“I can’t do the phone yet.”
“I find it really hard to speak on the phone or even pick it up.”
“I just ignore it.”
On and on the comments go. Through the #PTSDChat I am contacted privately or openly by those struggling through the PTSD Shadowlands; some are barely surviving it. Triage is something I do every Thursday, those that I’m super worried about get first dibs on my time and desperately I do my best to reach out to all. Let them know that they are on my radar and I care – and I do, it keeps me awake at night. What I need is a Peer Support Co-0rdinator and an army of vetted Peer Supporters around the world to step in, connect and protect… but that’s for another time.
That’s what I most need when I am worried about a PTSD Survivor who has connected and is drowning in the badlands.
Perfect example, let us call him Benedict for the purpose of his privacy and this post, connected with me sometime back. He’s been top of my triage list for all that time. A cop who has served with all that he had and has been chewed up, spat out by his service .. as is part for the course for most services here in Canada. I’ve joked, I’ve cajoled, I’ve pretty much done everything except sit at his feet and beg for a bloody phone number. I haven’t because I don’t know exactly where his feet are, or frankly, I would have by now.
I just want to hear his voice. Connect. Do I believe I can pull him out of his isolation with just one phone call? Maybe not but it’d make me feel better, and let’s face it, this is all about me.
One day, I woke up to an email. It had been a rough few days of wondering if he was dead or alive. He sent me his phone number. I sat on it (no, not literally, keep up). I looked at it. And I waited, which is very unlike “whirlwind do it now or don’t do it ever Kate”, for two days. Then I called.
Bastard never turns the bloody thing on.
Is Benedict alone in his apparent hatred of the phone? Oh god no. I asked my friend and fellow PTSD Survivor (and cop) what she thought of phones and she said, “Oh I hate them. I mean I do use them. But when I’m feeling bad, or triggered, I won’t touch it. I can’t. It doesn’t matter who it is, I just can’t.”
Another new friend gave me his number and said, “I think it’s really strange but I don’t like the phone. I think it’s the years as a paramedic where every call was bad news. Or something.” To which I replied that no, he’s not alone, it’s actually a gift of PTSD that we all get. Yet, I’ve never seen it written about in the multitude of PTSD Symptoms I see posted around and about. Bit like the Sex thing: dysfunction (lack of libido or erectile dysfunction) or the flipside of hyper-sexuality, again never mentioned or spoken about.
So I posted to my TWEETIE friends. Tell me your thoughts on this phone thing. Here is what some of them said:
@MurphyCurling “too easy to access inside your bubble…” [so an intrusion in when we want to talk to the person calling?] “yes … because your inner voice is telling you to avoid. Hell, I’m always nervous on the phone too, even booking an appointment!”
@EJHanagan “I’m guilty of this. I have a hard time with phone conversations for some reason.”
@TJenkins29 “Unpredictable, unknown? For me at least.”
@RPatrickRiley “I had thought this was just a personal fear because of the way 911 calls were sent to the ambulance station by phone.”
@PatrioticAmeri6 “Ah Damn! Who is calling me now, why? Usually one of my first thoughts!”… “It’s like my safety blanket is removed.” …. “I don’t know who it is, can’t see them. It is sketchy. TRUST ISSUES.”… “If the number calling doesn’t register in my phone book, I will not answer.”
@THCrinstan “For me lack of visual clues as to what the person means and not being able to remember the content.”…[that’s interesting]….”I’d choose ‘pain in the ass’ as a descriptor, but I guess interesting works too! LOL.”
@TheWorldBowl “Phone calls are immediate, unknown, and require us to envision the person we are talking to. Three of my triggers. #ptsd”
In the end?
Phone calls are just too hard some days. It is a function of our isolation, our inability to act (even the act of reaching for the phone can be beyond us), our need for safety and that feeling of invasion that the phone ringing brings, that self-worth and lack of confidence… etc … etc.. etc… Oh PTSD-Injury is a rollercoaster filled with fun, giggles and awesome surprises. So glad we don’t have to live with STIGMA and misconceptions too. Now that would be awful.