I Slept on the Floor When I Was Homeless

By Heather Seggel

A little over ten years ago my father and I found ourselves without a place to live. The house I grew up in was a long-term rental, and when our landlady died, her kids gave us just two months to vacate so they could sell the place. My family had never had much money and our rent was lower than average. Two months notice simply didn’t give us time to prepare.

For a while we camped or couch-surfed with family members, which meant sleeping in a tent on the ground, or sleeping on someone’s living room floor. Both were noisy, flat, hard, and uncomfortable. Being homeless was about as miserable an experience as you might imagine, albeit spent in one of the more beautiful places on earth–Sonoma County’s coast and wine country.

When we finally found a place, it was pretty disastrous: a tiny one-bedroom trailer in a drug-infested park for double what we’d been paying at the two-story, two-bedroom house I grew up in. But we sucked it up and tried to make a fresh start. My father bought (and popped) air mattresses and ultimately made a bed from crates, boards and foam out in the hallway. My room was too small for a bed so I slept on the floor. 

It was pretty awful at first–the cold seemed to seep through the floor and up into my bones, and I was often bunking with spiders, ants and silverfish, all of them annoying and some with fairly toxic venom. I got a serious spider bite on my face when we moved in and went on my first job interviews with a weeping sore on my cheek and goiter-like swelling under my chin. So glamorous! 

Since then, my dad passed away. I’ve left the trailer park behind for a series of furnished room rentals. The first had a futon, the second a bed, but I wasn’t able to have a deep night’s on either. It’s crazy and counterintuitive, but I wake up in more pain now than I used to after a night battling earwigs at the beach. I have become a floor sleeper. 

My room right now is too small for floor sleeping, and I’m feeling the effects. Some nights, I chase down melatonin and valerian with a cup of Sleepytime tea in an attempt to submerge myself for a few hours of deep rest. Stretching helps, though it’s challenging when I’m in pain. Mostly, I try to remember that just as I acclimated to the floor, there’s still a chance I can learn to enjoy sleeping in a bed or, despite being middle-aged, perhaps a futon like the one I used to have at home, which could flip me into Morpheus’ arms faster than you can count a sheep. 

Tags:  Homelessness Personal Essay Sleep

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