What happens when you combine sex and anxiety?

Picture by the awesome Stuart F Taylor

The hardest thing about using words to make a living is that they’re so pathetically small. The bigger the thing you’re trying to describe, the smaller the words feel when you select them. Describing sex is pretty easy, because it’s so intensely personal. While the word ‘dick’ might mean little to you, when combined with a few more everyday words to create the sentence ‘I spat on his dick‘ – to me it becomes intensely special and deeply arousing. Sex is easy.

Love on the other hand is much, much harder. While I profess to detest overly-sentimental, romantic shit there’s something to be said for a well-placed ‘wind beneath my wings’ or ‘sugar to my coffee’.

They don’t come close to describing the swelling, hair-pulling, scream-into-a-pillow magnitude of the sensation of being in love, but they exist to show us just how hard it is to adequately describe the feeling you have when you’d happily take a bullet for someone at the same time as calling them a ‘dickhead.’

Sex and anxiety

It’s four pm and I’m shaking with panic. A five pm deadline and two for first-thing tomorrow. For the first time ever, one deadline has whizzed past, and now it stares at me from two days ago whispering: “everything you love will crumble, and you, my friend, will fail.”

It cackles.

I sit at my desk ignoring the piles of washing, clutter of papers and an inbox that screams ME! PICK ME!

I breathe quickly and shake, as I stare at the mounting tower of ‘oh God where the hell do I start?’ and worry that I’ve fucked up my life.

So far, so desperately unsexy.

The truth is that much of my life isn’t sexy. I’m sure most of you realise that I don’t spend 90% of my time wanking, with only quick breaks to stock up on cheese sandwiches to give me the energy for my next angry fuck. There are clearly some with that misconception, though it’s mostly dudes who send me dick pics at 8:30 am on a weekday then a follow-up at lunchtime saying ‘r u wet yet?’

Most of the time I’m boring. A lot of the time I’m anxious. And some of the time I’m so busy twitching that I can’t even think about fucking.

My body says ‘you know what would really help you to calm down? A nice relaxing wank’, which sounds lovely but then my brain chips in with ‘but what about all these things? Look at them! Teetering in a huge pile that will one day collapse around you!’ So my body replies ‘OK you’ve got a really good point. Give me ten minutes to hyperventilate and curl in a ball on the floor while I consider this.’

After ten minutes of ball-curling and ragged breaths, just as I’m back in the zone of the functional, the phone will ring and the whole mess starts all over again.

If someone else told me this I’d offer to help them. But if someone offers to help me then my brain gives me more of its pesky chatter and I’m left spinning:

Don’t help me. Your help takes up time. I have no time. NO TIME. The time I am going to spend being helped by you is time taken away from the allocated time I have to do the things and there is NO TIME and one day I will have used up all the time and I’ll be dead and what help will you be then? Hmm?

This is all well and good when it’s my Mum on the phone but when it’s Amazon customer services the whole thing gets a bit awkward.

This long-winded build-up is here to show that when I say I’m stressed, I’m not talking about some mild worries or a couple of nagging concerns at the back of my mind. I mean full-blown, heart-hammering panic which prevents me from reading any text, email or tweet without a kind of swelling nausea because oh God I’ll have to say something now and what if what I say is hopelessly wrong?

It isn’t easily cast aside, overcome, or subject to the kind of help offered by well-meaning friends.

But it can be dampened, and it can – very occasionally – be swept to one side.

Like when he comes home from work and I’m ill and tired and my eyes are brim-full of desperate tears. He says ‘how was your day?’ and I shout ‘FINE!’ over my shoulder, because if I take my eyes off the screen then I’ll have failed and another deadline will fall by the wayside.

So he disappears. And then later, when I’m ragged and miserable and slouching with the weight of everything, he pops back in and says ‘how are you?’ And I say ‘fine’ like I’m not really sure if I am, and I stare at the piles of paper.

He doesn’t ask if he can help – he knows he can’t help any more than he can remove my head and stir around inside it to fix me. So he squeezes me with his massive arms, and lets me bury my face in his neck. It smells horny and masculine and all the things I want to fuck.

Sometimes it doesn’t work – the closeness makes me feel trapped and the idea of pausing even for a five-minute shag sets my heart back to hammering. But sometimes it works, and he strips off my knickers. And as he pulls them off – at just the right moment – I can rip off the terror and anxiety and throw myself into just… wanting.

Feeling the rush of arousal and wanting him to fuck me.

In the middle of a pile of paper. In a tangled ball on the floor. In a mishmash of trembling limbs across my messy desk. It’s a delicious and rare relief – to push out the worry about working and replace it with a desire for him to take me across his knee, belt hard sharp smacks across my arse until it’s glowing red, dip his fingers in my cunt and call me a dirty girl, then flip me over and fuck me while I cry with shaking desire.

It’s not need – it’s so much better than need. I ‘need’ food, and money. Without these things I’d struggle to survive, so reaching out to grab them is instinctive: like sneezing when something tickles your nose.

I don’t need him: I want him. And here’s where I bring it back to how inadequate words are. Just as they’re pitifully bad at conjuring the exact nature of a full-blown anxiety attack, so they limp pathetically across the page when I try to conjure the chest-aching love that I have for this man. Not because he stops me from panicking, but because he doesn’t try to. He doesn’t push or question or offer solutions: he just is. There. Solid and warm and patient and oh-so-deliciously ready to put his swollen cock in me at exactly the moment I want it the most.

It’s a want rather than a need because he doesn’t ‘fix’ me or ‘save’ me: I’d survive/cope/live/work without him. If he weren’t there the panic would still be around – washing over me one minute and fucking off suspiciously the next, leaving me worrying when it’d come back and contemplating whether it’d be all the stronger for having had a short break and… damn. There it is again. It’s been twenty minutes since I started writing this and where does the fucking time go? I didn’t even get to tell you how he… never mind. I’ve got shit to be getting on with.

Here’s the obligatory link to Mind.org, which you have to include on anything that references mental health. And if you think you might have anxiety problems, and you’re thinking ‘ah but I’m just a naturally stressy person though and I’m just so busy and shit’ then here’s a thing I wrote for The Cocktail Hour which might be useful. Or might not. I don’t know. Oh God sorry I’m such a twat. And here’s a thing by Dean Burnett in the Guardian about social anxiety, which is sparked by slightly different things but no less tremblingly awful.


  • Mrs H says:

    Oh my God. Of all the things you’ve written, that I’ve identified with, agreed with, wanked to (yes Yes YES) – this is the one that’s ringing the loudest bell of recognition.

    I see me.

    Thank you.

  • Charlie says:

    I cannot tell you how much I admire you for writing posts like these: clearly more than enough going on in your life and yet you write on anxiety in such a beautifully honest, personal but relatable, fucking no nonsense way. This is my favourite post for months – great work! xx

    • Girl on the net says:

      Thank you so much Charlie! Am always a bit worried that posts like this will get people going ‘OI! Back to the sex!’ so it means a lot that it struck a chord! x

  • jdgalt says:

    It sounds like you should give up reading “Repent, Harlequin!” as a cure for insomnia.

  • Pat Bateman says:

    Great post! I’m familiar with anxiety. The problem with having a dick, though, is that you literally cannot combine sex and anxiety. It just becomes endless foreplay. Interesting to hear the woman’s side. From the man’s perspective, if the woman’s good enough she’ll be considerate and patient. Lying there, holding each other, and not doing it is what eventually makes it possible to do it.

  • Faith says:

    How do you get more brilliant every post? I’m going through a similar (much less productive) period of frequent panic (what the fuck am I doing with my life etc) and having a calm, level-headed boy with a delicious neck makes it all better, at least temporarily. So good to read this, putting into words exactly what I am feeling. Although even reading it is quite stressful.

  • art_of says:

    Fantastic, brace post that makes, all those of us who currently wanting to crawl into a ball in the corner and just let the anxiety turn us inside out, feel less alone. Thank you.
    It’s also made me wonder if thinking about things differently might help me change the fact that anxiety currently kills any chance of sex for me. Being practically labidoless anyway doesn’t help but maybe I can convince myself that sex can be a release? *crosses everything apart from her legs*

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