I am so grateful that the conversation around mental health is no longer a taboo subject and more and more people are talking about it. It makes those of us who suffer feel less alone and reminds the “calmer” ones around us that not everyone has a mind like theirs.
While there are tons of conversations about anxiety in regards to social gatherings, public transit, and relationships, it seems not enough people are talking about the role of anxiety in sex.
I am what you’d call a “late bloomer” (that is, someone who genuinely likes hanging out with her parents). I got so used to being friend-zoned and feeling like an outsider that I eventually stopped trying. I fully took myself out of the equation. I knew I was so far behind in the relationship/sex/evenjustholdinghands world that I was terrified to have a conversation with someone I liked, knowing they had likely become well-versed in these experiences in their teens (back when I was still wearing spandex pants and when shaving my legs gave me nervous sweats).
Liking someone didn’t just mean wanting them to like me back; it meant hoping they would accept my inexperience and be patient with the fact that I would overanalyze everything and sweep their apartment for bugs (both real and technological).
All that stress took a long time to overcome, and I’m so glad that I found someone who was incredibly patient and kind…and who had a waffle maker. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out, but I am grateful for the experience and confidence that I gained.
Then I dated a wonderful individual who was not only more experienced but also far more grown-up than me (he had coasters). Being the wonderful individual that he is, he’d make sure I was having a good time, and he’d ask questions about what I liked and what I wanted. While he was simply being a caring partner, his questions led me into a spiral of anxiety.
A small sample of my thoughts while having sex:
- Can my roommate hear us? Is she timing it? Did she pause her TV show to listen? Should I make her tea?
- How long is too long to kiss before I have to do other things? Because this is GREAT (I am a thirteen-year-old).
- Should I start waxing? I don’t want a stranger looking at parts of me I have not yet dared to venture myself. Is a “Brazilian” wax still a thing? Can I get a “Shy Canadian Girl” wax?
- Is he comparing me to other girls? We haven’t talked about past relationships. Maybe he was married and has ten kids and he’s vetting me to be his nanny? I wonder how much he’d pay? I’m really good with kids.
- He is a full-grown adult and we are on a single bed. I feel so bad.
- How am I supposed to not laugh at us awkwardly taking off our layers of clothes? I am wearing two pairs of socks.
- I am red and blotchy and my cheeks are flushed. Does he notice that? Yup, he noticed.
And when he asks what I like:
- I am an adult woman and don’t even know what I like or want. This is depressing.
- He now either thinks I’m secretly into S&M and am too nervous to share, or I was Tom Hanks-d in BIG and am a thirteen-year-old who doesn’t know what a G-spot is (also I don’t know where my G-spot is).
- Why is he wasting his time with me when he could be with someone who has a bigger bed and a Costco membership?
For me, a simple pleasure or physical act will always be tainted with anxiety. I realize that it will get better as I become more comfortable and have a partner who is understanding and patient; however, it leaves me eternally envious of anyone who doesn’t have an internal monologue of doubts constantly bombarding them.
I work in comedy, so many of the people I interact with suffer from mental illness. Sometimes I forget that there are people in the world who never encounter these thoughts or fears. To those individuals, I would like to ask you to be kind to those of us who are fighting with the “negative Nancys” in our heads (no offence to the Nancys out there—every Nancy I’ve met is SO lovely).
To those similar souls who are forced out of happy experiences to consider all of the horrible outcomes and thoughts: You are not alone. Surround yourself with people who bring you back to the happy…or with someone who has a waffle maker, because waffles are happiness.