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The Reasons I Don't Answer Your Phone Calls as Someone With a Chronic Illness

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Since becoming sick, I have become notorious for not answering the phone, returning texts or responding to caring emails. I feel lucky that I have so much support, and each time someone reaches out it means so much to me. So why do I always fail to answer the phone? Here are a few of the reasons:

1) Holding a conversation is the most physically difficult task for me to accomplish when I am in a flare-up, and also the most energetically draining when I am well.

Until I got sick, I was not aware of how trying the cognitive aspects of a conversation are for me. Attention, responsiveness, emotional regulation, and thought formulation are no joke when you have a limited capacity. Sometimes a phone call can take away all the energy I need to get through the day.

2) Sometimes, all of my new medical news piles up into a mountain that seems too tough to climb.

The moment you call, I panic and procrastinate from having to deliver bad news all over again. The more I procrastinate, the tougher it is to answer you back.

3) There are times when I am already about to break down and I know your loving voice will throw me over the edge.

In those moments, I know I need someone physically there to help me regulate, and that little can be said over the phone to provide comfort. So, I choose to save my breakdown for a time when I can cry without words, and feel emotionally safe in the presence of someone I love.

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4) Shockingly, sometimes I am too busy.

Even though I don’t work, and therefore have a lot of time on my hands, my days spent in bed put me behind on daily tasks. When I finally get out of bed, I have laundry to do, a house to clean meals to prep. Additionally, being sick means I have a long list of tasks many people would be oblivious to. I have appointments to attend, medications to sort, forms to fill out, budgets to create, pills to order, and insurance companies to communicate with — all the while ensuring I physically rest between each task.

5) With my limited time, I may choose to prioritize being present in my physical body.

That is to say, I might want a distraction from thinking and discussing my life and what is happening in the world, and just have some fun. I might want to go to a yoga class instead of talk about my feelings, or I might want to play a board game with my friends instead of having an intellectual discussion on current events. Fun and play are a priority for me, as they make me feel normal.

If I have so many objections to phone calls, why should you keep calling? What is the point if it is so difficult for me to pick up the phone? Why should you continue to take time out of your day just to be continuously rejected?

Because your calls are more important to me then you would ever know. The one time you call and I make the brave choice to answer, you flip my day from being awful to wonderful, you remind me that there is so much more going on in my life other than my illness, and you participate in my healing process by reconnecting me to joy and love. In essence, when you call, you remind me how much I matter. Thank you for your dedication to me, even though I often fail to pick up the phone.

Getty image by Jakkapan21.

Originally published: June 29, 2020
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