Comedian Eleanor Costello discovers now is the time to invest in a weighted blanket as we all lock down again …
Some time ago, during the extreme bit of lockdown, I went online and made quite a frivolous purchase. I bought myself a thing called a “Weighted Blanket”. I wasn’t sure afterwards if I had done the right thing. Maybe I was the unwitting victim of a clever internet marketing campaign? Or I may have used lockdown as an excuse to purchase something people normally have quite weighty reasons for buying – ie trauma they wish to heal from. My pathology seemed to be no more serious than “just-unable-for-all-this-itis”.
If you haven’t heard of them, Weighted Blankets are similar to a regular blanket with the added feature of being infused all over with pockets of glass beads. The extra weight in it forces the muscles to relax, causing happy hormones to be released in the brain. Other people might use alcohol for this purpose but there came a point about ten years ago where I had to make a choice between getting drunk and having mornings and well … mornings won. More evidence of my frailty if it were needed.
The DHL man dropped the package into my hands with an air of “You carry it around if it’s so important that it needs to be delivered during a global pandemic”. I said “It’s a Weighted Blanket” which interested him less than I thought it would. After he left, I thought “Gosh it really is heavy” a few times which I enjoyed until I realised that this would mean returning it by post would be exorbitant. Now instead of wanting to like it, I needed to like it. Not an ideal opening to any relationship.
I unwrapped the item and considered first how it looked. It had a vibrant cotton print on one side and red velvet on the other which I liked. So far so good. Then I lay underneath it for a sort of test drive. My first response was to have a dramatic thought that I was messing with forces I didn’t understand. What if the blanket was altering my relationship with gravity? Runners train with ankle weights on so when they take them off, they can run faster. If you lie under a blanket heavy enough for long enough, might you eventually emerge from underneath and just float away? It would certainly explain how Mary Poppins was able to get about so effortlessly.
From beneath, I asked myself “Are you enjoying this? Is this what you were expecting?”. No clear answer came. It definitely felt nice and calming but different to a regular blanket? I couldn’t quite say. It was something of a disappointment in the moment but I decided that it wasn’t fair to judge the blanket on a day where I wasn’t really that stressed-out and that I should wait until something really bad happened to me to do so. If it ever did.
Nothing bad has happened though. In the intervening months, the stress I’ve had is the kind that is unrelated to outside events. My mental health during the pandemic has been characterised by periods of plain sailing broken up with short bursts of absolute despair. They visit me once a fortnight or so and last about 48 hours. During these times I’m overcome with sadness at the enormous loss we have all incurred and I succumb to doubts about the future and whether there is a place for live performance in whatever new world emerges from all this. Trivial and non-key as comedy is, I miss the sense of purpose it gives me.
But here’s where the blanket has come in. Now, instead of having no answer to the grief that comes, I have something physical I can reach for in response. When the mood turns sour, I pull the velvet over me as if to say “Haha. Blanket time!” and, even though I foresaw none of this, think “Maybe I’m not such an eejit after all”. Using it in these moments has given me a narrative that confirms the success of the purchase. It’s doesn’t last forever but it doesn’t have to. Often it’s enough to get me through until the feelings pass. And so I’ve journeyed all the way from relief I don’t hate something over to the joy of wondering what I’d have done without it. The stage fright I felt on the first day has passed and now I really relax when I’m underneath it. I’m telling you it works, goddamn it! I love my Weighted Blanket. Who knows, maybe I’ll even go online and buy another.
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