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Thursday, May 19, 2011

avoiding people

About a year ago, a good friend was lamenting the fact that I only respond to text messages---and never answer the phone.  I can't remember how or why that came up, but she told her husband, "Oh, you can't call her.  She never picks up.  If you want a response, you have to text her."

That was the first little "aha" moment I had.  

Someone was on to me.

For a long time, I chalked this phone-phobia up to a permanent minor hearing loss I sustained in junior high.  I'm completely deaf in a specific frequency range because of scar tissue on my left ear drum.  I had a horrible ear infection and my ear didn't heal properly.  While minor, this hearing loss makes it difficult for me to understand some people.  Usually if I can't understand someone, they are male, and have a certain type of voice.  Women are almost never a problem.

This hearing loss also makes it nearly IMPOSSIBLE for me to understand anyone (male or female) with a thick foreign accent.  The way this hearing loss was described to me is this:  I don't hear everything that is said, because most people's voices dip in and out of the frequency range I can't hear, but when someone speaks perfect English, I don't notice the "blanks" in their speech because my brain fills in the gaps for me.  Most of the time.  

But if someone has a heavy accent, my brain doesn't fill in the blanks and I have a difficult time.  One of the hardest accents for me to understand is an Irish accent.  Japanese is the second worst.  So I kind of panic when I speak to a non-native English speaker or accented English, such as Australian, Irish, Scottish, or English (from Britain).  I can't hear them!  So then they feel bad and start apologizing for their "bad English."  It's not them!  It's me!!  It makes for very awkward moments.    

Anywho.  Understanding anyone on the phone can be difficult at times.  There's something about the phone that makes it hard for me.  If I have to ask more than twice for someone to repeat themselves, I don't bother asking again, and pretend to know what they said.  Even if I didn't. 

I've hated phones for many years now and thought I just had a phone problem.

Until I started reading Drazil's posts.

After reading her for several months now, I've realized---for the first time in my life---that I struggle with social anxiety too.  No, I don't break out in hives or have outward physical symptoms, but it's there, obviously, because I avoid people.

I avoid friends and neighbors if I see them in public.  Not all the time mind you.  But frequently.  

Like Drazil, I frequently don't pick up the phone when a friend calls.  I, too, don't always answer the door when someone I genuinely like knocks on it.  I tell my husband to answer it when my friend stops by for simple things---to return something she borrowed or whatever .  Before, I just considered myself  feeling "unsociable" at the moment---perhaps bc I see myself how I want to see myself---outgoing!  And I am--half of the time.

I've often wondered if my friend, who lives next door, gets her feelings hurt at my occasional out of the blue avoidance behaviors.  It has NOTHING to do with her.  It's just.....I have  a little bit of social anxiety.

I have no idea why sometimes being around friends is so easy, and sometimes I just can't do it.

I'm not sure if it's anxiety or depression.  I don't know.  It seems to have no rhyme or reason.


  1. You are right. (commenting on my post) Anything complicated and hard is worth having. You're also right..with Leslie. I might be a little scared of the pain of losing again. That keep trying attitude gets hard...you know you're dealing with it now trying for surgery! Thank you. I'll be back to read this post and reply in a sec!

  2. I have some of the social fears as well..not as much with people I already know and like...mostly people that I naturally feel uncomfortable around or people I'm meeting for the first time. I'm taking steps to overcome this. I think it's all a matter of wanting to change...committing to change...and taking steps to actually change. You've taken the first step.

  3. Well...you'd have a heard time understanding my husband because he has a THINK English accent. Northern England too...I can't understand his mama on the phone a lot of the time!

    Mine is anxiety and it isn't all the time! But I do the same thing in stores...see someone and walk the other way. Hopefully they didn't see me. No idea why, it is rude of me I guess....but I ust hope they didn't recognize me.

    I am not shy. I guess I don't like small talk or making a fool of myself. Hell I don't like compliments because I don't think people mean it.

  4. I hate the phone too. And when people knock on the door.

  5. Oh my gosh! This post hit me HARD! You described ME!WOW!
    But... I have started this just in the last year...

  6. I'm sorry to have brought this out in you...but I'm starting to realize in talking about it I'm not alone - and that's comforting. I'm glad you are willing to face fears and confront them...we'll do it together.