I think I've posted before about my social anxiety, in general terms. I've recently decided, however, to start using its alternate term, "social phobia." "Anxiety" says to people, "Social situations make me nervous." "Phobia," on the other hand, says, "I have an irrational, overwhelming fear of social situations." The latter they may be more likely to take seriously, whereas I know from constant experience that the former makes them scoff and treat the sufferer like a weak, silly coward.
Social phobics/anxiety-sufferers are actually some of the bravest people out there. Life, in its simplest American functioning, is for us akin to sticking an arachnophobic in a cave filled with spiders, and telling them they have to work there, permanently. Sure, eventually the person gets a little inured to the presence of eight-leggers, but the fear is real. It's constant. Even if it lessens, it doesn't entirely go away. And in the mean time, they're coping with something that causes their system to go into a mild form of shock. Constantly. Arachnophobics don't often get put in that situation, though. They can probably often find someone to kill their spiders for them. But how many social phobics can find someone to make their phone calls, do their shopping, attend interviews, or go to work for them? (Not to belittle the suffering of arachnophobics or any other phobia sufferers! All phobias are awful to live with.)
Not all social phobics are created equal. There are areas that are worse for some and better for others. For me, I have the worst body-freezing, mind-blanking problems with going to school, going shopping, and making phone calls. (I can get up in front of a crowd without *too* much worry, though, and had every intention of someday taking to the stage throughout high school.) These are problems that affect Every. Day. of my. Life. I have to find and summon up a wealth of inner strength and stamina to buy groceries, especially now that the young sir commonly throws fits at being stuck in the cart. (It makes people LOOK at me, and logic dictates they are more likely to consider me an unfit mother, or my son an irritation, and thereby (less logically) decide I'm not worth shopping at their store, or that I'm ruining their day by taking up space in their world. Yeah. That's the "irrational" part of the phobia.) Still, I can usually overcome the fear because we gotta eat.
Phone calls, on the other hand... I will put something off for MONTHS and still never "get to it." Because I just can't do it. It seems so ridiculous (which compounds the fear with judgement from outsiders) that I can't pick up the phone, say hello, and ask for an appointment with a doctor. Especially when that doctor is likely going to improve my life, or even give me more years to live it. Two months now, I've had money and insurance enough to see the smattering of doctors I REALLY need to see. And for two months, I haven't been able to pick up the phone. I have less difficulty with the appointments themselves, once I'm in the door. The phone calls, though...they're AGONY. I've cried over them, phone in hand, unable to push "send" because of the physiological terror response coursing through my system. Even though I know and constantly remind myself that life will be better on a day-to-day basis when I don't have to worry about making them anymore.
I've been trying to make myself go to the eye doctor for two months. I need new glasses (and have for, oh, two + years). I need to make sure my thyroid isn't giving me thyroid eye disease, a generally irreversible condition that causes the eyes to bulge due to growing surrounding tissues. I need to check if the vertical double-vision that often plagues me is, in fact, vertical double-vision, or if it's just a symptom of having really old glasses. If it is the former, that's a bad sign pointing to a serious condition, one I've been ignoring for four years. Obviously, I NEED to have my eyes checked. But the last time I was there, the doctor patronized me. He treated me like a dumb little college coed whose problems would magically disappear when she graduated and got out into the real world. That was four and a half years ago. He answered none of my questions. But I didn't find a new doctor, either, because ohmigosh! I'd SO much rather deal with a donkey doc I know (I've been a patient there since I could no longer see my pediatric ophthalmologist, though I started with a different doc) than one I know nothing about. One who might be worse or make me feel even smaller than he did. And that, to my poor, battered, terrorized system, was the greater danger.
Two weeks ago, as part of my Journey to Whole-Being, I declared to myself that this was no longer acceptable. If I am going to function in this world and feel, deep down inside myself, that I am a viable, worthwhile, strong and empowered woman, this is something I have to get a handle on. HAVE TO. There will come a time when I can't rely on my husband to make the baby's doctor appointments (and it's not fair to him that he has to constantly rearrange his work to accommodate my fear). When I will be the one and only party responsible for my son's well-being, and I won't be able to wiggle out of making phone calls. I HAVE to change this before that moment arrives, because I'll have more than enough to deal with then without adding this phobic response.
It's taken me two weeks since that self-declaration to do it, but I've made my eye appointment. It's a small thing, something the vast majority of people probably take for granted. But for me, it's a hard-fought battle finally triumphed. The receptionist was delightful (unlike the one they used to have). She asked after medical needs beyond the basic check-up so I didn't have to figure out how to broach that while my brain was in panic mode. She didn't treat me like an irresponsible loser making her go to a great deal of effort because it's been so long since I've been in (lots of them do). She was perfect. The call was perfect. I hung up with an honest-to-goodness sense of elation.
I have triumphed! It is a small step, a single battle in a much larger, much more difficult war, but it's the first one. The first one is always the hardest, which makes this win so much sweeter. :D
And the relief! I didn't realize just how much tension and stress I was carrying around with me because some part of my brain was constantly, subconsciously whispering to me that I needed to get it done. That because I wasn't getting it done, I was the world's weakest wimp and nobody would ever respect me. Now that the appointment is made, that voice has switched to the next step, finding an endocrinologist and making that appointment. But I can handle that. I feel like there's so much more room in me, now that some of the tension is gone! I even have a little of that giddiness that accompanies post-win adrenaline rush. WHEW!
So while it may seem like nothing, today is a huge day for me. I feel like it's the first day in a journey toward confidence I abandoned a long, long time ago.