Fear of making personal phone calls

One of the curses of having a parent with bipolar disorder is that you never know "which" parent will be present when you arrive home from somewhere or call home. In all honesty, I believe that my mom was the cool mom more often than not, but the memories that stick out in my head are by and large memories of times when the rage-filled, forgetful mother was around.

It must be some sort of protective factor that we remember negative experiences more clearly than positive ones. I remember when I used to work retail, our manager always reminded us that one unhappy customer would affect the business more than ten happy ones. Those things must be related.

One of the things I fear to this day is making personal phone calls. When I worked, I could cold-call auto dealers all over the country and invite them to promo sales. Before that, I was a telemarketer for a while and all my calls were outgoing cold-call sales. I could do those things. I can even call a business and make an appointment, or the doctor's office without much trouble.

But ask me to call you, as a friend or family member, just to shoot the breeze...well, that's a totally different thing. You've just elicited a full blown panic attack.

I think that I can make business type calls because the person on the other end of the phone doesn't know me. If they choose to reject my call for a sale, it's not a rejection of me as person but a rejection of the item I'm trying to sell. When I call to make an appointment, I know that I am welcome because my call is going to equal money. And if worse comes to worst, I can always pretend I'm some super, well put together person and not just "me".

However, when I call someone I know--a family member (sorry, Brenda...even you!), a good friend (yes, you too, Heather and Becky), or someone more familiar, I experience deep anxiety.

Why?

I'm not entirely sure. My best guess is that over my adult years (and even in my teens), on occasion I would call my mom and get the rage-filled mother. In those calls, many not even about me, she would yell, rant, or rave about some situation or some person, sometimes something I'd done, on and on. I have determined this because since we got Caller ID many years ago, I noticed the same feelings in reverse. Whenever my mom calls, my stomach becomes a hard little rock and does flips.

I hate this. Since my mom got sick, got treatment and moved across the country, I have not received a rage-filled call once from her. But we are designed to learn patterns of behavior that are protective. Some part of me really struggles with this because I have forgiven her for the past consciously, but the little kid inside me had a hard time letting go of the fear.

I used to think I was the only person like this, then I learned that many other adult children with parents who hoard experience this same kind of anxiety. In fact, my anxiety is probably mild compared to some. I tried to connect with one via phone, but she told me she doesn't talk on the phone unless absolutely necessary. She could email me, but putting the phone into play was something different.

I'm writing about this because someone I know, someone I trust deeply encouraged me to call them today. He has never betrayed my trust, and I'm almost 100% certain he would never yell at me. But the child who picks up the phone to make that call doesn't trust that way. Just touching the phone, knowing I was going to dial his number and attempt to call him on a personal matter made me nauseous. My pulse shot through the roof and climbed with each ring. Honestly, I was glad to get his voicemail.

But I promised myself that this year I would make changes. I promised myself I would step out and challenge my fears. I have spoken in public, allowed a camera crew in my home, and invited friends to dinner without spending a week cleaning and preparing or obsessing about how the house looked. My children have had friends over more and more, even without warning. I've taken big steps to face and eliminate my fears. So I made the phone call.

I survived this time. My heart rate is back to normal, although my cellphone just rang and it made my heart jump! I love talking on the phone and once I face this fear and get rid of it, watch out! I might be calling you!

Father, thank you for allowing me to look inside myself at my fears, recognize them, and then giving me strength to face them head on. I know that I have value, I have experiences that need to be shared, and that I do not need to be afraid. Continue to help me face my fears and lead a life not bound! In Jesus' name, Amen.

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