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…

Don’t Light Any Matches

This morning I had a little pink spot on my stomach, but I remembered that it was where I picked a tiny zit last night, so I’m about half convinced it’s really just that.  Then a couple hours after my shower, I panicked when I saw a thin red splotch on my ankle, but when I sprayed it with alcohol it burned, so it’s probably a razor cut–it’s high enough up that that’s plausible, and my bites don’t burn when they’re sprayed, so I’m half convinced of that explanation, too.  Christ, this is nerve-wracking.

I’m still hosing down my bed with rubbing alcohol twice a day (the fumes from which are probably what’s messing with my stomach), making sure to spray hard into all the cracks.  This afternoon when I did it, I decided to take the top rail off my bed to get the underside indentation and all the screw holes, and I found a dead bug dried up in there–those fuckers really get into the smallest cracks… It was encouraging to see it dead and  to know that the heat treatment had done it.  So I’m feeling like I can maybe calm down a little more now.  Especially since I had so few bugs to begin with–one dead one feels like a third of the population.

Last night I slept pretty well, overall, though I did try to stay awake as long as possible, in case I could see a bug.  That’s not good.  I continue to talk myself down when I start to feel crazy, and to try and remember that even if this didn’t work 100%, it did a lot more than spraying ever did–and I even have one dead bug as proof.  I need to ask whether they’ll do followup spraying–someone in the hall mentioned that they heard they would, but I want to be sure.  That would make me feel better, too.

Meltdown

I had a brunch date this morning, and I fought back tears the whole walk to the restaurant–much as I was relieved that I was finally starting to cry, that wasn’t the time–I needed to be energetic and upbeat.

On the walk home afterward, I felt a creeping sense of dread.  I stopped at the store to buy groceries and picked up four little bottles of rubbing alcohol, and when I got home, I hosed down every inch of my bed with it–I used them all.  The fumes were overpowering, and I probably killed half my brain cells, but I was deranged with worry after discovering that bite last night, so I didn’t care.  It felt proactive to do that, and I needed to feel proactive.

All afternoon I felt sick to my stomach and on edge–I couldn’t focus on anything  I started watching, couldn’t listen to anything on Spotify–everything felt jarring and made me feel jumpy.  Eventually, I decided that I needed to put a soothing, peaceful Adele song on repeat and just sit.  And then I started crying.

I cried so much that I thought I would throw up.  But I didn’t.  I just knelt there, sobbing on the rim of the toilet bowl, feeling entirely alone and terrified and hopeless.

I’ve calmed down a little, and feel wrung out.  I couldn’t figure out why I was so upset.  If the heat treatment didn’t work, nothing has changed.  I’ll just keep on living as I have for these last two and a half months, and pest control will keep trying stuff.  I’d reached a resigned peace in those circumstances, and was feeling okay.  But I think that, because I’d put so much stock in thermal treatment being The Thing That Works, and had lobbied so long for it to be done, its failure makes this seem impossible to eradicate, even though some people have said it sometimes takes more than one thermal treatment to get everything, and that spraying in conjunction with it is normal and better than relying solely on one or the other.

Part of what makes this so hard is knowing that my bug problem is SO SMALL.  And yet, killing this handful of bugs has proven impossible, and has caused so much emotional, psychological, and physical upheaval.  Knowing that this place was hotter than the kill point for hours on end, and that these guys went through my stuff to be sure everything was heated evenly was such a comfort.  Despite all my efforts to stifle them, my hopes made their own way up.  Somewhere inside me, the end seemed in sight.

But living in an apartment building, I guess there might be other places the bugs could have scooted to while this environment was made lethal.  Upstairs or downstairs, since the units around me were all being treated at the same time.  Maybe deeper into the walls, or in the pipes–who knows how these buildings are constructed?  And then afterward, they could have come back.  Any number of things could have happened.

So tonight I’m trying to come to terms with this non-change.  It’s still possible that last night’s bite was a delayed reaction to an older bite, but I can’t put much faith in that, in case it turns out not to be so.  I need to brace myself for the real possibility that The Thing That Works didn’t work, and that I have more of this to go through before it’s over.