50 Days Since Pest Control Cleared Me

Two days after I got the official all-clear from pest control, I went to visit my friend in California.  Before I left, I still ran everything through the dryer, and only brought carryon luggage that could go in the dryer, too.  Even with all those precautions and two solid months without a single sign of a bug, I was terrified that I would bring one with me.  I woke up several times in the middle of the night while I was there, afraid there was a bug on me.  Mosquito bites were torture because even though they were all in spots I’d physically SEEN THE MOSQUITO BITING, my brain still second-guessed everything.

Now it’s been almost four months since my last bite, and two months since I’ve been officially cleared, and there are still lingering fears.  I’m still a little nervous in large crowds, worried that someone there will have bugs and I’ll get reinfested.  I still check myself over after my showers a couple times a week, and the summertime chest/butt acne always gives me a small heart attack until I clearly feel the head of a pimple.  It’s always a pimple.

I’ve still got my bed legs in detector cups sprinkled with diatomaceous earth.  I sprayed a lot of DE into all the cracks between my floor and walls, and by my doorway as a precaution.  I don’t have any of my clothes in ziploc bags anymore, but they were there until two weeks ago — it took me a long time to feel comfortable bringing them back out into the open air.  All the clothes that are stored for winter are in ziploc bags and were all run through the dryer first.

Our building has a lot of turnover, so we have several new people on my floor and on others.  I worry that they’ve brought bugs in.  I worry that if they didn’t, they’ll get some from my friend down the hall who still had a couple in her apartment six months after her initial report to the real estate company (I haven’t seen her in a couple weeks to ask whether they’re gone yet).  I worry that the real estate company’s lack of information about proper reporting and treatment protocols will mean that some people might have them and not report them right away, or think they can take care of it themselves, putting us all at risk again.  I worry that they won’t even know to do the basic things like running everything through the dryers on high and bagging them up right away.  These are going to take a while to calm, but at least they’re not constant — just occasional worries, or ones that crop up when I hear someone get off the elevator.  *sigh*

All in all though, I’m vastly improved, psychologically.  But I don’t know how long this paranoia will hang around.

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I’m Finally Ready to Call It

It’s been more than 30 days since the thermal treatment, and the one thing I saw on the 26th that I wasn’t sure about turned out not to be a bite, so this makes more than 30 days without a bite, too, and that puts me right in the middle of the “when you can be sure” zone of 14-60 days.

Pest control will continue to spray for a few months, because they don’t want to take chances.  The lady down the hall who was kicked out has moved out, and I’m pretty sure they’ll thermal-treat her place again now that she’s out of it.  The girl diagonally across from me hasn’t had anything since the thermal treatment.  My friend down the hall still has a handful of live ones, and she’s trying to get thermal-treated again to finish them off–it’s been 6 solid months of hell for her.

On May 1, I finally slept in my new bed, and I love it.  I did my spring cleaning.  I switched out my winter and spring/summer clothes, putting all my winter stuff through the dryer again, as a precaution, and putting it all in giant ziploc bags inside their plastic tubs, because I ain’t playin’.

The change of season probably has something to do with it (symbolically and otherwise), but all of me feels like this is over, and I can breathe easy now.  WHICH HAD BETTER NOT BE FUCKING JINXING IT BECAUSE SO HELP ME FUCK IF I GET A BITE AFTER THIS…

*inhale*

*exhale*

My mindset hasn’t been debugged, yet.  I still have some anxiety about public spaces: I worry that every bus seat, every restaurant chair, every doctor’s waiting room chair, every plane seat I occupy has a bug hiding in it that will hitch a ride home with me and start this mess all over again.  I wonder how long that will take to go away…  And I wonder how long it will take me to stop checking every inch of my body for bites after I shower.

I’ll still take precautions when it comes to what goes in and out of my place:  I’ll spray my shoes with rubbing alcohol when I get home; instead of using my chair as a repository for clothes I’ve worn once or twice but that aren’t really dirty enough for the laundry, I’ll put them in a giant ziploc hanging on my closet door, as I’ve done these past 4 months;  I’ll wash my bedding more frequently than I used to;  I’ll occasionally hose down my furniture with rubbing alcohol.

But it feels good to finally relax into the words “It’s OVER,” and set my sights on getting on with my life.

I’m a Little Afraid to Sleep in My New Bed

It arrived on Saturday, and I put it all together with only moderate injury to my person.  The mattress is foam and was rolled up in an airtight package with instructions that said it could take 48 hours to reach its normal size, so I’ve been back on the cot for the last two nights.

And honestly, I was a little relieved.  My new bed is nice for as cheap as it was–it’s pretty, seems sturdy, and the mattress looks comfortable.  The moment I assembled it, I put it in the detector dishes, put rope caulk over as many holes/cracks as I could, and put the mattress in an encasement.  So it’s as ready as it’ll ever be… it’s just that I’m not.

It’s been 20 nights without a definitive bite.  Almost every single question mark in my bite diary has been whited out because it turned out to be a pimple or an ingrown hair or a bruise.  Even the one that wasn’t whited out is most likely a pimple.  The girl diagonally across from me, who moved in while this was happening, said she’s not had any bites since the thermal treatment, either, which is really encouraging because she’s the unit nearest mine and we had the mildest infestations.  But even with all of this, I hesitate to say that this is definitely over.  So I’m worried about getting bitten in the new bed, especially since it’s so symbolic of a new start.

That’s part of it.  The other part (which I’m only now realizing as I type this) is probably that my old bed had a lot of history for me, and even though I said goodbye to it as I dismantled it–hurried and unritualistic though the process was–I’m upset that bedbugs were my final memories of it.  So there’s probably some lingering emotional attachment, and the sight of this new bed in its place is a little strange for me.

So it goes…

The 17th Day in Post-Thermal-Treatment Time

There hasn’t been anything I can definitively call a bite during the last 2 weeks, which is good.  There have been a few random things that didn’t present like bites but which were nevertheless Something There That Wasn’t There Before–small pink spots that went away very quickly (within minutes hours, or a day), which have caused me no end of distress, but since they were so small, didn’t hang around, and didn’t ever itch, I can’t really consider them bites.

Pest control sprays again Thursday.  I’m going to leave them a note asking how and when I’ll know for sure that this is over.  Someone said this company has the bug-sniffing dogs, so maybe they bring those in to make sure?

Not knowing is physically exhausting.  I still hose my bed down in rubbing alcohol twice a day, just to feel better.  I still put diatomaceous earth in a frame shape on my pillowcase at night, just in case.  And every morning I psych myself up for the post-shower bite check, and am driven insane by every new pimple, ingrown hair, random itch, and spot that’s there because I leaned on something for half a second and it left an indent…

My new bed comes next Monday.  I took the walls off my bed this weekend, leaving only the slats attached to the bottom part, and the drawers, all of which is easy to hose down.  So that will be there when he sprays, and the poison will be there for 4 days before my new bed arrives.

All in all, I just feel so over this whole experience.  It’s been 90 days.  I’m DONE.  I’m ready for reality to catch up with that feeling.  And I’d like it if my neighbors, who still have a few live bugs post-thermal treatment, could be done with this, too.

Replacing My Bed

It’s Day 13 without a definite bite, and I’ve just ordered a new bed.

My current bed is the Ikea HEMNES daybed, which is a beautiful behemoth:

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It’s been extremely helpful in my efficiency apartment, with its underbed storage drawers, and the mattress is really comfortable.  I’d been thinking of replacing it before I got bedbugs, because it’s a pain to dis- and re-assemble, and because the mattress is old and I’d have to replace it with a different kind, since it’s been discontinued.  But this bedbug infestation brought some other flaws to light: the presence of walls instead of legs makes it impossible to isolate from the floor (with legs you can put them in little detector cups that trap bugs), and the fact that it expands to a full-size bed and is intricately constructed means there are innumerable hard-to-reach places for bugs to hide.

So while I’ve loved this bed dearly, I’m replacing it with this:

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It’s not nearly as complex in terms of assembly (which means fewer hiding places); it’s metal instead of wood, which is easier to hose down with rubbing alcohol without causing damage; it has legs instead of walls; and it still gives me room for plastic bins underneath.

Overall, this feels like a good decision.  On the one hand, it’s a fresh start in a hopeful direction. On the other hand, if there’s a ninja bug laying low in my current bed hoping it can fake me into thinking it’s not there, I’ll find it when I take the bed apart.  And in case of a reinfestation, it’s going to be easier to treat, and easier to move whenever I decide to relocate.

10 Days, No Bites!

Pardon me while I knock on every wooden surface and object in my apartment…

Tonight I’m going to a friend’s house to celebrate this milestone.  The low number of days  you should go without signs of bugs before you can call yourself rid of them is 14, which is coming up fast, and 10 days is so, so encouraging, considering my record before was 5, and they generally feed once every 4 or 5 days.

I’m sleeping worse now than I was for most of this infestation, because the stakes are so high… I wake up at the slightest movement of my pajamas on my legs and scramble to make sure it’s nothing more, and I’m terrified every morning that I’ll find a bite and realize it’s been too good to be true.

But the radio’s had my back lately, and the change to spring weather’s been doing its thing, so I feel pretty great during the days.  When I told my wise friend on the mountain that I was afraid to hope, she reminded me that hope keeps good energy moving in the right direction.  I’ll drink to that  🙂

Increasing Paranoia

Last night, I had an itch on my calf, and when I looked at it, there were two ingrown hairs that looked irritated.  I pulled them out, and this morning there was still a sizeable red spot there after my shower, which sent my heart into a tailspin.  I was so worried about it, even though I knew that I’d just messed with a sensitive spot not 12 hours before, so it was likely nothing.  But then I started to think that maybe the reason those two hairs had bothered me in the first place was that there was a bite there, and I spent a couple hours this morning feeling like shit.

Of course, later, the redness went away, so I knew it wasn’t a bite.

But now my foot itches for no reason–on one very specific point at the top.  My pajama pants were brushing over it this morning while I sat here at the computer, so I scratched it, but it’s still touchy 5 hours later–I have to keep my pantleg rolled up.  I’m freaking out about it even though there’s no redness, no mark–it’s just this strange point of itchiness that won’t go away and won’t show itself.  What if it’s a bite waiting to bloom?  What if it’s a part of my foot that doesn’t react for some reason?  What if…

All of this is made worse by the fact that it’s officially 7 nights since that bite on my ankle the day of the thermal treatment, so I’m beginning to breathe into the feeling that this is finally over and I can start moving toward normal living again.

Update 7 hours later: Foot is fine now.  I don’t know why, but I’m not questioning it.  I’m happy to erase this question mark from my bite diary  🙂

Getting Lulled Into a (Please Be Real) Sense of Security

Today they did a followup spray in all of our units, and I got a note saying they’ll come back in 2 weeks for another round.  Somehow, despite its ineffectiveness, I’ve grown to take great comfort in Spray Days, and I have a feeling they’re a security blanket I’ll be afraid to let go of, when this has officially ended.

Still no new bites since the one on my ankle Friday night.  This is hopeful, but it’s also tied with the longest I went between bites before the thermal treatment, so the next few days are important.  It’s so hard, doing my post-shower bite inspections and being relieved when I find nothing, only to wonder whether the next day will break my streak and show me that all my hope was in vain.

I Just Found Out How Lucky I Am

I talked to the woman down the hall tonight, and she said that she’s seen 4 or 5 live bugs in her apartment since the thermal treatment.  She’s killed them, but she doesn’t know how many more are still in there, and is feeling really hopeless.

She told me her history with this, and how, when the woman who got kicked out’s apartment got really bad because she didn’t report it, her apartment’s problem skyrocketed.  She said that her boyfriend would lie on his mattress and countless bugs would swarm over to him, and she’d spray them all with rubbing alcohol.  Her walls were a mess because of all the bug feces and the smashed bugs.  She’d see 30 or 40 of them at a time, in all stages of their life cycle.  So for her, seeing 4 or 5 at a time is an exponential improvement, even though it’s still depressing that the thermal treatment didn’t work 100%.

And here am I, with my never-more-than-probably-10-bugs-during-the-worst-of-it, freaking out.  How on earth she’s managed, I have no idea.  If my apartment EVER had as many as hers did, I would break my lease, abandon my apartment, leave everything in it, and never look back.  I couldn’t POSSIBLY deal with that on a daily basis for months at a time.  Fuck this real estate company… I can’t believe they let her suffer like that for so long.  She’s so strong, and she’s the nicest person… It’s unconscienable that she has to go through this.  No one should, but it’s just so much worse when it’s awesome social workers who spend their lives trying to help people.

I closed my door and looked at my apartment differently after we talked.  My problem is so, so small, and though I can’t do anything about the proportion of the trauma I feel, I can take more tangible comfort in the fact that it hasn’t been worse.  I’ve said it before, but I will never, EVER know how people cope with massive infestations.  And I’m thanking my lucky stars tonight and every night that I didn’t have to this time.

Again, the thought of moving comes.  And again, the doubts.  I’ll need to sit with that one for a while.  I haven’t gotten my renewal thing yet–maybe it’s a 60-day-prior and not 90, like I thought.  But even so, my lease is up June 1, so the 60-day would have been Saturday…