Depression: On Noise, Answering the Telephone and Making Decisions

Depression both heightens and numbs. It’s an illness full of contradiction and confusion. The simple things become the hard things; sapping our motivation, headspace and energy. Fighting the negative thoughts is a never-ending cycle of frustration, anguish and despair. It’s no wonder then, that seemingly simple tasks become anything but simple.

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Things which were never a problem before, become overwhelming. Frightening, even. A source of shame.

We wanted to shine the spotlight on three everyday things which are easily taken for granted when we’re well. These three seemingly simple things can affect our day-to-day lives and lead us to feel incredibly misunderstood.

Depression and Noise

Many people with depression experience a deafening barrage of thoughts, all day (and night). They’re intense, loud, painful, and emotionally draining. It’s a noisy illness in that respect. Sometimes they grow so loud and so vast, that they merge into a ball of numbness. We can’t make head nor tail of them.

Which might explain why there’s often a sensitivity to external noise or anything which might overload our senses; chatter, loud music, noises competing against one another, bright lights and clutter. Everyday ‘normal level’ noise which doesn’t bother us when we’re well nor does it tend to bother those around us. They just sound so loud, threatening and intense. We’ll do anything to avoid them; decline social invitations, wear headphones and avoid busy places.

Answering the telephone

A texter, not a talker? You’re not alone. Many of those with depression agree that a ringing telephone can be a source of stress, as well as the prospect of having to make a telephone call.

In a day and age where there are so many non-talking means of communication, you’d think that talking on the telephone could be avoided. That’s not always the case.

Making a telephone call can take a lot of courage. We plan what we might say but worry that we might be interrupting what you are doing. Or that you might not answer and we’ll have to go through the courage build-up all over again.

We’re not being standoffish, rude, or ignorant if we don’t answer the telephone. It just feels darn impossible; our hearts start to race, we feel on edge and we will the phone to just. Stop. Ringing. We don’t mean to push you away.

Text communications allow us time to think, to consider our responses. If we’re being asked to do something, saying ‘no’ is much easier via text. We don’t always have the strength either, to pretend we’re okay. That’s far easier via text too.

Making decisions

We make hundreds of teeny decisions in a day. Some of them are easy, some of them much harder. Depression changes our cognitive functions. Decisions are difficult.

You see, ordinarily, our feelings are our signposts – they guide us to make decisions, tell us what works for us and what doesn’t work for us, who we enjoy spending time with and those who we don’t enjoy spending time with. It’s so important to listen to those feelings, to digest them and explore the route of them too. They also highlight our wonky boundaries (you know, those times we’ve agreed to do something for someone because we feel we ought to, and then resented every single second of it or because we’re so exhausted and have nothing to left to give). But we don’t trust our feelings when we’re unwell with depression. We know our perspective is skewed.

Sometimes decisions are hard because we don’t have the headspace. Sometimes they’re hard because we just don’t care enough about the outcome. Sometimes they’re hard because they’re too big. Sometimes we just want the decision to be made for us. And sometimes, we know that the decision should wait because the indifference we feel will lead to a poor choice.

We’re scared of making mistakes, you see. They validate the thoughts of being worthless, useless, hopeless and helpless. They give depression fuel. Mistakes hurt us. Our confidence, in ourselves, is at an all-time low. The grey, muddy filter that depression adds to our outlook, only serves to make all choices, not-so-great ones.

Sharing is caring: please share this post to help others, you never know who might need it. 

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  • Gaye Macdonald

    I thought I was wierd , being so afraid of the ‘phone . This explains it perfectly . The clutter in my head is just exactly how it’s described . Thank you .

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  • Stephanie Johanesen

    This is anxiety and depression

  • Swen Gaberthuel

    It’s a great article, thank you for that! There aren’t a lot of people who can understand that but it’s fact. The worst feeling with depression is that you feel a b s o l u t e l y nothing. You can not be happy, you can not be sad, you can not be friendly, you just feel nothing. For me, this is the most cruel part of it. You can’t show how happy or glad you are if a friend comes to visit you (because he knows about your Problems). So this is really annoying for yourself. Then, sometimes you have to tell that person afterwards (after the depression) how much you appreciated the visit. Really… I think the most important thing is to accept, that if you got it, you’ve got it for your whole life and you can choose – should I live with it or not? Regards from Switzerland +

    • Cindy Vien

      Feeling numbed out at times can make it hard to enjoy life and it happens more when we worry about people we care about, such as our growing children when they can have a problem, we don’t like to see our children suffer!! Our daughter has been suffering from insomnia for about 3 years and having OCD and being hypersensitive, it’s hard to feel her pain and suffering, and it can stir negative untrue thoughts (intrusive thoughts) that repeat and get our anxiety stirred up!! The less I worry, the better!! I can become over-whelmed and numbed out from onging chronic stress and over-worry as well!! We have to let our kids live their lives and just be there for them and look at their good strong qualities which we know will help them survive and they will be okay!! We need to keep the faith, and know that hope is always there, and our children will always be fine!! Depression can go hand in hand with anxiety, when chronic ongoing stress and worry ignites it, then we have to step back and not get too involved, just be helpful, we cannot fix everything, not even for our children!! We can only be a good parent who is always willing to listen and offer any advice when asked!!

  • Christine Mcmahon

    I keep my curtains closed I have thin curtains throughout the house so I don’t have to open them. The phone, mail, anything which is other people intruding in my space. I get ready go to work and I am bright and sociable. I used to think of myself as a hermit, I would love to be a hermit but bills don’t allow.

    • The Blurt Foundation

      You are not alone Christine. Sending hugs of support. (sorry for the late reply!)

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  • Lydia Brindley

    Who ever wrote this knows what my life is like everyday.. I came off all medication as it was making me suicidal . I got a dog in June last year n rescued a 10 yr old toy poodle who was going to be put to sleep a week before Christmas these 2 get me out of the house n go for walks on the local beach or woods .I talk to people now ..had a serious breakdown 2n a half years ago n I can’t let anything like that happen again coz I won’t survive it

  • Jessica PEOPLE

    I can relate to this so much as a person with depression.

  • Julie Dylan Edwards

    ps, i quite often find myself being angry when my phone rings and resentful of the person who is calling me, like they should bloody well know that i don’t feel like talking and should just text me instead ! i know that they aren’t calling on purpose just to wind me up but that is how it feels sometimes, well most times actually. i also get annoyed sometimes with my partner and my daughter (18 years old) for talking to me or asking me a question, i can’t help it, luckily though, they understand that when i am being snappy with them or am not very responsive to them talking to me that it is because of my depression and they don’t hold it against me.

  • Julie Dylan Edwards

    i used to think that it was just another strange thing about me that i used to get agitated and anxious if i was around flashing lights (i knew that i didn’t have photosensitive epilepsy) or loud noises such as police sirens or the tv or music being on too loud etc but over recent months i have realised that it is connected to my depression and that i am not alone with these feelings. depression is a funny thing with so many different sides and symptoms to it that most people are totally unaware of, they think that it just means that the sufferer is miserable all the time, cries a lot and is just “oh woe is me” all the time. great article, thank you.

  • Margaret McLean

    And there was me thinking I’m weird for never answering the phone or making a call. I just can’t somehow. There are calls I need to make: to sort out the mortgage, to sort out the boiler that keeps cutting out, to sort out the immersion heater that doesn’t seem to work as it should, to fix the garage door, to tell my ex to get his stuff out of the loft and the garage and the shed and get the shed away too since he wants it so badly!
    But I can’t even answer when they call, let alone call them, either returning or initiating. This is a big issue I have yet to overcome, and I would be very grateful for any guidance the community could offer x

    • Lglg

      Margaret – When I am depressed I definitely avoid tasks which intimidate me. Things that sound easy to someone else, like phone calls. Even listening to voicemails feels scary. What could be scary about listening to a voicemail? Especially when it’s probably just from my mum anyway… But I sometimes avoid them for days, imagining what they might say.

      The only thing that I have found works is to try to notice when I am avoiding things. Then give myself a mental hug. I must be avoiding them because I’m having a hard time. Silly crazy head. So I have a nice cup of tea while I write down the list of things I am avoiding. I think writing it down is really important. Somehow it stops it spinning round and round in your head making you feel anxious.

      Then I decide I will feel like a hero if I tick something off the list. And this horrible feeling in my stomach might even go away if I do something on my list. So I allocate 20 minutes to doing the things I have been avoiding. To start, I choose the easiest one to do and do it. If it’s a phone call and they don’t pick up, it doesn’t matter, I did my bit. Keep going for 20 minutes then congratulate yourself. Woooooo!! You did it!!

      I like tea as a strategy when I am avoiding things – it takes a few minutes but not too long. By the time you finish your cup of tea (or even before!) you have to act!

      And silly things – motivate yourself like you would a toddler, just pretend it’s ironic if you want. Do yourself a star chart. You don’t have to tell anyone about it. You don’t need glitzy stickers (but you can buy some of you want) – you can have a little bit of paper in your wallet and draw yourself a tiny star every time you do something you were avoiding. Feel secretly mega proud – only you can know just how hard it was to do this and how awesome it is that you did it.

      Please let us know if you find a good way to overcome this – and good luck!

      • Juliane Eick Aziz

        Giving myself a mental hug – what nice image! I’ll try that next time 🙂 One of my tricks for when my silly head goes into overdrive while laying in bed, I think of Louise Hay’s ‘Evening Meditation’. Most of the time simply the thought of her saying that “the day is over now”, helps with letting go.

  • Julie Dylan Edwards

    this is so true ! i find myself being so agitated by noise and flashing or bright lights at times, far more often than i used to be. whenever i am in the car i always have to have the visor down even on a day when the sun isn’t actually out, if there are flashing lights on TV i have to cover my eyes or look away and even the sound of someone talking, not even necessarily to me, or eating will make me feel enraged to the point where i have to go out of the room and quite often when at home i have had to take myself off to bed to get away from my partner and/or daughter otherwise i would explode and a massive row would happen because i can’t articulate how i feel or how the noise is affecting me and making me feel.

    • Vanessa Hembling

      Hi Julie, WOW, that is me to a T.x I am peri menopausal, and have been diagnose dwith ASpergers, but some days I cry and have no idea why, BUT, I work in a charity shop and the manager is wonderful, and allows me to be me, and for some reason I DON’T cry while I am there.x

  • toriwillow

    Yep, i so relate to this, i think a lot of people with depression can…and it kind of helps to know you are not the only one who can’t bring themselves to answer the phone some days… i think I’d also have to add answering the door and opening mail to my own list of things I find inexplicably hard at times! Oh, and making plans with people! Sure I might feel ok today, but who knows how i will on that day??! And so we avoid making plans and retreat a little further inward :/

    • Nicola Pateman

      This sounds so like me. I thought, how I feel about answering the phone, making forward plans etc was just something I did and I am somewhat odd. I feel somewhat relieved that there are other people in the same boat as me. x

  • toriwillow

    Yep, i so relate to this, i think a lot of people with depression can…and it kind of helps to know you are not the only one who can’t bring themselves to answer the phone some days… i think I’d also have to add answering the door and opening mail to my own list of things I find inexplicably hard at times! Oh, and making plans with people! Sure I might feel ok today, but who knows how i will on that day??! And so we avoid making plans and retreat a little further inward :/