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“Why do you have a cellphone when you can’t afford it?”

I hear this so often that if I had a dollar for each time it was said to me, I wouldn’t have to worry about bills for awhile. 

Let me give a bit of back story: I’m on ODSP -that’s disability in Ontario- and have been since I was diagnosed with rapid-cycling bipolar II at 21 (I’m 26 this May). I live with my mother because she needs someone to be around to help her. She had two alcohol related strokes and I’m the only family member stupid enough still willing to deal with it. But that’s nether here nor there.

We split rent and hydro and pay our own groceries. I pay for my Internet part of our phone/cable/Internet package and she pays for the phone/cable as I don’t use either of them. We buy separate groceries (I’ve been anorexic for seven years; she prefers to eat crap junk food).

Now I live on a 200$ a month food budget and that’s after paying 200$+ on bills. The reason I have my iPhone 4S? Because it helps my anxiety. No, seriously.

I first got a smartphone in 2008. It was a Blackberry Pearl 8100 (red) and I got it to try helping with my social anxiety. With a smartphone I had access to a telephone without touching a public phone (germphobia/OCD), could call a cab or someone to come get me out of an anxious situation.

I had access to instant messenger, the only form of communication my best friend uses. So whenever I’m freaking out I had quick access to her.

I even explained this to my ODSP worker and she agreed that if it helped my anxiety and helped me in social situations or situations where anxiety is prevalent but I can handle it better because I have that line of communication, then by all means, why not have it?

Everyone has their thing – some people it’s cigarettes, some people it’s a lucky or ‘security’ item – shirt, socks, underwear, whatever. For me, it’s my phone.

Now anyone who has never dealt with something such as a mental illness where paranoia is a common symptom, or you have never dealt with crippling social anxiety or generalized anxiety disorder then yer probably scoffing at me right now. I can see why – I’m 25and never had the ability to live my life without some form of anxiety. I’ve had some form of it since I was a baby – from separation anxiety to feelings of abandonment to social anxiety to GAD to paranoia and back again. It’s a recurring theme in my life and while I’ve tried multiple times to fix this – with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), one-on-one therapy, group therapy, klonopin, valium, chamomile tea, anti depressants, trazedone, tricyclics. You name it, I’ve tried it. Nothing has ever worked long-term. All of my ‘fixes’ were just band-aids.

So when the anxiety comes back, I can only cling to a tiny electronic and hope for the best. It’s my security blanket – much like the pink and white baby blanket with Bambi on it was mine for many years into my teens (when I slept, of course, I only slept with it – never carried it with me or anything).

Some people underestimate the power of a safety object – it could mean the difference between someone becoming agoraphobic and thus, reclusive (like I unfortunately, have) and someone feeling they have the security to get up and get out of their safety cocoon.

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