[Guest Post] Anxiety and Sex: How Panic Attacks During Sex Led to Me Getting the Help I Needed by Ruby Bell

I knew I wanted Ruby Bell to guest blog for me the moment I read one of her several brilliant posts for Girl on the Net. Thankfully, she agreed and pitched me this fabulous piece. You know that, here at C&K HQ, we’re all about the filthiest, sexiest smut… but we’re ALSO all about talking frankly about mental health and all the other complications of life. I’ll hand you over to Ruby, who is going to tell us all about panic attacks and sex. – Amy x

A woman facing away and holding her head in her hands. For a post from Ruby Bell about panic attacks during sex

My partner has me against the wall. He has me blindfolded and he’s using a very powerful vibrator on my clitoris. These are some of my absolute favourite things… so why am I moments away from having a full-on panic attack? 

Living with anxiety isn’t easy, but it is something we all know a lot more about these days. It’s brilliant that people are talking more about mental health, and most of us are feeling a little less intimidated about sharing our true thoughts and feelings with those we love. Despite all of this progress, it doesn’t make having panic attacks any easier for those of us who struggle with them, and having panic attacks during sex is a part of anxiety not many people talk about. It’s certainly not something I ever expected to have to deal with. 

So, let’s talk about some of the science behind the madness of our minds. The release of oxytocin during sex magnifies emotions as well as promoting trust and empathy with your partner. This suggests that it can encourage a release of feelings that may have nothing to do with what is actually going on in that moment. Maybe you’ve had an argument with your mum recently. Maybe you’ve had a fucking awful week at work or maybe your mental health has just generally been suffering lately. Now you’re in this safe place with the person you trust the most, and all of these things are coming out. It’s quite common for some people to cry during sex, and this can easily go from a few tears to a panic attack if you suffer with anxiety or depression as well. 

The first time I had a panic attack during sex was only the second or third panic attack I’d ever had, which meant I hadn’t yet learnt how to spot the signs of an attack rising or how to calm myself down and prevent it from getting any worse. I barely even knew what a panic attack was! This ended up with me having a pretty out of control, I-can’t-breathe, sobbing-my-heart-out kind of panic attack in front of my (still pretty new at the time) partner… who is standing there enjoying edging me, watching me writhe and squirm with a thick hard cock as he does. 

Fortunately, he dealt with the situation even better than I ever could have asked for. He turned the vibrator off, he removed my blindfold, and when I replaced it with my hands to try and hide my embarrassment he pulled me close to him and held me against his chest. He asked if he had done anything wrong. I sobbed that he hadn’t, that I was enjoying it and I didn’t know why this was happening which actually panicked me even more. He told me it was fine, he told me to breathe and he walked me around the house reminding me to keep breathing. At the time, I thought it was strange and a little comical that two semi-turned-on people were walking around the house together, completely naked for no apparent reason as my face dripped with tears and mascara and my chest heaved with heavy, struggling breaths. I know now that the walking helped to ground me. It helped distract from the panic as well as allowing me to feel close to and loved by my partner. 

I’m lucky – now that I have worked on my mental health and my panic attacks in particular, if one does start to rise in me I know how to calm myself down and can reign it in before the main symptoms begin around 90% of the time. But having panic attacks during sex did two wonderful things for me – although I didn’t know there was anything wonderful about it at the time of course.

First of all, it changed the dynamic of my relationship completely. Up until the point of that first attack, my partner and I were still holding back things during sex and I was being careful not to come across as overly emotional or ‘crazy.’ Looking back, it was probably the reason that first attack manifested itself – I hadn’t been honest with my partner about the feelings I was having in our relationship and I was hiding who I really was, which is never a good thing. This attack led to me and my partner connecting emotionally on a whole new level that we never had before. I learned that my partner was not just the tough guy exterior that came across. Showing my own vulnerability and opening up to him allowed him to do the same with me, and this led to us having a much stronger relationship in the long run. I now know I can talk to my partner if I’m feeling anxious, depressed, panicked or anything else. I can tell him if I don’t even know what’s causing those feelings and we can deal with it together.

The second thing that first attack during sex did for me was make it clear I did have a problem that needed to be addressed. Up until that point I had struggled with my mental health for years without ever really facing it. I had several extremely unhealthy coping mechanisms which were in fact making things worse, and having my partner walk me around and remind me to breathe led me to learning how to deal with these feelings effectively. From that experience, I learned coping techniques that I still use today. Having that outburst in front of another person meant I had to face what was going on. It meant someone else could see that actually I wasn’t okay, I wasn’t coping. This led to me getting the help and support I so badly needed, as well as working on my communication regarding my mental health overall. 

I hope that anyone else dealing with panic attacks during sex – or at any other time – takes it as a sign that they need to deal with the emotions causing these attacks. Listen to the fact that your body has felt comfortable enough to open up fully in front of the person you are making love with. I think we all need to listen more to what our bodies and emotions are telling us. And perhaps if we take the time to stop and listen to ourselves, then there is a good chance things won’t ever need to get as far as a panic attack.

Ruby Bell writes erotica and is passionate about sharing her filthy sexual experiences and fantasies. Her sex-positive writing also includes mental health, self-care, and educational pieces. She wants to spread both arousal and information! She’s a sucker for BDSM, chubby women and growing her own herbs and spices.  

Ruby is a brilliantly smutty writer who has shared her work on Girl On The Net’s amazing blog a number of times over the past few years. You can check out some of her work here (warning – very NSFW) and keep yourself up to date on what she’s doing at @absolutely_ruby on Twitter, where you’ll find upcoming articles, occasional audio porn, and whatever else pops into her head. Ruby is also currently working on her first novel with hopes of publishing next year. 

Interview: Francesca from The Pleasure Garden

You all surely know by now that I absolutely love feminist, inclusive sex shops? That’s why I was so pleased to partner with The Pleasure Garden, a UK based online company selling only body-safe pleasure products. I’ve reviewed products for them (and have more in the pipeline!) and I’m in their affiliate programme (so, full disclosure, if you make a purchase through one of my links I make a small commission.) Today I’m really pleased to introduce you to Francesca, the brains behind and owner of The Pleasure Garden.

Amy x

A banner for The Pleasure Garden shop for an interview with FrancescaTell us a little bit about you and the work you do? 

My name is Francesca (she/her) and I own and operate The Pleasure Garden – a UK based inclusive sex shop. Its been up and running for about a year now and it has been an exciting ride so far!
At the moment it’s a one man band, so I do almost everything on the site including fulfilling orders, copywriting, social media and managing the website. It can be a lot! I love to work with talented specialists, who make some amazing contributions to things like design and providing expert knowledge, when I get the chance!

What made you want to start an online sex shop?

For a long time I had been interested in starting my own business but I never found the right idea or inspiration. Then I started to read the fabulous Oh Joy Sex Toy which in turn introduced my to a load of other sex blogs as well as the world of ethical feminist sex toy retail. I felt that I had spotted a gap in the UK market for this type of shop.
At this point I wasn’t sure if I wanted to continue in my current career. When I discussed my options with a friend they told me that I just lit up when I started talking about the shop and nothing else seemed to inspire that kind of passion! So I worked for a year to build the site, identify the products I wanted to stock and do all the other things that you need to do to start a business (talk to me about business bank accounts. I dare you!) I did all this while working full time before taking the plunge and pressing go with the shop.
The long term plan is to open a bricks and mortar store as well (or maybe a few!) so keep your eyes peeled for future developments!

How would you describe the ethos and values of The Pleasure Garden?

The number one priority of The Pleasure Garden is to be inclusive. For me this touches on being inclusive of all gender identities and sexualities, but in particular relates to disability. In the UK approximately 1 in 11 people have some form of disability. Yet disabled people are consistently excluded from almost everything to do with sex. In emphasising inclusivity I hope to provide a space which is as accessible as possible and provides the expertise to help anyone find a sex toy that will work for them. This is as opposed to making something specialist – which in the end just others and separates people.
The core values of the business are also centred around pleasure – it is right there in the name! I think so many people seek out sex toys because they are struggling to find pleasure in an act which society says should knock your socks off every time, whilst also being a source of shame and embarrassment. I want to provide people with opportunities to explore pleasure. This underpins everything – from my choice of products and my stance on stocking only body safe toys, to customer service and promoting the work of excellent sex educators.

What was/is the most challenging thing about setting up your shop or running it? 

Oh, where to start! Before I started the shop I had never worked in retail, run a business or designed a website. So I had a very steep learning curve. It has been an amazing experience and I am adding skills every day. But it is definitely a process and sometimes it can get overwhelming. It is frustrating when I can’t seem to get the vision of something I have in my head to work in reality because I just don’t have the right set of skills. I am getting better at knowing when to call on outside help! Striking the right balance between the social mission of the business and the actual business part is also a challenge. There are so many things I want to do – but it also needs to keep the lights on!

What about the most rewarding thing? 

Getting to spend every day doing something that I love is pretty awesome! I really enjoy being challenged and learning new things, so launching a sex shop has been a blast. I learn about new things all the time – from the impact of diabetes on erectile dysfunction and how silicone dildos are made, to the ins and outs of Google analytics and financial software.

What’s the best selling toy in your shop? Why do you think that is? 

One of the most popular products I sell is actually the SpareParts Joque Harness. It is a really high quality harness which is pretty beloved by a lot of reviewers, but there aren’t a huge number of places stocking it in the UK. So I jumped at the chance to get it in the shop and it has deservedly done really well.

What’s something that people always misunderstand about your work? 

That is a tricky question! I actually think I am super lucky. I’m surrounded by a lot or really awesome friends and family members who really get what I am trying to do (including my mum, who has on occasion been pulled in to package and post things for me when I have been in a bind!) I think the one slightly annoying thing is the repeated asking of, “So have you tried out everything you sell?” I know people are just trying to be funny, but it gets old!

Who inspires you personally and professionally? 

Professionally I tend to draw inspiration from anyone who has the bottle to take a risk and start something for themselves. It is a lot of hard work, and knowing that other people have made it work gives me hope! There are also some amazing people who are doing epic work in the world of disability and sexuality, such as Tuppy Owens who founded the Outsiders Club, and Gill Leno, a sex educator who works with young people with learning disabilities.

Who’s your favourite sex educator and why? 

There are loads of amazing sex educators out there that I really admire but probably the two at the top are –
Erika Moen and Matt Nolan who create Oh Joy Sex Toy. OJST was my first intro to sex blogging and it really opened my eyes. I absolutely love they way they include a massive range of body types including disabilities, different genders and different sexualities in the comics.
Also, Emily Nagoski – I think Come As You Are should be handed to everyone at age 18! Her work is exceptional, empathetic and engaging.

What’s something you used to believe – about sex, sex toys or relationships – that you don’t believe any more? 

What a great question! I used to believe that I may never find sex satisfying and that that was okay. When my first sexual experiences really didn’t match up with the messages I had from the media and (what amounted to) sex education at school, I just thought that maybe sex would just not be that great for me. It took some time learning about myself, a few sex toys and finding how to communicate (seriously, everyone should read Come as You Are) to find as much pleasure in sex and intimacy as I do now.

And just for fun because it is “Coffee and Kink” – do you like coffee? How do you take it?

Hah! I don’t drink coffee… or tea… or hot chocolate. The only hot beverage I enjoy is a hot Ribena (at it has to be brand name – no ASDA own brand rubbish!)
Thanks so much to Francesca for taking the time to speak to us. Check out The Pleasure Garden – we need to be supporting women-owned, feminist businesses! Banner image is property of The Pleasure Garden and used with permission. 

ANNOUNCING: The Coffee & Kink 1 Year Blogiversary Giveaway!

My 1 year #Blogiversary is this December! Can’t believe I’ve been doing this for nearly a whole year. The giveaway is launching today so that you’ve got plenty of time to enter and spread the word… and, hopefully, the winner can get their prize in time for Christmas!

A large number '1.' For the first blogiversary giveaway post.First prize is a Satisfyer Pro Penguin Next Generation, one of my favourite toy discoveries this year. It was very kindly donated by Lee of Erotic Trade Only. Thank you Lee!

Second prize is a selection of my favourite coffee, hand picked by me. (I can do a tea alternative if you don’t like coffee!)

There are lots of different ways to enter. Spread the word and good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Rules:

No alternative prizes or cash alternative offered.
The winners will be drawn randomly via Rafflecopter.
Once notified, the winner will have 48 hrs to respond before a redraw.
Prizes will be posted within 48 hrs of a response from the winners. I will provide proof of postage if requested. I will not be held responsible if delivery is delayed due to Christmas post!