Phone Calls and (Mis)Communication

I’m not very good at keeping in touch with people.

It’s a problem and I know it and there have been occasions where I’ve put forward an effort to try to correct this behavior of not reaching out to ask the people I care about how they’re doing on a daily basis, but each time I kind of flounder until it’s not like it was worth asking in the first place. I don’t do this to be inconsiderate; it’s just that I have trouble keeping track of myself often enough and life moves at a pace that I don’t always remember to send Christmas cards or call people on their birthdays (for the most part, even with Facebook reminders, I’m still pretty bad at remembering when people’s birthdays are in the first place, and I don’t spend as much time on Facebook as people probably think I do).

At the beginning of every year I make the promise that I will call people, that I will send cards, that I will send messages, or something, and every year by March I forget the fact that there are so many people in my life that I should probably talk to and don’t. This is probably the worst thing about me. I wish I didn’t do this and I wish I could be more thoughtful, but there are a few things getting in the way, including: The fact that by the time I remember that I should call someone that it feels like it will be too late; The anxiety that comes with making any kind of personal phone call (I hate making doctor’s appointments too and put those off even more); The worry that I’ll be calling at a bad time; The idea that a card might seem too impersonal. All my information about people tends to come secondhand because I am this bad at keeping up.

I go to parties when I can, but as I’ve gotten older they’ve made me increasingly anxious and uncomfortable, which is a shame because I like being around people—but unfortunately lately I’m prone to overstimulation. Concerts are just about the only place I can stand loud noises anymore; if a bar starts getting filled with too many people, I need to leave. If there are too many relatives in a room trying to talk to me, I get overwhelmed and worried. I’ve never been good at small talk, and while I do like talking about myself, it has to be on my terms, which frequently these things are not. This change in the things I can handle and the things I cannot is distressing. I want to spend time with my friends before I graduate, but often I find myself in my dorm room alone because for one thing, most of what they do lately is play video games and the repetitious music of the games gives me migraines, and for another, sometimes they get so loud that I cannot handle it. This is troubling and upsetting in various degrees. I’ve started to become something of a recluse.

Sometimes even when I recognize people I know and should talk to at events or around in general, I don’t even feel comfortable going up and talking to them because I am never sure what I should say—“Sorry I haven’t said anything to you in about four months, how are you?” always strikes me as not the greatest thing to say, and I have sometimes a stutter and definitely a lisp that get in the way of me being able to hold a conversation with strangers (and sometimes friends) to any confident degree. The act of speaking aloud is stressful even fifteen years after “completing” speech therapy; I can do it, and I do do it, but at the risk of sounding like I cannot speak at all. When I am particularly anxious my voice gets a tremor and I stumble over words and go too quickly, eager to finish. Breathing sometimes helps, but when it comes to something I know I’ll have to say in front of people (somehow, students are easier to talk in front of, but not by much and even then I still trip over my words), I need to rehearse it. My improv skills are garbage.

The worst part is that I never even know how to apologize for the fact that I do not communicate frequently with people I probably should talk to (it took me several days to remember to call my nana, and the other part is that honestly, I just forget to call or to do anything) and I’m never sure how to start the conversation up again. There are some people who are just difficult for me to have a conversation with even if I do care about them because I’m always worried about saying the wrong thing, which is bad, and then I don’t know what to do after. Phone conversations are one of the most uncomfortable things in the world because I need to be able to see the affect what I’m saying is having, and a lot of times, the phone connection is bad and words get lost somewhere.

I’m trying to think about the best way to go about fixing this issue, but each time I try I’m not sure I really end up getting anywhere.


Author: jillboger

Part time writer. Editor-in-Chief for the Bridge volume 13, former EIC for The Odyssey at BSU. My glasses protect my secret identity.

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