One of the hardest things about this has been the isolation–I really do feel like a leper. Full-disclosure and honesty are so important to me, so the fact that I don’t feel able or willing to tell most people I know that I have bedbugs is a real dilemma.
A lot of the Bedbugger threads and articles about the bedbug experience are about this topic–there are tons of posts from people who feel they can only talk about this issue on the forums, because they’re afraid of being shunned by everyone they know.
To date, I’ve told my bff (who lives in Europe), my parents (who live three states away), two friends who were vacationing in the southwest for two months (and I only told them because I naively assumed this would all be over by the time they got back), my boyfriend, my spiritual director, and three close friends I don’t see very often (and who largely didn’t understand the trauma of the situation, which I suppose worked in my favor?). Most of my closest friends and the people I see frequently don’t know, which feels dishonest, but I also feel like so many people don’t know anything about bedbugs apart from “they’re the scourge of the earth and even reading the word on the internet will bring about an infestation” that it would create undue paranoia and avoidance.
Which is entirely understandable.
Over the weekend, the two friends of mine who had been on vacation met me for lunch, and when I went to hug one of them, she stiffened up and pulled away, patting me on the back instead. She also made sure that she and my other friend were on their own side of the booth, and when the other friend asked whether she could put her coat in the seat next to me, it was quickly pointed out by the first friend that there was a coat rack toward the front of the restaurant.
AND I GET IT. I don’t blame her one bit. But it still hurt. I know that everything leaving my apartment has been heat-treated and then ziplocked to protect it, so nothing is on my clothes. But to her, I probably looked like I was dripping bugs with every step.
When that lady came to my apartment the other night, even though I know how careful she is about heat-treating her clothes, I was still nervous about having her stand in my doorway. She has a ton of bugs in her place (as opposed to the handful in mine), and I was scared to death that she’d bring some into my room and make my problem worse. As soon as she left, I shamefully sprayed that whole area of the floor with rubbing alcohol. So I know the paranoid feeling of coming in contact with someone who I know has bugs. Pot, kettle. Yes, I’m a hypocrite.
Communication about this is a stressful issue. I’m not sure what the answer is. In the meantime, it’s a daily struggle between trying to be honest and trying to hide this.