Friday, June 3, 2011

Ignoring The Message

I have a serious mental block against checking my messages. It has pissed everyone in my family off at one point in time or another. But I feel the oddest sensation of bliss when my voicemailbox on my cell phone fills up full. And I leave it there for days on end, those that are trying to get a hold of me forced to call multiple times or alternate phone numbers with nowhere left to leave a message. I am not any better with my answering machine at home either. In fact I just cleared 27 new messages last night. Now its not like these are calls from a few days. I am not nearly that popular of a person. It will take a good month to month and a half for this many calls to accumulate. Which lends itself to the question of how someone gets a hold of me in an emergency? My mom has a job where she travels constantly and guilt-teases me that she would be buried in the ground before I even checked my messages to find out she was dead. I suppose she is right. But nothing really seems to dissuade me from this negligent habit.

And as I was trying to explain to my father last night on the phone, who I was talking to because I returned his 2 of the 27 messages, I have a problem with this. It must be a big overgrown thorn-bush of rebel inside me that firmly plants her heals in the ground and refuses to call my voicemail. Never mind the fact that I usually have talked to the lucky empty-voicemail recipients dozens of times between when their message is left and my actual retrieval of it. So its not like anyone in my life is ignored. But the job I had when I got sick required me to be on my cell phone 18 hours a day, at any given time. And if not on it, at least available to be. Messages were something I checked with anxiety, uncertainty of what shoe was dropping next, impending doom clouding my doorstep. It got to the point that I was pretty much fight or flight ready for the majority of my waking hours, and sleep but a brief unrestful respite from the constant and pervasive stress. This was selling lipstick and blush, for crying out loud! It does not get more important than that!

So my sloppy message retrieving habits formed in reaction to this albatross around my neck, and I came to learn how to neglect my voicemail. For checking my messages induced anxiety and anxiety induced stress and I was certainly trying to ignore the ill effects stress had on my existence. But actually not checking my messages was a very hard habit to pick up. I was Pavlov's dog over here, every time a ding would beep from my phone I was on it, problem-solving or soothing my boss's ego or interviewing a new employee. So letting it sit, ignoring it, was actually a huge victory for me. My brain has been programed to be accessible at all times. To learn how to look at the blinking message light and turn away, to see I have 15 unheard voicemails and hang up my cell, those were hard for me. I felt like I was shirking my responsibilities, my obligations. Strangely enough the process of letting voicemail go was extremely important to my acceptance of this illness and the limitations it places on my life. I saw an instant stress-aggressor and set out to learn how to avoid it. So for now I am always just an email or text message away, but if you just leave me a voicemail, you may not hear from me for a while.

Thanks for joining,


  1. Thanks for sharing! You've totally encouraged me by way of this post to stop being so accessible to everyone and their mom. Seriously. Over time I have relented a tad... but just a tad... Now I am grasping that I loathe having a cell phone and so why should I be constantly at people's beck and call? Thanks Leah!

  2. Leah , I think you have it spot on, you have PTSD from your last job involving calls! I thought I was the only one in the world who ignores my voicemail boxes. it is amazing to me still how much little things stress me now with my illness.

  3. You also don't answer questions prose to you here on your blog...hummmm....

  4. Thanks Leah, for sharing. It helps to hear of other people going through all the same ups and downs. I too don't answer my phone, pretending that the line if off, as in "Oh really, you've been trying to reach me for four days? Wonder what's wrong with the line?" At the moment I'm floating in a sea of pain, not a constant pain but as if my nervous system is misfiring - quick stabs of pain, especially in my fingernails and hips. And then there is the always present background pain, throbbing like an ominous spacecraft. I swear if you listen closely you can hear it. Anyway, so having a real bad day, winter here in South Africa and the cold just makes it worse. Thanks for the lovely way you have with words, it makes life bearable. Luv Karin