HEARING the ping of a WhatsApp message, I chucked my phone under a cushion.
I knew it was the cute Tinder guy I was due to meet later, but I also knew I was never going to make the date.
Just the thought of meeting up with a guy made my head spin – let alone actually having sex with him, writes Rosie[/caption]
It had been six months since I had been intimate with a man, and I desperately craved the touch of someone between the sheets, but just the thought of meeting up with a guy made my head spin – let alone actually having sex with him.
I’ve always been a bit anxious, but I managed to keep a lid on it until I graduated from uni in 2010 and plunged into the world of celebrity journalism. Suddenly, the pressure was on and instead of spending my evenings and weekends going on dates, I was heading off to showbiz parties for work.
But in early 2013, the glitzy events began to feel like huge ordeals. I’d be in the middle of trying to talk to someone and my mouth would dry up or my legs would tremble, and I’d desperately want to run away.
I felt blind-sided, and after a few months I had to give up my job. I couldn’t cope with the anxiety it triggered, so I focused on freelance writing instead.
Even so, my stress levels remained high and it began to affect more than just my work. I’d gone from being a single woman who loved meeting guys and was confident in bed, to someone who couldn’t bear to even think about it. I was petrified I wasn’t interesting or fun, or that I might make a fool of myself. It was as if something had completely switched off in my brain and I couldn’t control it.
Of course, it meant my sex life took a massive dive, too. At night alone, I would crave cuddles and the feeling of being close to someone, but my confidence had taken such a battering that the thought of getting intimate repulsed me. It meant that I often turned down or cancelled dates at the last minute with guys I knew the old me would have wanted to rip the clothes off.
At night alone, I would crave cuddles and the feeling of being close to someone, but my confidence had taken such a battering that the thought of getting intimate repulsed me.
In 2015, after a year of enforced celibacy, I confided in friends about what I was going through and they suggested I take time out to focus on myself. I did this for another year, until in the summer of 2017 I thought I’d test the waters.
I managed to make it through a couple of dates and into bed with one guy, but it was a disaster and I found the whole experience extremely stressful.
While I went through the motions physically, I felt miserable afterwards. I wasn’t that interested in him, and I freaked out when he started texting and asking to see me again. On top of that, my anxiety forced me to over-analyse what had happened, and I felt intensely guilty for rejecting him.
Soon, I had pretty much convinced myself that I was destined to spend my life alone. By then, my libido was non-existent.
I didn’t even feel any real sexual urges, and orgasms were certainly not on my to-do list. But my anxiety didn’t ease, so in late 2017 I forced myself to see my GP. The doctor referred me for cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) with a brilliant NHS therapist who managed to coax me out of my anxiety and self-imposed celibacy. By the end of the three-month course, she “dared” me to set up a Tinder date, which I did – and I truly haven’t looked back since.
Six months after having therapy, I finally had sex with a guy I was dating at the time. It was nerve-wracking, but nice, especially as I finally felt comfortable and relaxed in my own skin. It had been over half a year since I’d last had sex and I really did feel like an entirely different person.
I didn’t even feel any real sexual urges, and orgasms were certainly not on my to-do list.
In May last year I even headed out to Italy to meet Mauro, 35, a guy I’d had a holiday romance with years ago, and I had an amazing time.
But why did anxiety have such a huge impact on my libido? According to Katerina Georgiou, a psychotherapist who works with patients with anxiety during times of mental trauma, the brain “prioritises” what is and isn’t important.
“When you’re anxious, the brain focuses solely on its most vital needs, which is where the fight and flight mode comes in,” she explains. “Your most important priorities are to be safe and fed. Everything comes second to that, with sex going out of the window.”
MOST READ IN FABULOUS
While my anxiety still rears its ugly head occasionally, CBT has taught me effective coping techniques, such as deep breathing and focusing on the situation in front of me when my mind goes off on a tangent.
Now, I feel like I’m finally back to the old me: the girl who had no qualms about kissing a guy
at a party if I felt like it. And sex? Well, let’s just say that I’m back on track with that, too – and
I’m certainly making up for lost time.