I always thought I was mad or shy!
Dear Fellow Sufferers,
I am 40 years old and can't wait to show my husband the list of symptoms on this site because finally I have a bit of verification that I'm not completely nuts!
Before we got married, I started to make a list of nuances/phobias/situations that I avoid (because he thought it was endearing) and stopped at phobia number 47. We are talking about everything from the usual not being able to tell the difference between left and right, not answering the phone unless I know who it is through to not only not being able to go without shoes on an aeroplane, but physically cringing when I see other people walking around in their socks and imagining all the stuff they are picking up on their feet. I mean, some people even use the bathroom on a plane in bare feet!! AArgh! Am I the only one who agonises about what other people are doing? And if someone sits next to me who starts coughing, sniffing or touching me with their elbows, it drives me mad.
As a sports journalist who often travels overseas, I have had to learn to manage my feelings otherwise I wouldn't be able to do my job (I wouldn't even be able to put my head against the headrest on a plane if I thought about it too much; and don't even go there with the scratchy blankets). In fact, this is probably the worst job anyone with this condition could do because I have to enter crowded environments (which I hate) and end up getting to a sports venue hours before the event starts just to avoid the crowds. When I'm there, I will do anything to avoid leaving my seat and am literally counting the minutes until I can plan my complete escape.
As someone who hates talking to strangers, my job is also ironic. Luckily I have learned to switch into 'interview mode' but it still ruins my whole day if I have a telephone interview arranged for say, 4pm, as all I can think about is, how long until 4pm? I have also become quite a well-known public speaker in my industry, yet am cringing inside about being in the same room as so many other people/having to make polite chit chat.
I often spend most conferences that I attend in the refuge of my hotel room, just to avoid social situations. I used to get around these feelings by drinking excessively, but I gave up alcohol three years ago and now prefer just to avoid people! Mind you, it can be stressful being stuck in a hotel room for long periods of time as well because I start worrying about what's on the carpets/whose hair might be lurking in the bathroom etc. I always have to remove the bedspread from the hotel bed as soon as I arrive and put it out of sight as I think about all the people who have sat on it (or worse!) Often, I sleep on a towel (that I have brought with me), to avoid touching the sheets, and have to have socks on (ditto). My perfect scenario would be to bring a sleeping bag with me and cocoon myself in that, but it's not very practical (or romantic if I am with my husband). Plus I hate the velcro bit they often have at the top of the sleeping bag.
Yesterday, I hid when
the doorbell rang (even though I knew it was a delivery for my husband) because I couldn't deal with the interaction.
We have lived in the middle of nowhere for a couple of years and it has been brilliant after 15 years in central London. I honestly think I could live quite happily as a hermit, never seeing anyone apart from close friends and families.
I hate meeting new people (not just at work but socially). If we get invited out by people I feel anxious for weeks (especially if one of them has a new partner for example). And I don't do surprises - social occasions out have to have been in the diary for months. I'd much rather people came to me, than me go to them. But I want them to leave after about four hours. I am sure people think I am a bit standoffish. I used to think I was shy, but now I know it's not that.
What else? I constantly bump into things, can't bear bright light, loud noises, unusual noises (sleeping is a pain; I hear a night-time hum), people talking to me while the TV is on or the radio is on, the TV being too loud (I'm always getting my husband to turn the volume down), sheets that wrinkle, mattresses where you can feel the buttons through the sheets, anything gunky on my hands, the sight and smell of fish, the list goes on.
I hate driving anywhere new (I didn't learn until I was 24 and had to have 'left' and 'right' written on my hands during the test - it is a miracle that I passed first time). I envy people who can just jump into their car and go somewhere spontaneously! What freedom! I can't even turn around when I am the front seat to get something off the back seat as it makes me want to throw up. I ended up getting an automatic car because changing gear made me cringe. I didn't learn to ride a bicycle until I was 14 (much to the amusement of my neighbours) and still can't rollerskate or iceskate (I mean, who would want to). When it is icy in the winter, I would love to just stay indoors until it thaws and never go out but alas I can't.
I have been cutting the labels out of my clothes since I was a kid (I refused to wear anything with buttons until I was 14 and still don't like them). Clingfilm was my biggest phobia - I still can't touch it. Tinfoil makes me cringe. Food has always been a problem - I have been vegetarian most of my life and remember gagging on the textures of meat as a small child and swallowing potatoes whole to avoid chewing them. I hate barbecues and buffets because I am sure people will have contaminated my food with their dirty cutlery.
Well, I think I had better stop there (although I could of course go on). Whilst I am sure knowing what is wrong with me will be helpful (as I can explain to people I am not just a bit rude, but have a recognised condition), but I was wondering if anyone has a history of this in their families and if this is hereditary? My grandmother is like it (I realise now), my mother is almost as bad as me and my father is bipolar........Help!!