This weekend, I discovered something that had me crawling-out-of-my-skin livid, and simultaneously felt like a giant ah-ha moment. Actually, it felt more like a blazing, blinking light going off that I’d somehow ignored for too many years now, ignorantly blind to its rays. All this time, I’ve been searching and experimenting and confused and helpless while the answer was right under my nose. Literally.
Let’s back it up a bit, to September 3rd, 2015. My family had just moved back to Texas from our horrible year in Boston. I was personally not in a great place. From April 2014 until July/August 2015, I’d been under a constant stream of trauma and stress. The source of that trauma had only just stopped being a continuous threat. So I was not in a good place, but I was at the very beginning of the route toward healing. A normal course of things, post-trauma, involves mental and physical healing. But for me, as I mentally healed, my body grew sicker with a dozen new illnesses that made no sense, leading me to the physical mess that I am today. As I said above, I’ve spent those years fighting and searching and experimenting, with no results.
I’ve written about it before: When something is wrong inside me, my body responds with a very specific array of complex and seemingly-unrelated symptoms. Now, the first year of all the crap my body went through in 2014/2015? Yeah – trauma, two cross-country moves, binge-eating, drinking too much wine, major insomnia, medications that cause weight gain, severe agoraphobia-anxiety-depression, self-harm via food, no in-person support system beyond a lone therapist, and so much more. Those symptoms were not random – they were directly related to the trauma. Afterwards, though, I just got sicker and have never understood why. Until now.
Again, let’s go back to September 3rd, 2015. Stores were having their Labor Day sales, and Jason and I decided to replace our old, very cheap mattress. We went down to Mattress Firm to try out some beds. We explained our needs to the saleslady: a firmer mattress, on the cheaper side, and the most importantly, it couldn’t have any memory foam. I’m allergic to memory foam, I explained. (Though since then, I’ve learned that it may not be the foam itself, but the gasses it produces and the chemicals used on it, that I’m allergic to. Still. Same difference.) The lady we worked with was helpful, and Jason and I found a bed we both liked. I double-checked that the bed had no memory foam, and the saleslady assured us that it was memory-foam-free.
You can see where this is going, yeah?
I’ve been complaining about how awful this mattress is for years now. It’s only 5.5 years old, but I figured that two cross-country moves must have battered it up quite a bit because it’s uncomfortable and sagging in places despite its “zoned” coils. But mattresses are expensive, and these days, many beds are part of the Foam Revolution. So I’ve put off buying a new one.
On our anniversary, Jason told me that since we couldn’t do the vacation we’d planned, he wanted to instead buy me a new mattress. It was really sweet of him, but I told him that I didn’t feel comfortable going into a mattress store while covid was surging, and I’d had a hard time finding any online manufacturer that sold non-foam beds. He dove into research (see how well-matched we are?) and found some good options. In the end, we ordered a sustainable, all-natural latex, wool, and cotton bed that the manufacturer claimed was in stock and would ship after a few days. Yay! What a great way to end Christmas, as we ordered the evening of the 25th!
But here’s the thing: Jason sent me his research, and something in all those pages of notes made my alarm bells go off. The morning after we ordered the new mattress, I pulled the sheets off my bed to look at the exact model of the old one. It’s a Sealy Posturepedic Plus Deveraux Cushion Firm, which has a thick layer of memory foam on top of its coils.
Rage. Yes, my friends, for 5.5 years, I’ve been sleeping on a bed that I’m allergic to, breathing in gasses I’m allergic to, getting sicker and sicker and at my wit’s end to figure out WHY. F–king hell.
I cannot even begin to describe the depths of my anger here. All this time, the answer was literally right under me. All. This. Time. No wonder I always felt better and had more energy when I vacationed away from home for several weeks. No wonder my brief periods on steroid medications made me feel like I was alive again. No wonder so many of my symptoms involve a hyper-vigilant immune system: eczema, hives, chronic fatigue, inflammation, new food allergies, anosmia, headaches, joint pain, autoimmune antibodies that don’t match any known patterns, IgE markers that can’t be matched to any of the tested allergens, swollen glands, skin issues especially on the parts of my body that come into more contact with the mattress…
Now imagine all this, and imagine you have to keep sleeping on the damn thing until the new mattress arrives, knowing that you’re essentially breathing in poisonous-to-you gas and that your bed is trying to slowly kill you. It is not fun. I, um, didn’t make it a single night before I went out to get a new air mattress. I’d rather sleep on air for a few weeks – or longer, if necessary – than to keep sleeping on what shall now be known as the Devil-Bed. And you know what? The first night on the air mattress, I slept 10.5 hours straight through without any sleeping meds. Second night? Another 10 hours. Third night? Eight hours and would’ve been more if my alarm hadn’t woken me for a hike.
Now, my insomnia pre-dates the Devil-Bed by four years, so I know it won’t just disappear, but I’ll take the reprieve as long as I can! And hopefully, when my new bed arrives (shipping says TOMORROW!!!), I’ll have comfort, sleep, a far-less-inflamed body, and the true beginnings of physical healing. There’s also relief in finally understanding WHY I’ve been so sick, to have found the root of the problem at last. No, I don’t know if this will fix All The Things – it’s hard to tell what kind of permanent damage that 5+ years of poisoning yourself night after night will do – but already I feel so much better. I’ll take it!