April 04, 2012

Phone phobia and why I feel like an idiot

This evening I was a caller on a nationwide radio show, and I wanted to say something about the effect of stigma on mentally ill people (the situation was specifically the stigma surrounding Jason Russell, but I wanted to talk more broadly about mental health stigma). Anyway, it panned out that I got quite flustered and distressed, and was cut off before I could say what I wanted to say on air. The bit of me that they got made me sound very stupid, and I was very unhappy about it.

I sent a message on Facebook to the producer (who originally contacted me through Facebook), saying what I wanted to say on air.

Fast forward an hour, it is 8:30pm at night and my cellphone rings, number withheld. I freeze up, a huge lump forms in my throat and another in my chest. My ears start ringing and I just stare at the screen on my cellphone until it stops ringing. Then my home phone starts ringing and the same happens, followed by another call to my cellphone. The whole time I am sitting here, frozen, completely filled with absolute terror about the phone, who would be on the other end of the line, what they would say to me... and if it was the radio presenter, how terrified I would sound.

I didn't answer. I couldn't. I sat here, terrified, waiting for the ringing to stop.

So I will never know what they had to say to me. Maybe an apology, maybe an accusation that I hadn't been clear on air. Who knows, but they didn't leave a message, and no reply was made to my Facebook message. I can't change what happened on air, or how silly I feel I sounded, so I feel like it is best to let that part go.

But I can't let go of the fact that my phone phobia is so crippling that I can't answer a call that may make a situation that upset me much better. It is so crippling that if friends call, I avoid answering their calls, I tell them my phone is broken, or it was off. I avoid making calls to utilities companies, or to make doctor's appointments. I just can't do it. The fact I could even use a telephone to talk on the radio show in the first place is a pure miracle, and I just used up my miracles of the day.

I would also like to point out at this point that this phone phobia is only active in out of work hours. While at work, it is like I have a separate person that takes over, and I am able to answer the phone, make phone calls, and generally talk on the phone like a human being. Why this is, I couldn't tell you. Perhaps I just know that I have to talk on the phone as part of my job, and I have no choice. There is no one else to answer those calls, only I can do it. It is the same with public speaking - I couldn't talk to a stranger outside of work hours, but in the shop I can talk confidently to several people at once.

Moving on, not unlike many phobias I have as an adult, I can pinpoint the direct cause of this anxiety. Many years ago I worked for a fast food restaurant. The manager of the store I worked at used to call and abuse you if you had called in sick, or if you were had been asked to do a shift but couldn't make it then he would call and abuse you for that. Once, he got my housemate instead of me, and abused her instead.

It seems like anxiety is the one facet of my mental illness that I just can't shake. I no longer self-injure, I don't make suicide plans, I no longer hide in my room and cry. I have a career, long-term boyfriend, and life is good... but I am still crippled by anxiety and fear.

November 29, 2011

I'm still here

It has been many months since I last wrote, but I haven't forgotten my blog! I just feel like I don't have much to say or write about at this point. I will endeavor to write a proper blog entry soon :)

June 25, 2011

Marsha's gift

The woman who developed Dialectical Behaviour Therapy, Marsha Linehan, "came out" recently about her own struggles with Borderline Personality Disorder. It made me smile, because one problem I have always had with therapists of all sorts was whether or not they could view things through my eyes, or if they have ever suffered as I have suffered.

I know from experience that I cannot understand my spousecreature's obsessive compulsive behaviours, and I find I am often impatient with him when I can clearly see he is being irrational about something (lint, for reals). So I have a problem where I wonder how a therapist can properly understand where I am coming from if they have never felt the way I do.

At the same time, I wonder about the moral and ethical side of the argument, whether or not someone who has suffered from a mental illness should work in the psychology industry, or if it is ethically a great big no-no. Obviously there was some degree of "no-no" if Marsha Linehan has kept quiet about her own struggles for so long, even if they were personal "no-no's", but in the end she felt she would do more good being honest about her struggles with mental illness.

I suppose it comes down to individual personality. I know that at this stage in my life, my excess amount of empathy would interfere with working in the mental health field, while someone else who has a mental illness would not have that problem. I do hope that as I get older and a bit more life experience, because I have a feeling I will change into my 30's, I will be at a point where I can enter the mental health field. I would like to save lives, and I would like to make a difference.

But getting back to Marsha Linehan, I have to say a big thank you to her. DBT saved my life, and have given me skills to be a happier and more productive person. I know I am grateful for how she has touched my life, even though she doesn't know my name or anything about me, she just knew I suffered and thanks to her development of DBT I am still here to make a difference to the world with my life.

Marsha Linehan, I honour you and I thank you for your services to the mental health field. Thank you.

June 11, 2011


I had my last therapy session yesterday. I walked in knowing I had nothing to say to my therapist, and when she asked me what had been happening I said "Nothing at all, really." She asked me what I wanted to do, and I said that I didn't think I needed another appointment. She smiled, agreed with me and told me she hoped I was proud of me, because I should be proud of me.

Something interesting that we did talk about was my diagnosis. I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder four years ago. My therapist told me yesterday that if I were to go through that process again, it would be a lot harder to get that diagnosis, because I have my disorder controlled to such a point that although I still have the traits of BPD, it would take a lot longer than one session and a lot deeper digging to diagnose me. I have my disorder under control. It makes me grin every time I think those words.

Who ever said that mental illness can't be treated? :)

June 01, 2011

Kindness doesn't cost a thing

There was a time in my life when I hurt badly inside. I was fighting with my mental illness, and it was winning the battle. I hated myself and everything about myself, from my thoughts right down to the strands of hair on my head. When you hate yourself, it is very hard to love anything else, and I became an individual that was needlessly cruel, and delighted in it because I had nothing else to delight in. I said nasty things to people who didn’t deserve it (and to some who did, but shouldn’t have experienced it from me), regardless of whether those people were strangers or if they were friends. I lost many friends, the ones I had previously called my friends and the ones who might have become my friends in the future.

It was a long time ago, and things have changed a lot in my life. I talk freely about how I overcame my mental illness, turned my life around and came to the point I am now. I have also changed my outlook on life, and I believe I’ve found my calling in life, or at least the pursuit that will consume me over the next period of my life. I’ve decided that I am going to be kind, and spread kindness, because I believe kindness is lacking in this world. Maybe I am trying to make amends for the unkindness and cruelty I dealt in the past, or maybe I am trying to change the world a little bit.

I am the kind of person who looks around and sees sadness in everything. The kind of person who hears about someone drowning kittens in a trash can and sobs because they can’t believe such horrible cruelty exists in the world, and cannot comprehend how someone could have something in their heart so bad they could do something like that. I am an INFP or “Idealist Healer”. I think that means I am doomed to be miserable while trying to heal all the wrongs and hurts in the world. I’ve heard of people like that, enough to know I wish I wasn’t one of them. Idealists just end up getting hurt as they realise they can’t fix everything, but maybe they just have to be content with the things they do fix.

I did an act of kindness today. I didn’t save a litter of kittens, or run down a purse-snatcher, I just helped an elderly man who needed to see the seamstress next door who was closed. I took his clothes that needed mending, and told him I’d take care of it so he didn't have to come back tomorrow when she was open. That seamstress doesn’t often take work, and I warned him of that, but I think if she refuses to mend his clothes, I will do it for him. It is a small job, one I could do easily, and it wouldn’t cost me a thing except 10 minutes of my time.

Kindness often doesn’t cost a thing, and I think we can all afford to be kind.