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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.

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

Comments

  • FreeThePixie
    2 years ago

    “The Pillow Thief” Loved It! … I can relate totally to this. Gone are the days when being invited to stay over with friends was an easy thing to do, infact staying over anywhere can be quite a chore. I now have to check if the bed is too low (I’ll never have the strength in my knees to get off) if the mattress too hard ( ouch!) and always have a large quantity of my beloved pillows with me (my new best friends)
    The look on the faces of those who don’t have a clue as to why I need the large amount of pillows is always a look of “Oh she’s such high maintenance” I find it easier to decline the invitations to stay over, It really isn’t worth it, most of the time. I much prefer the comfort of my own bed without the need to explain myself to anyone 😉

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    2 years ago

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences, FTP! I know just what you mean – sometimes it’s just easier being comfortable at home, where you have what you need to make your body feel as good as it can. There are so many little details in life that go unnoticed until a condition like RA makes you hyper-aware. Thanks for sharing, and please continue to do so whenever you feel inclined. All the best, Tamara

  • Hudson Valley Karen
    2 years ago

    I loved reading this as it reflects a lot of my own experience. However. I cannot travel anywhere without my pillows. if rather take fewer clothes than miss them overnight. it’s too miserable to contemplate. Thankfully I never traveled for business!

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    2 years ago

    Hi HV Karen,

    Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts! I know what you mean about traveling without pillows, as this has definitely factored into my decisions about whether or not a trip is worth it!

    Thanks for being in our online community
    Tamara

  • gnb2975
    2 years ago

    Ah, Tamara! I always look forward to your writing. This one rang true for me as I have certain pillows for each part of my body. My hubby has learned not to mess with my pillows, ever! Thanks for always making me laugh!

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    2 years ago

    Hi Judy, Thanks so much for your wonderful words! It completely makes my day to hear that I’ve not only written something that validates another person’s experience, but that made them laugh to boot. Thanks for taking the time to share that, and for being part of our community. Wishing you comfort, Tamara

  • CynthiaV
    2 years ago

    I understand and agree 100%. No one who deals with RA would ever call you a prima donna…bc if you are, then we all are. Just call us survivors… (What’s so bad about being a PD anyway?!)

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    2 years ago

    Thanks Cynthia! It’s always so wonderful to hear from fellow RA warriors in this online community, as we all “get it” even when others may not. I appreciate your comment! All the best to you, Tamara

  • Carla Kienast
    2 years ago

    I so get this. I have a memory foam gel pillow for my head and neck and another squishy pillow that I use for support where I need it, then two pillows that “sleep” on the floor until I need them the next morning to prop up. I don’t travel with my pillows, but I am ever so happy to get back to them when I get home.

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    2 years ago

    Hi Carla, Yes, I know exactly what you mean about missing our pillows when away from home! Thanks so much for reading and for sharing your experience, Tamara

  • btcavanaugh1720
    2 years ago

    Me too! My husband lovingly goes along with my pillow peculiarities but clearly doesn’t get it! I hate traveling (in Many ways) because of the tiny pillows hotels have these days. Oh well.

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