For a long period since I was a very small child, well into my teens and beyond – maybe even extending into my early twenties – I slept under the duvet; that is to say that I slept entirely under it. Body, hands, feet, head… everything. I developed a method of getting fresh air – create a little opening around my mouth so I could breathe – but I was absolutely adamant that I couldn’t emerge from where I was. I had to remain hidden.
As a clever, but nervous and sensitive, young boy, it was easy for me to develop irrational fears and complexes, which I did in abundance. Couple that with a fear of the dark, wallpaper which made a scary face when I looked at it, and my constant anxiety that I was about to be attacked, and it’s understandable. In order to survive, the only thing I could do was hide.
I did, of course, sleep naked – I almost always have – but that didn’t make a difference under the covers. Revealing something as sensitive as my head, unprotected, exposed a vulnerability, the sort of which would be advantageous to my adversaries. I could be vulnerable during the day – school bullying would heal – but, during the night, I hid.
If I did sleep, it would be a fitful slumber.
As I grew older, and the invisible enemies gave way to obsessive dark thoughts, I started to believe that I wasn’t about to be fatally assaulted at night, but continued to sleep with my head concealed. It was still, I rationalised, safer – and, besides, I’d been doing it for long enough and hadn’t died yet. In my early twenties, when I started to share my bed with people, I gradually learned to bring myself out of it.
With someone else, I was safe. There would be cuddles. There would be kisses. There would be sex. There would be peace.
And it would be much easier to breathe.
I felt a bit odd about it all, but I felt more confident exposing my vulnerability, and gradually began to eschew my duvet shield.
For the past few nights, I have been sleeping as nature intended – on a mattress, on my own. No duvet, no sheets, maybe one pillow to support my head.
Vulnerable though this may make me feel, it’s genuinely the safest way to spend these nights.
Plus, if anyone were to attack me, they’d probably burn their hands with the amount of heat I appear to have internalised.