The Pillow Thief

Throughout our first years together, my husband would, from time to time, accuse me of being a thief. "You're stealing all the pillows," he would grouch. I would remind him that you can't steal what's already yours, as I'd purchased each of my many pillows for a specific, personal need.

When I met my would-be husband, he owned only one sad, flat bed pillow. It topped his mattress and box spring, which sat directly on the floor. Just looking at his bed made my joints hurt. Luckily, we spent the majority of our downtime at my place, where pillows abound.

RA and pillows: "Nice to have" vs. "Need to have"

After he moved in, he began to understand the value of providing one’s body with adequate support throughout the night. Unlike me, he does not have to contend with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), but he quickly began to appreciate what to him is a creature comfort. However, for those of us with RA pillows cross the divide from “nice to have” to “need to have.” Without proper support, I experience far more pain in my joints, making it nearly impossible to sleep. This results in a layer of sleep deprivation on top of painful joints, making the daytime as unpleasant as the night.

Therefore, my bed is loaded down with pillows, with plenty on my husband’s side as well so that he won’t be tempted to take mine. Whenever he accused me of “stealing all the pillows” I would remind him of all the pillows I’ve provided him and ask him where they might have disappeared to. Sheepishly, he would realize his pillows had fallen under the bed or that he’d left them on the couch after an extended session in front of the tv.

After being married for a decade, my husband has learned to stop accusing me of being a pillow thief. However, the other night it was I who realized I'd been robbed. I got ready for bed, turned on my heated mattress pad, turned back the covers, and began arranging my pillows. Right away, I knew that some of my pillows were missing. There was still a large pile of pillows to choose from, but my pillows were not among them.

I have perfected my pillow support for my troubled body.

I need just the right height and softness for the pillow that goes under my head or else my neck tightens, giving me tension headaches and achy shoulders. Similarly, I need the right thickness for the pillow that goes between my knees when I lie on my side if I’m to avoid increased hip pain. I have a disfigured pillow, fatter on one-half than the other, that is the perfect support for under my arm: the thin side supports my shoulder and elbow while the thick side is the exact height I need for ideal wrist support. Like a mama bird who is able to immediately recognize her chick out of a crowded flock, I need only fluff my pillows once to know which is which.

I, therefore, knew right away that while I was out for the evening, my pillows had been stolen. Not wanting to wake my family, I made do with other pillows, but it took me longer than usual to fall asleep, and I woke more frequently. The next morning, I questioned my husband about my missing pillows. He said they’d ended up in the kids’ room, but he had made sure to put some back on our bed. With a sigh, I explained that my pillows are not interchangeable. While any pillow is better than no pillow, those three that so ideally support my body cannot be traded willy-nilly without my body taking notice.

Not the prima donna!

To someone without RA, I may sound like a prima donna. Of course in the grand scheme of things I’m incredibly fortunate to have a comfortable bed and any pillows at all. That being said, RA has taken a lot from me: it frequently robs me of comfort, slows down my timeline, makes it impossible for me to participate in certain activities, and has forced me to cancel trips and special occasions. I put a lot of time and money into treatment and self-care in an effort to have as high a quality of life as possible. Therefore, when I find something that helps, like my perfect pillows, I’m not letting anyone, even the love of my life, take that away from me.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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