Swinging in the Deep End Part 2: Anxiety Strikes Back


A recent trip to Portland to see a favourite long distance play partner found me in the midst of a giant play party linked to the local polyamory conference. I was very nervous about the party because I’d never been to anything like it before and I would also be attending with Will rather than Flick. Several days before I headed south I’d awoken to a feeling of dread and panic about the party but after talking through it with Will, I felt calmer and ready to tackle the challenge. Creeping into my brain regularly was the failure at the play party at Desire Resort & Spa in November, so wanted to get this one right. Spoiler alert: I didn’t get it right.

We were staying in the house where the party was located and Will and I discussed how we’d attend together. I’d be his date and we’d find some fun together, but as opportunities presented themselves, we’d play separately as well. I knew it was going to be tricky since I am much more insecure with people I don’t see often. Although I was excited for him to connect with people and have sexy experiences, I knew the jealousy thing would be more of a factor than it is with Flick, and it was. I felt extraneous and in the way of him finding fun so I pulled way back, and essentially avoided him. It was not the right call for me.

There are so many little pieces that contributed to the night turning into a disaster for me.

  • I was in a new space in an unfamiliar city
  • The party was huge and full of people I didn’t know
  • The first guy I met was creepily sexual
  • The ‘house’ rules for play were confusing with regards to where and how you could play – and then most people seemed to ignore the rules
  • There was a speed meet-n-greet instead of relaxed welcome circle
  • I was drained from peopling more than I normally do from previous 2 days
  • We’d been running from event to event without time for adequate meals or downtime
  • I felt insecure with regards to Will’s desire for me versus his desire for new experiences and new people.

I didn’t want to be sloppy drunk or unable to consent, so I watched my wine consumption a little too carefully, but I did a pretty good job of socializing at the beginning of the night. I chatted a bunch with people in the kitchen who I’d connected with the previous day and I expressed my clear interest in playing with someone who had been flirty over the course of the conference and he was an enthusiastic yes. I joined in as my group headed to the hot tub under the giant cedar trees outside and had an hour of fabulous conversation with new friends, but when we eventually headed back inside and I spotted Will with his arms around a gorgeous woman, panic began to set in. I had to get out of there.

I approached Will and his sexy companion, but instead of feeling like I’d be a welcome addition to their circle, like I belonged there, deserved to be there, I felt like an intruder, especially as she moved off almost immediately. I told Will I was feeling overwhelmed and was heading to our room, and asked him to check on me in a bit. He agreed to do so and we had a quick kiss before I essentially sprinted from the room.

This was the big opportunity to have done something very different and had a very different outcome than the panic attack spiral. Thanks to messing it up royally, though, I learned a valuable lesson, which should have been more obvious from the previous night when Will had bent me over the bed for a hard and fast fuck before we rushed off to dinner.

“Do you feel more centered?” he’d asked me as we quickly rearranged our clothes, hearing our host on the stairs.

“Oh yes!” I’d sighed happily, no longer in my head but relaxed and settled thoroughly in my body.

Unfortunately, in the midst of the play party, I didn’t have the wherewithal to ask Will to ‘Kiss me back into my body’ so I fled the room before my building panic became tears.

I dodged through the maze of bodies in the large open space outside our room and realized the lovely french doors did little to dampen sound. I put in earplugs then my headphones and watched a loud, silly movie to drown out conversation and moans. I felt so ridiculous hiding in the giant king size bed alone and let the tears come hard and fast. You’re a voyeur! I told myself If nothing else, go watch what other people are up to. But I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. The panic was too strong for any sensible thoughts to cut through.

I took a sedative, figuring I could just knock myself out, but unfortunately, all that did was knock me out for long enough to be asleep when Will checked on me, so I didn’t realize he had, and when the movie ending woke me up, I saw the time and was all hurt that he hadn’t checked in. He probably did while you were sleeping and didn’t want to wake you. You know there’s no way he’d abandon you, my sensible brain told me. I’m all alone. Why doesn’t anyone want to be with me? Anxious spiral brain countered. You’re the one that is hiding. How can anyone be with you while you’re hiding?

Many more tears ensued until my need to pee overrode my fear of running the gauntlet of bodies outside my door. I even eyed the travel mug next to the bed rather than risking the dreaded world outside my room but apparently not peeing in a cup trumped risking people. I could hear Will and a woman chatting so I crept out, seeing him lying back on the couch as one of the gorgeous gals I’d been perving on all weekend knelt on the floor before him. They spotted me and called out but my face was so tear streaked, I sprinted to the bathroom before they could really see me. I heard them complimenting my robe and talking about how cute I am as I closed the door behind me and began to weep so hard I thought I might vomit. What the fuck is wrong with you? They’re into you. Go out there and join them. Nope.

Bladder emptied, face washed temporarily free of tears but quickly gaining new ones, I arranged my hair over my eyes and hoped I could get back into the room before they saw me.

“Kat. She was just talking about you,” Will said with a smile, but I just couldn’t. I laughed a ‘sure she was’ laugh and closed the door behind me on his, “Okaaaaayy.”

Now they hate you. Great job.

The weeping turned to wailing at this point so I put a pillow over my head to dampen the sound, though the blaring music would likely have covered any noise I could have made. Cut this out. You haven’t ruined everything. They want you there. Get over yourself! All the Nope! I shouldn’t have come. What was I thinking telling myself I could do this? I can’t do this! I have to cancel all of our upcoming trips including Desire, and break up with all my partners, because clearly I’m not cut out for non-monogamy. I’m so alone!

When Will came to bed I was cried out and the panic had abated enough that I had dozed on and off. We snuggled for a bit but once he fell asleep and rolled over I was left to my thoughts in the giant bed. We talked the next morning, and had some good connected time during our final day together, but both of us were kind of quiet and subdued. My brain was lying when it said that I wrecked everything between us but it definitely changed things.

I’ve revisited the events of the evening over and over and over (and over) in my brain, trying to figure out how to fix it all. Alas, fixing past fuck ups isn’t possible, but I did learn some important lessons.

If I am going to an event with someone other than Flick, I need to ensure we have a clear plan for connecting with each other and talk about it in detail, and check in regularly. If I’d done so with Will and been reassured of his desire to spend time with me and play with me with others, I wouldn’t have been as primed for panic as I was when things began to go off.

“Anchor me!” This is the phrase I’ve come up with to ask a trusted someone to help me get back into my body, either through kissing or biting (or perhaps even fucking if that is an appropriate option). I’m going to teach it to my various partners as an anxiety safeword. For situations where my closer partners aren’t around, I’m planning to use the phrase, “Kiss me back into my body” to request assistance to derail the panic spiral.

Failing agonizingly hard at the play party was yet Another Fucking Opportunity for Growth. I keep hoping I won’t have to learn these lessons so painfully, but it’s the painful ones that stick. If there’s any chance anyone else can learn from my fuckups, even better. Sharing is caring.


Kat (she/they) is a sex-positive, geeky, Canadian, pansexual, deviant, slutty, feminist pervert who came to ethical non-monogamy 21-years into her relationship with her husband. After a quick toe-dip to test the waters (and hours of obsessive reading and podcast consumption), they dove in and they almost can't imagine they ever lived any other way. Labels never give a totally clear picture, but they consider themselves non-monogamous and polyamorous, though they occasionally swing. She's also a podcaster - On The Wet Coast Podast - and audiobook narrator for Cooper S Beckett's novels A Life Less Monogamous and Approaching the Swingularity. onthewetcoast.com @WetcoastKat on Twitter. Their first book - Yelling In Pasties: The Wet Coast Confessions of an Anxious Slut - is available on Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, Inkterra, and Kobo.

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