Was it a coincidence that after processing all that I did in yesterday’s blog (Getting my own attention), the first BF sale advert to come up in my feed today was for something called a gravity blanket. I did a double take, to start with, purely because I assumed it was a grounding blanket, one of which I tried a few years ago but found it didn’t help me with my electrosensitivity since it only seemed to stimulate me more. This wasn’t that; so what was it?
This was quite different: it’s a pure cotton comforter-blanket weighted by evenly distributed glass beads, ideally to the value of 10% of your body weight used as a sleep aid. The health benefits listed rang out to me from this advert…but still, no mention of chronic pain or electrosensitivity, my two “things”. So I went off piste to do more research and did find another manufacturer claiming benefits for fibromyalgia due to the stimulation of melatonin and serotonin by these blankets, also because of the even yet gentle weight distribution and, of course, the feeling of safety like being held deep within the earth; I could relate to that longing as sometimes I feel like I could fly off the planet. I could imagine this approach being something else that might help regulate the vagus nerve, as I’ve talked about before. Yet the more I read into this, the more I kept thinking back to what I processed yesterday, about attachment and how important our mother’s contact and touch is to us, as infants; how, if that is absent, it can trigger a modification to the HPA (hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal) axis, with long-term hormone, endocrine, sensitivity, psychological and other health consequences. The more I had felt into this, the more it became clear to me how lack of cuddle-contact and of being held as a baby had somehow set in motion the health issues I now have, added as they were to an already sensitive disposition.
In fact, all morning, whenever I so much as thought about the idea of this weighted blanket I had read about, I felt magnetically drawn to it, like I could imagine exactly what that would feel like and my body was almost sighing already with a deep longing to try one. This was turning into one of those very strong impulses that never fails to serve me; it consumed my morning. Why was this? My mind took me back to how much I loved to be tucked in, really-really tightly so I could hardly move, as a child; how the modern trend for duvets has always felt, somehow, wrong to me and when I go to some old-fashioned hotel with tightly tucked-in sheets and comforters on the bed, its like absolute heaven. Was I imagining this? I decided to lie on my sofa and pile cushions all over myself to mimic one of these blankets; it was a mistake as I literally didn’t want to get off it again…my still flu-ridden body sighed with deep-seated relief and I could have surrendered to sleep there and then. In fact I know that piling cushions onto myself is something I do from time to time, usually telling myself its because I’m cold and can’t reach a blanket…but was it really this, the missing feeling of being tightly held, on my terms?
It took no time for the “truth” of this to unravel from my depths; to explain how, when not held, every subtle sensory fibre of our body is activated by the slightest disturbance in the environment yet when pressure is closer, heavier, we’re not bothered with all that peripheral stuff. I realised, I had probably become the super-sensate that I am at that very early age, longing for enclosure but, finding this limited, feeling instead into all the subtle stimuli of the night as though I was searching for what was missing (I know I did, I have vivid recollections of feeling and noticing things that felt real and disturbed me in the dark spaces of my room). To this day, night times are the most like sensory soup to me; the switching down of my other senses and surrender to sleep opening my sea anemone-like nerve endings, like little feelers sent out into the current, to pick up on all the natural and manmade interferences coming into the zone where I am meant to be rested. Instead, I wake fully stimulated and cortisol-packed (recent blood tests showed my cortisol levels to be pretty normal in general, apart from when I first wake, from the accumulation in the night, when they are off the scale). This chronic lack of surrender to sleep, so subtle that most of the time you kid yourself you sleep through like anyone else, means you become so chronically fatigued that your whole endocrine system goes off kilter…for so long you don’t remember normal any more; in fact, did I ever have such a thing? I knew all this like it was the book of my life to date revealing its gripping conclusion…and was only on page two of the study I had found about these blankets, since all this “knowing” was already within myself, I just hadn’t spotted it until now.
“deep touch pressure is the type of surface pressure that is exerted in most types of firm touching, holding, stroking, petting of animals, or swaddling…a very light touch alerts the nervous system, but deep pressure is relaxing and calming.” (Dr. Temple Grandin, a professor of animal science at Colorado State University, who – to quote the article linked below – has made significant contributions both as an autistic self-advocate and as a consultant on animal behavior.)
These are all new finding to me, this morning, and I have yet to trial the theory for myself (but I will…and report back). Potential benefits for pain management seem self-explanatory within all the information available (again, see the resource attached below) but I’ve yet to find any link made between electro-sensitivity and a sensory therapy such as a gravity blanket. To me, the logic of a connection between them seems pretty obvious, especially if you consider that electro-hypersensitivity could be an extreme outcome of a low-threshold HPA reaction, possibly due to an attachment issue in childhood.
Because I recognise in all this a paradox….how I am both desperate for contact (massage, for instance, feels like a very necessity of wellbeing for me) but also struggle to have much contact, needing to feel absolutely right about it and for it to be on my terms with the right person. I can’t hug or touch just any-old person and there has to be trust there to start with; plus the understanding that if I need it to stop it does, before I become overwhelmed. I also struggle to make and hold eye-contact unless absolutely relaxed in someone’s presence, which depends on all sorts of subtle cues that my body works overtime picking up for me. This strange combination of traits seems so obvious to me now, in light of what I am intuiting about what infant-attachment does (or, in its absence, fails to do). This is a phenomenon that Grandin also talks about, explaining how, as a child, she both wanted to be held and yet would react negatively to the stimulation of being touched; yes, I can relate to that, especially as a child. Perhaps I got caught up in my own catch-twenty-two; where my natural sensitivities made me prone to react badly to contact and so people stopped trying. Perhaps the only person I really longed for was my mother and no substitute would do. It’s not that my mother was a bad parent; she just didn’t have enough hands for so many children at awkward ages and she wasn’t a naturally cuddly person; when, perhaps, I required extra attention. At the extreme end “When separated from the mother, newborns will actually begin to build a resistance to touch and nurturing (despite the desperate need for positive touch) and the ability by the brain to handle and assimilate touch actually becomes impaired.” (The consequences of sensory deprivation in early childhood – Kim Knight.)
My daughter was also extremely sensitive as a newborn, I knew that right away; so I held her and held her and, while I was perhaps the only one who could with much success since she only wanted me, she came through it to where we are still so close, nineteen years later, and have always been (she has none of my health issues or painful super-sensitivities, though she is attuned to many things beyond some people’s awareness). She still needs her touch contact; we often talk about it. It was one of her concerns about leaving home…where would she get that from unless she made really great friends quickly (she can be pretty tactile with all sorts of people, unlike me). She’s so much more aware of how important this is to her health than I ever was at her age; and I like to think I helped to get her to that place through my parenting. Sometimes she wants to cuddle me even more than I can cope with; and, now she’s older, she knows this isn’t about her but about my own sensitivities, especially if she brings more energy to where I am than I can cope with, like when she comes home zimming with the energy of a busy day or when she is in high-stress. Its sad, sometimes, that I have to ration my contact time, put on the brakes, or suffer painful consequences. Its no accident, too, that I have all these realisations on the back of two months apart from her (the longest time since she was born) which has offered me all-new clarity. The constant contact and proximities required of parenting, beautiful as it is, took such a lot for me to handle as a super-sensitive when she was home. In this new space, I appreciate how precious and worth-it it has all been, for all the challenge of it.
So this recoil from touch, plus the electrical-hypersensitivity trait that I have, feels like a likely imprint of not being held enough as an infant and, in a sense, becoming so self-sufficient that you withdraw…plus the fact you overcompensate for lack of skin contact with those other sensory “relationships”, which rely on electrical currents, not warmth, pressure and other more-human cues. The result…a body that is now hard-wired for operating as some sort of electricity pylon more so than a flesh-and-blood human being, which gets progressively harder to deal with as it becomes more ingrained and overstimulated by ever increasing low and high frequency currents, wi-fi signals and so on “in the air”. It’s like those of us who have electro-sensitivity are having more of our relationships with electro-magnetic currents than with humans (if not by choice), the former crowding out the latter as we increasingly find we have to withdraw from the world to cope with such over-crowded stimuli coming at us from all angles.
So, could deep pressure therapy of this kind really work to reverse the life-long effects of that? I never say never and I have such a strong feeling around this that I have to give it a go. The fact it is primarily a night-time therapy gives me great hope for it as the body is capable of completely recalibrating itself during those sleep hours, especially if that sleep is deep enough for those repairs to take place which, hopefully now, it will be. In my view, the body never looses its blueprint of perfection and, with the right intentions set and the curiosity to attempt new approaches with an open heart, anything is possible. There was no accident this product flagged itself to me today, after all the decades-old processing around attachment I did just yesterday which seems to have shifted me to a new place of clarity. When we a huge boulder out of the way of our path to see things more clearly, it is fairly typical for the next great “solution” to step in from the shadows pretty quickly afterwards and this feels like that. If any of these thoughts rings true with anyone coming upon this post, I really welcome your feedback.
By the way, I’m not affiliated with any of the companies making these products so I won’t include a link. Mine, just ordered, came from a UK-based company and is 100% cotton but there are various manufacturers ot there; I suggest you do your research.
This blog, its content and any material linked to it are presented for informational purposes only. They are not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or prescribing. The material and opinions shared are anecdotal and should not be considered to be medical advice or diagnosis. Please consult with a licensed healthcare professional before altering or discontinuing any medications, treatment, diet or supplementation program, or if you have or suspect you might have a health condition that requires medical attention.