clung to the idea that maybe, perhaps… he sees potential in me?

I shut off my phone ringer before dinner on Wednesday and Alan happened to call me during this time. I waited until the next day to listen to the voicemail. He asked to set up an appointment with me so I could come in-person to meet everyone. I would have called back that morning, but I was worried he might ask me to come in the next day and I didn’t feel mentally prepared yet. Friday rolled around. The anxiety was palpable as I spent hours dawdling until 12:30 PM when I left for yoga class and stopped on the street to phone Alan. Sometimes I can’t even understand the intensity of my own anxiety. I made the call, he and I agreed to meet on Monday at noon, and then he gave me the location address. Simple, right? I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry seeing on the phone log that the call lasted a mere 1 minute and 22 seconds. Me, so afraid of speaking on the phone that I avoided it and wasted hours upon hours agonizing over it when the actual call took less than 2 minutes of my time.

Just because I completed this hurdle doesn’t mean I’ve beat anxiety though. I keep telling myself it’s normal to have anxiety. I truly believe it, except I also know there is no true end to my anxiety and it’ll come back since chances are I will find the next thing in my life to be anxious about.

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20 thoughts on “No End To Anxiety

  1. Good luck with meeting Alan and I hope it goes well. It sounded like a very nervy time getting in touch with him and then talking to him on the phone, but it also sounded like something very different and something you have now done. It was interesting to read that Alan joked you may speak better English than him. Perhaps the customer service role that deals with quite a diverse client base.

    I remember trying to find my first full time job. Like you, I was very nervous talking to potential employers on the phone and interview. They were all complete strangers. It was a long time before I got employed, and my parents were very keen on setting me up to work with someone they might know and they also wanted me to work in an environment where people are of similar background to me. I was adamantly against this for many reasons. My parents thought that speak and work with someone of similar background, the more it will work out and the more you will enjoy it. Over the last few years I’ve worked in many places and although each workplace for me has been very diverse, none of my colleagues are of the same background as me and I learnt so much.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am realizing that I feel the same way about my parents attempting to set me up with a job with someone they know and of similar background to me in the hopes I’ll have an easy time around “familiar” surroundings. Nope. This ideal is exactly why I had such a shit time at the medical office job I was at last year. People there spoke Cantonese even more than English and it really bothered me being in an environment where people sometimes spoke of me without me understanding wtf was going on. Then I didn’t talk very much about work at home so my mom acted like a total busybody by phoning her friend and asking her about how I was as an employee (bc her son happened to be my supervisor). This went on for days. I felt pissed off bc it seemed like everytime she’d get off the phone, she would give me advice about how to correct my behavior as if she were my employer. Maybe I should have made more of an effort to talk to about how I felt at work, but I doubt she would have understood. And even when I left, my dad came down on me hard, telling me I should have just sucked it up and dealt with having a job even if it’s one I hated.

      With this new job opportunity, I think it will be different bc it was referred to me by my mom’s friend who knows Alan

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      1. Whoops, my comment got cut off at the end.

        Making phone calls scare me but at the same time I have belief that a job with emphasis on English is better bc I can’t do bilingual. The only reason I ever learned to read and write in Chinese and speak Mandarin on a better level is to improve communication with my parents, it was never to “enhance” job opportunities. All this time I never saw until now that I was trying to be bilingual and force myself into that box when that’s just not the real me.

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  2. Hi, you liked one of my posts, so I started reading your blog.

    I hate the phone too. I get nervous talking to people in person too, but I would rather talk in person than on the phone, the phone is 1000 times worse! I’m not entirely sure why, I think it’s something about not being able to read body language, plus the fear that I will mistake the person who answers the phone and think I’m talking to someone else.

    Re: things not turning out the way you thought that they would when worrying about them, I find that’s always the way. I worry and worry about every possible outcome I can think of, and then something else happens. I guess the lesson would be not to worry, as if it was that simple to do that.

    Re: talking to family, I found it took a long time for my parents to really understand my mental health issues. I’m not even sure to this day that my Dad completely understands them. It can be hard to understand this stuff if you don’t experience it yourself.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for visiting me and my post! 🙂 I very much enjoy interacting with people on posts, so it’s pretty exciting to read your comment.

      I get what you mean by a telephone conversation being difficult since there is no way to gauge body language. I am both fearful of this aspect being absent whenever I have to make a call but I am also a little relieved it is absent so the other person can’t see what my facial expression looks like. I feel so vulnerable when people can see my face and detect that I am nervous. :/ I’m afraid of mistaking the person on the phone for someone else too, and because of this, I make a habit of asking for the person by name. I sometimes even do this when it’s not my first time calling and I recognize the person who answered is the one I am looking for. If I had to pick the phone versus face-to-face, I would prefer by phone although both give me equal amounts of anxiety.

      So true about the worrying part and things not turning out the way you expected it to. I’m terrible with this because even after my own prophecies are smashed, I just end up moving on and worrying about other aspects of the situation.

      You’re really brave to let your parents know about your mental health. I don’t think this is a door I can ever open with my own parents. Like you said, it can be hard for some people to fully comprehend something unless they’ve gone through it themselves. The closest I have got to “confessing” anything to my immediate family is admitting to my brother that I have social anxiety and that I have a lot of anxiety. He’s tried to be supportive but on some level I think it was too awkward for me because he has no idea how bad social anxiety can be. I’ve never been close to him so although he knows such a personal thing about me, it’s not helped me to let down my guard and confide in him more. I just don’t think he and I will ever be close as siblings, and I’m fine with that.

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  3. I absolutely understand about the phone anxiety… Dreading making / answering phone calls. Good on you for summoning up the courage to phone Alan back 🙂 Good luck for your meeting also. How are you feeling about that? If you take the position on, it may help with exposure to your phone anxiety. Since starting my job, I don’t know how many phone calls I’ve made since my time there, possibly hundreds. It’s become easier to make a phone call without getting wrapped up in anxious thoughts and just do it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the support regarding the phone call. Yes, it was scary as heck calling him back (both times). I’m somewhat optimistic about the meeting this Monday, but I admit I’m also terrified out of my mind, so much that I actually dreamt last night that I did something embarrassing in his presence. Ugh!

      I agree that having a job that requires me to use the phone a lot may help with my anxiety. I definitely *can* make phone calls and sound professional. Like, the other day, my mom asked me if I could help her make a call to sort out a problem with her Metrocard balance. I still felt anxious making the call but I think I was able to do it because I had no choice in the matter since my mom’s English is not that good and she needed my help. It’s just when I have to call people out of my own volitation with nothing weighing over me as a necessity, I will avoid it to the ends of the earth if I am allowed myself to.

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      1. The meeting with Alan was not without some personal challenges but it did happen. He was really nice and chill.

        Cool, I didn’t know you were Australian. I’m in eastern time (New York) which must be a big difference from Australia’s time zone.

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      2. Yes, I heard back from him and got hired. Today was my second day at work. I’ve barely worked there and I am already having problems. 😦 I blogged a bit about it.

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    2. Also, what really gets me is I worry about a situation or problem until I actually am in the situation or problem in real-time. I concoct like 20 different scenarios in my head as all the probable ways that everything could go wrong. And even knowing there is little to no likelihood that xyz will actually happen, it’s still not enough to shut off that part of me that is convinced something, ANYTHING can go wrong. That’s way my cycle of anxiety is so vicious. I put more importance on the *idea* of anything bad happening rather than knowing there’s no humanely possible way to predict the future accurately that this is what leads me (in most situations) to just decide, “Fuck this, I’m going to avoid it.”

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      1. Anticipation is definitely worse than the actual thing. We conjure worse case scenarios, but when it comes to it, the actual situation isn’t so bad! But we focus so much on the thoughts, we choose to avoid it thinking it as a remedy but it only prolongs the issue. Anxiety can be a b*tch.

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    1. Thank you for the encouragement! The small victories do add up, though I often don’t give myself enough credit for completing anxiety inducing tasks that I would have otherwise avoided outright in the past.

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  4. I can relate a lot with your phone anxiety. I push off making calls often, but the times after I do make phone calls, I realize that I shouldn’t have felt antsy about making the call in the first place because they go much better than I initially expect. Cue those cycles that you mentioned so well 🙂

    Glad to read about you pushing through the job search! It’s not easy, but as cliched as it sounds, it does get better. I find that the first step is usually the hardest, and once that’s over with, there’s a bit of momentum I get from that first success that pushes me to keep going and seems like that’s happening to you too 🙂

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    1. That’s the worst part about my phone anxiety; after I make the call and realize it wasn’t even a big deal in the first place, I feel relieved but it doesn’t stop me from getting intensely worked up the next time I have to make a call. 😐 Now, making a call because my job demands it, that’s a different story as it’s do or die. If I don’t do as my job dictates, I would not be a good employee and would likely be fired.

      I don’t know about the job search getting easier. All I know is that this time, my persistence did pay off. It’s a little bittersweet. I wonder if I had been this brave years ago, I would’ve wasted less time and been able to hone my own personal growth at a quicker pace.

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