Telephobia may seem like a first world problem, but it is real. And not only is it real, it is at times crippling.
I have always been averse to phone calls, unless I was calling my parents while I was homesick in college. In elementary and high school, when friends would call on the phone to make plans, I would wait until the last possible second to answer. When someone left a message on our answering machine and I had to call them back, I was a bundle of nerves. I hoped I would grow out of this by the time I was (allegedly) a functional adult.
Alas, it was not meant to be.
I am two months shy of my 25th birthday and still hate picking up my phone. I love using it to text and check my email and tweet and play Candy Crush, but when it comes to actual phone calls, no way.
This, as you can imagine, is rather problematic. Despite my journalism school professors instructing us that email was a last resort for interviews, I always sent a message before calling sources, many of whom then wanted to talk on the phone anyway. As I watched my 30 other classmates sit in the newsroom and pick up the phones at their desks like it was nothing while I was virtually sweating just contemplating making calls, I felt ridiculous. But it kept happening, day after day, a new wave of dread with every new story.
And now, the fear is causing more problems. Potential employers generally like to have over-the-phone conversations to do things like set up a meeting or conduct an interview. Every time I hear my phone ring, I’m filled with panic. I hesitate to answer, and sometimes purposefully let it go to voicemail, because of my inexplicable nervousness. I then wait until I can psych myself up to return the call, which, to be honest, is much more terrifying than just answering the phone would be. I realize the lack of logic here, but my fear is an irrational one.
Once I’ve gathered the courage to hit “call,” I cross fingers and toes and pray to a god I don’t even believe in that the person on the other end will not be available, and I can simply leave a message of my own. This, of course, perpetuates the calling cycle, and eventually I’m forced into actually talking on the phone.
It’s not just a professional issue, either. I don’t even like to call my friends, or answer their calls. This probably makes me a bad friend, and really, what kind of person is afraid to talk to someone who they’re already close with? (Answer: The kind with telephobia.)
People who do not have this problem think it’s really weird. To be honest, I think it’s kind of weird. My own mother has asked, on multiple occasions, what exactly I’m expecting to happen that is so bad. I don’t know. I can’t explain it. Of all the things in this world to be scared of, why did I have to get stuck with this?
If I could go the rest of my life without having to talk on the phone, it would significantly reduce my daily anxiety levels. I can’t expect everyone else to suddenly cease calling, though, so I hold out hope that one day, I can dial someone’s number without feeling panicky. Until then, just text or email me, okay?