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We saw something similar to this two weeks ago, and it turned out to be some sort of corruption in the text itself. It took a while to locate (by removing text until things worked as they were supposed to), but once identified we were able to cut the offending text, paste without formatting into another frame, then cut and paste again without formatting back where it belonged and reapply the correct style to the heading. Probably more pasting than necessary, but it worked.
Going to go try this and report back. It sounds like such an odd solution, but it is exactly in line with what I thought; somewhere in my text, something took on the same style as the text variable. Hopefully, this idea will solve my problem. Thanks!
That worked. No idea how, what was different, but it worked! Thanks for the help.