Be the Bug; My War Story(13 posts)
We discovered them five days ago…
To date, my coping strategy is repeating the serenity prayer to myself as often as possible…and drinking a lot of wine. As I sit here, waiting for today’s 20th load of laundry to finish, I figure what else better to do than add forum posting to my list of impressive coping skills.
…..My husband woke up and discovered a tiny bug that looked like a tick in our bed. I woke up after him and also found a tiny bug in the bed. I didn’t know he had found one too until I talked to him later in the day and mentioned to him that I found a bug in the bed. So that same day I actually wound up coming home early from work and decided to check the bed and wash all the sheets; just incase. I stripped the bed down to the mattress. I didn‘t see a single thing except some blood spots on the bed sheet, more on this later. I decided to vacuum the mattress with my dust buster and once finished, I decided to flip off the mattress to vacuum the top of the box spring. I did so, and again, I didn’t see a single darn thing. Then I decided, what the heck, I’ve gone this far I may as well take up the box spring and dust the rails of the bed frame……enter nervous breakdown number one.
So about those blood spots; the annoying thing about my bed bug discovery is that I realized after the fact that I must have been in denial about it for about two weeks. Case in point, it was about two weeks ago when we started to notice a random blood spot here and there on our sheets. We didn’t think anything of it because our 3 lb Chihuahua sleeps in the bed with us in the mornings and sometimes scratches herself. Plus my husband has always had a tendency to scratch at pimples or mosquito bites in bed and break them open. In the back of my mind I knew blood spots on the bed sheets were a sign of bed bugs (enter denial) but I just said “nahhh, no way, not me.”
Another after the fact “Ah ha!” moment, one that I find quite interesting and wonder if anyone else has had a similar experience, was actually the dog herself. As mentioned earlier, every morning the dog comes to lay in bed with us. She was always like clockwork, you knew when it was 6:15 because there she was at the side of the bed. But all of a sudden about two weeks ago she doesn’t want to be in the bed anymore. We would pick her up and she would lay down for about 10 minutes and then start running all around the bed crazy to get off. We would put her down and she would leave the room and not come back. Then one day she just stopped coming into the bedroom at all. We just figured she was going through a phase. If only we had paid attention to her wacky acts sooner. I know many companies use dogs to scope out bed bugs, but I thought they had to be trained. I guess it doesn’t take training for a dog to know when something is up, or should I say under? (sorry couldn’t resist). I guess that makes her a genius and me an idiot. Oh well, you live, you learn. We’ve since checked her for bites and we didn’t see anything, but who knows, they could be under her fur where we can’t really see.
So, to add to my growing list of bed bug denial guilt lets add “I feel terrible that my dog was probably getting attacked by bugs for two weeks and I didn’t know it.” Oh, and one last thing about bites; we can’t find any, anywhere. Not just on the dog, but not on me, not on my husband. Obviously they were chowing on something, otherwise the blood spots wouldn’t have been there. But neither one of us had any obvious signs of bites. Odd, it just very, very odd to me and again I wonder if anyone has had a similar experience.
Back to the bugs…so there weren’t “tons“ of them, but there were enough to freak anyone out. I dropped the box spring and ran to call my husband who called our exterminator (we have a yearly contract with Orkin for outdoor, basement and attic control). For the next two hours I sat outside polishing off a good bottle of wine while I waited for the bug man and my husband to get home and not really yet fully understanding how my life was about to change.
Speaking of change, I think it’s time to change over the laundry. Load 21 for today. But before I go, the lessons learned from day one: 1) if you see blood, don’t assume it‘s a freaking pimple 2) if the dog starts acting wacky and doesn’t want to sit on something any more, take the dog and run to an exterminator. Ok to the laundry; ziplock bags here I come!
So, I forgot to close the lid to the washer and it went as far as filling before it stopped. At least the things in there got a good soaking, but jeez this is literally the third time I’ve done this today. My mind is all over the place and I’m just focused on bugs. Bugs, bugs, bugs. Anyhoo, putting away the things from the dryer into my hand dandy ziplocks didn’t take that long, and, well, here I am, again. Obsessing. Trying to cope, or should I say, typing to cope. Oh and I feel I must confess, this isn’t my 21st load of laundry today as I mentioned in my prior post. Maybe the 8th, but not the 21st. It’s probably been 21+ since I’ve started washing everything in the world that I own. I never considered myself to be one with a lot of clothes, but this is absolutely ridiculous. I counted, I have 10 more garbage bags left which will probably equal out to 20 more loads. I don’t even mind doing the laundry, but what is driving me nuts are the 15 XL ziplock bags and 12 Rubbermaid totes scattered all over my living and dinning room. I’m a minimalist at heart and don’t like a lot of clutter (lucky for me that supposedly makes the bed bug battle easier) so having crap all over is yet one more thing driving me buggy (hahah, sorry, again, couldn’t help myself).
Well since I’m on the topic of laundry, I may as well talk about my new found bed bug laundry expertise:
1) Panic!! Because then you will do what we did which was throw everything in garbage bags, duct tape them shut and move them to the basement for washing. They say you shouldn’t transport things out of contaminated rooms and we didn’t know that at the time. So, unless you want to add “oh crap I just possibly contaminated my basement” to the list of your traumas, leave the clothes where they are until you can bag it and take it directly to the washer.
2) Organize before hand! I just threw everything into bags. Now my drawers are organized by type of clothing and by color (I’m a little obsessive) to begin with, but in the panic I was just throwing things in bags which is making it a lot harder to organize everything after it comes out of the dryer. If you can, try to think it out first and wash loads buy the way you will bag and box it when it comes our of the dryer.
3) Just use Rubbermaid totes: I honestly don’t know how I feel about this one but I put it as a “do not“ just incase. I actually went out and bought all totes before I read online that they are not air tight and bugs can possibly get in them. So after reading that I went out and spent another $80 on Ziplocks (on top of the $200+ I spent on totes; bed bugs are not cheap pets my friends). So now I am putting most of the clothes in ziplocks and then in the totes. I may leave a few things just in totes but I’m not sure if my anxiety will let me do that or not.
1) Wash in hot water: Remember - Heat Kills. Because I just want these freakin’ things gone I’m doing whatever it takes and even washed precious delicates in hot water. Remember - Be safe, not sorry! Oh, and on the bright side, I even washed (and dried on high ) a silk top and it came out ok!!!! This is one bright light in my days of darkness. As least I’ll able to wear it again, that is, if I ever get brave enough to go out in public again. :-p
2) Dry on hot: Remember again - Heat Kills. As said, I even dried my delicates and “hang dry items.” So far everything ,except a few of my husbands wool sweaters (which I knew would shrink but didn’t care) are ok. Again - be safe, not sorry.
NOTE: A word about drying temperature:: I’ve read that your dryer needs to reach at least 120’ in order to kill eggs. So, logically, what happened after I read that? I panicked that my dryer wasn’t getting hot enough. I trolled the internet to see how to find out how hot your dryer gets and couldn’t find any good answer. And then I remembered my husband’s little tool. I call it a heat gun, but that’s not what it’s called. I think HVAC people use it to see how hot/cold air is blowing out of your vents. It’s looks like a little gun or tazer and you pull the trigger and point the little red dot (like a laser pen) where you want to read a temperature. I pointed it at the dryer door while it was closed and running and the temp outside the door was 114’. I quick opened the door slightly and pointed the dot inside and the back wall of the dryer was around 160’. The average temp in the middle of the pile of clothes was 156’ so I feel assured that anything that may have been on the clothes was fried. Die you suckers die! I don’t know the name of this tool but I think you can buy it at Home Depot and if anyone wants to know I can find out from my husband the real name.
3) Try to use detergent with bleach: I even read that color safe bleach is helpful. I’m all for added protection
3) If you can, make a logical after care area: Meaning, create a safe space in the house so you can fold, bag and box with some space to work in. It will just make things easier. If you are worried about the smell of plastic on your clothes, throw a dryer sheet in the bag before you zip it shut.
I’m sure I’ve learned more and just can’t remember at this moment. If you have any laundry questions or ideas, feel free to share. Till then, off to check if the washer has finally finished it’s cycle.
Thanks for sharing your experience.
Note that bleach is not necessary for killing bed bugs. A wash on hot or drying on hot (either) will kill bed bugs just fine.
I think the signs in the beginning are so small they are easily overlooked especially if you don't know anything about bed bugs or what to look for. I wasn't in denial and you might not have been either. I didn't know that one small barely visible black dot on my sheets could be a bed bug fecal stain. I saw that dot probably a month before I knew I had bed bugs. I also had a small blood smear on my pillow that I thought was very unusual but I brushed it off and figured I must have bitten my lip in my sleep.
I often wonder how long they were around before my discovery but really there's no way to know. I have to assume not that long (but long enough).
I only reacted to the bites once. It was the stereotypical 3 red bumps that itched like crazy. I googled and then was on alert. Shortly after I found a nymph.
Sometimes I wish I reacted to the bites so not only would I have known sooner but I would be able to tell by lack of bites if they were still around (haven't seen one in 14 days) or if I finally had success and they were all dead. Relying on visual evidence (which is so hard to spot in a light infestation) or judging if they are gone because I haven't seen one isn't really enough "evidence". Bites are the best evidence and my reaction to the bites is so mild it's hard to tell if it really is a bed bug bite or not. But the reality is that the bite marks and non stop itching would only make this whole stressful experience THAT much more stressful so I need to add "I don't react to bed bug bites" to my list of things to be thankful for:)
Legette - 1 hour ago » Trying to cope, or should I say, typing to cope.
Many of us are doing this exact same thing! I find that still being able to sometimes laugh at how outrageous this whole bed bug experience is is very healthy! It helps to remember that thiscan not and will not last forever and life could be worse. Much worse.
Today I reminded myself while dining at a restaurant that people in Ethiopia would probably change places with me in a heartbeat, BB problems and all.
I relate to finding them in the frame because that happened with my bed too (and also a single BB on the mattress who must have been hungry and hoping I'd lay down early). I shudder to think of how many months our infestation went on. I know it was a while because I saw an occasional bug on the couch and assumed it was something that got in the house.
I hope all goes well in Orkin and you are BB free soon. I know how crazy that initial time feels as I remember the panic mode all too well myself.
Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the lord the bugs to take….
Thank you to those of you that have taken the time to respond to my diatribes. The free therapy is greatly appreciated!!
Nobugsonme: That’s good to know about the bleach because I’m running low. Not for nothing though, it makes me feel better using it, even the color safe one; and right now I’m all about things that make me feel better (like wine). In fact, I decided yesterday that if I was told they had to release a nuclear bomb in my bedroom I’d be ok with that. Fallout would be nothing; that bald skinny look is in right (again, sorry can’t help myself)?
Notetoself….: As for the denial, I think you’re right; hindsight is 20/20 right? And I'm totally with you on the wondering “where did they come from” and “how long have they been here” especially because they’re not paying rent and taxes in NJ are high, I could use the extra income. But, right from the start my husband and I decided we weren’t going to spend valuable hours of our lives wondering “where” and “when.” Besides, we would much rather spend our time putting our lives into ziplocks and Rubbermaid totes Truth be told we always thought we were being careful; my husband works in NYC (bed bug central) and travels to numerous buildings each day; I work for a manufacturing company with a high immigrant population; we travel a lot to Atlantic City; we shop and try on clothes a lot; but I guess we weren’t careful enough. So who the heck knows, Ces’t la vie. Some things are better left unknown right? As to when, my estimate is that the invasion began sometime between this past April and June (this is based on when we last flipped our mattress/box spring and when we last moved some other furnishings around). But no sense dreading the past anymore; why worry about the past when you can worry about the future.
I am not familiar with the “3 red bumps” that you mentioned so I will definitely have to look that up and be on alert. Again, glad to know I’m not alone. What have our lives become when we actually, even if it’s only for a brief moment, say we are rooting to get bit! We too have what the bug man (I know, it’s not PC to call him the bug man, but it makes me feel better, and his name is Bob, so it really makes me laugh when I think "Bob the Bug Man") says is a small infestation (more on that later), but as I read from another poster “one is too many.” As for you, 14 days free! That’s great! (omg we sound like recovering addicts). I’m keeping my fingers crossed for you, and will offer my next toast of wine to you.
So far, my things to be thankful for….wine, my dog that goes wacky around bugs, a loving husband and a supportive family. Not sure how I feel about adding getting bitten or not bitten to my list yet but I’ll keep you posted.
And lastly, you are so very right. Laughing at how outrageous this all is; laughing at the fact I’m living on an air mattress in my living room with my clothing in ziplock bags next to me and ½ my house thrown in the garbage (more on that later), drinking more wine than a vineyard stomps out in a day, looking at my dog every 5 minutes for a reaction, keeping a flashlight (the newest in high fashion incase you didn’t know) with me for instant inspections, soaking hangers in bleach on my deck, etc. etc. etc. is outrageous. But, yes, when you stop and look at it all, it can be quite amusing, and though it’s not easy at all to cope with, I’d rather cope with this than many other things people out there are suffering with.
Makesmenuts: as noted above about you are 100% right, could be worse, and we are a lot luckier than others out there. And don’t feel bad, I would have probably done the same thing if I saw one on the couch too. I would have thought “it’s summertime, there’s bugs in the summer, it came in from outside, this is so completely normal." Like said though, hindsight is 20/20.
Just wondering, how long did your “panic mode” last? I’m hoping to be catatonic quite soon, and not from the wine, but from peace of mind.
Anyhow, thank you all again for your thoughts and for helping keep me somewhat sane. I wish you all the best. Till tomorrow, sleep tight…..
Hey there! I appreciate your humor. I'm too tired tonight but generally I use the ha-ha defense (and prose) myself.
Look on the bright side: You either have a washer and dryer or tons of quarters! We can't all say that.
Thank God for coffee ‘cause it’s too early for wine.
Nycyn it’s funny you should mention the washer/dryer vs. quarter thing. I actually do have my own washer and dryer. But, in my growing list of bed bug induced fear I’m worried now that either the washer or dryer is going to explode from constant use. I contemplated going to the laundrymatt because it would make this process go a lot faster, but three other fears got in my way of that trip: 1) the fear that I’m going to catch more bed bugs at the laundrymatt 2) the fear that by putting these “things” in my car I’m giving my enemy a free vacation elsewhere and 3) the horror that if I went to the laundrymatt with black garbage bags wrapped in duct tape everyone would know my dirty little secret; to me, it was the equivalent of going there with a flashing red sign over my head that blinks “Warning, Warning, Danger Will Robinson.” So I’m taking my chances at home, and in the event of a full blown explosion I’ll will just duck and cover or stop, drop and roll, pending on which machine explodes.
Anyhow, back to D-day....
The Bug Man finally made it here. He had told my husband on the phone not to touch or do anything till he got there, which wasn’t a problem for me because I knew he didn’t mean “don’t touch the wine bottle.” For what it was worth he was very reassuring, even though his reassurance didn’t help my oncoming panic attack when he "reassured" us they were bed bugs. But, bless him, he did his best to provide me with as much emotional support as he could.
The next thing he did was basically inspect the entire house: baseboards, closets, outlets, our couch and other few pieces of furniture we own, all rooms, our finished basement (which has a bed in it), etc. etc. etc. To some relief (hahah, is there really such a thing?) he didn’t find a single little bugger anywhere else.
Of course we wanted him to spray the entire house from top to bottom right away; spray and kill, spray and kill, die, die, die and “voila” problem fixed. But, unfortunately, as we all know now, it doesn’t work that way. We were going to have to wait two more entirely long days till he could come back and fully treat. Insert and open new full bottle of wine here.
So the plan of attack was as follows: we wanted the mattress and box spring out immediately. The thought of having that thing in my house one more minute was too overwhelming. Our fantastic Bug Man sprayed the mattress and box spring down to kill everything, and once the dead settled he wrapped it up and him and my husband put it outside on the curb. Lucky for us our town had bulk pick up day the very next morning. Thank God because all I could think was that the neighbors would instantly know we had bugs (what can I say, my thoughts are rational). For sure they would. Then we would be the embarrassment of the neighborhood! Yippee. All of a sudden we would become "the weird people on the block" wouldn't we? Kids would skip our house on Halloween; who would want buggy gum? But to my relief by 7:00am our "extra bulky" bed was gone to mattress heaven and we hopefully, are still carrying the tile of "normal neighbors."
We made an appointment for him to come back on Friday to treat our master bedroom and adjoining walls, all outlets in the house, and a mattress cover for the bed in the basement. Plus it would include a follow up visit once a week for the next three weeks. He also assured us that even though that’s all he put down on the order ticket he would do more “off the books” (which I don’t want to get into because I don’t want to get him in trouble) to save us some money when he came back on Friday. “Save us money,” now that’s a hoot considering the grand total for the proposed treatment was $899.00. Add to that the need to eventually, one day in like five years when I feel safe again, buy a new mattress and we are looking at like $2,000 gone in one single day. These bastards are sucking our money faster than Washington DC; who would have ever thought that was possible!!
The problem now though was what to do and how to live for the next two days with our stowaways. Of course our instant reaction was to leave and stay somewhere else, but the thought of taking them with us and infecting someone else was just too much. So, coping strategy number two: leave the house and take our “friends” to the bar for a drink.
On a side note, I’m sure we did not infect the bar, it’s just that as anyone who has had this problem knows, you always feel like you’re going to infect everyone you encounter. Besides, the bar was a good choice, alcohol kills on contact!
And thus my friends, our new life began. Speaking of which, I think I need to go get some more ziplocks and Rubbermaid totes, and I think I’m having phantom itching; too bad there isn’t such a thing as phantom scratching.
Ok so my anxiety level is going through the roof right now. I think it’s because I’m obsessing and I was just reading some stuff about it being easy to catch bed bugs vs. it not being easy to catch them. In my heart I want to believe that it is easy to catch them, because it makes me feel better. Thinking that it’s hard to catch them raises my anxiety level and brings me to the “what did I do,” “where did I go,” “who brought them to my house“ and “why didn’t I know” questions. This is all made worse in my head because I live in a single family house in the “burbs” where the houses are spread a decent distance away from each other. Yes I know, single family homes are not immune, but at least if I lived in a multi-unit dwelling and had them I could probably more easily justify why I had them; I could at least blame it on the neighbor. Which brings me back to what I said I wasn’t going to do which is obsess about where they came from.
I’m also experiencing paranoia today that they are living in my attic and in the walls and I can’t see them and that it is worse than it appears to be. Plus I know I have to go back to sleeping in our bedroom (we have been sleeping in the living room on an air mattress the past few days) because if we don’t and there are more they might migrate to the living room, a room that has been, to our knowledge, “free” so far. Of course the idea of going back in that room raises my anxiety too. Worse yet, since I haven’t seen one since Sunday (a whopping day and a half which I know means nothing which also raises my anxiety) and I resort to thinking that I haven’t seen one because they’re in the walls moving towards the living room coming to get us. I want to believe that I have no real logical reason to actually think this, but my paranoia is over taking me at the moment. I am a perfectly sane and normal person and I can’t believe that a stupid bug is, at least for the moment, taking over my life. I can’t even seem to draw up any wit or bad humor right now. I feel like crying; I feel like crying lots, and lots and lots.
The main part of our panic mode was during the first week, and I do mean panic! Things are calmer now, although any time I notice anything that could be a BB, casing, or blood spot, I still go a little nuts. I still inspect the bedding nightly before sleep time, both visually and with an electronic BB detector. I only just started sleeping with the light off again, and I'll never again live in a house without a DE dusting in strategic spots.
It sounds like your PCO has a great plan. Hopefully it feels much better for you now that you have a plan and are taking action. For me, the helpless feeling was the worst part, but I educated myself and took concrete steps, and that helped so much. I hope it all goes well for you and you are soon BB free (which doesn't mean you have to give up the wine).
Ok, so I promise that the pity party is almost over. I’m giving myself one more day to feel sorry for myself and then come Wednesday it’s life as usual (well, as usual as it can be). Plus I go back to work Wednesday; all the washing and drying and zip locking and boxing should be done and I’ll have the dramas of my job to focus on. Instead of reading bug blogs, I will get to listen to blah blah blah blogs about the meaningless dramas in the lives of my co-workers. On the upside, that will hopefully make me feel better because even with bugs, I will be reminded that my life is not as pathetic as they claim their’s are (I like my job, but really, if you heard their gossip and their “he said she said” stories all day you would be saying the same thing too).
In short, the real reason for my mid morning melt down was that on Saturday I found a bug in our guestroom (haven't seen one since, but I know that doesn't mean much). Prior to that, bugs had only been spotted in our master bedroom and that was only on D-day. Since then we hadn’t seen anything until I found the one on Saturday. I hadn’t really stopped to think about the escaped critter until today, and well, enter panic attack and breakdown.
This plan here of mine fits nicely in to what you said, Makesmenuts, that your panic lasted about a week. By the end of day this coming Wednesday we will be at the one week mark and I hope I will follow in your buggy little footsteps and start to loose some of the panic. Of which, thanks for mentioning that you still look at every little spot and speck. At least I know I’m “normal” ‘cause I’ve been doing the same thing. In fact, today my husband said I had something on my pants, and what he meant was that I have a fuzz on my pants, but of course he didn’t say fuzz, so I freaked for 15 seconds thinking I had a bed bug on my butt. Needless to say he was quite amused by it; obviously I wasn't. Thank you again for your well wishes. I am happy we have a plan and I too have be educating myself (my husbands thinks I’m getting a little too smart though) but I guess once in a while I am going to have my breakdown moments. And, as for the wine, that’s not going anywhere anytime soon.
Ok, so, the good news: I slept soundly last night! First time since last Wednesday and it didn’t even take any wine or sleeping in a Hazmat suit to do so! !! I think I may just be moving out of the pity stage and finally turning into the Warrior I’ve been telling myself I need to be!
Speaking of Warrior, I feel a little compelled to briefly explain the tile of my thread “Be the Bug: My War Story.” The “Be the Bug” part actually came out of teasing my husband about mosquitoes. He has a very very low tolerance for them and he seems to get attacked constantly (and/or seems to imagine he‘s constantly being attacked). About a month back as he was complaining about getting bit outside it just popped out of my mouth; “Babe, you just got to be the bug.” Implying that he just had to relax, do what he could to stop thinking about itchy bites and getting bit, just try to relax, just try to be one with the bug. Enter our bed bug invasion and I’ll tell you, advice is much easier given than accepted, and now it’s my turn to “Be the Bug.”
The “My War Story” part is two fold. Prior to discovering this site I was on a random blog about bed bugs and it was also titled “My War Story.” That titled in turn actually made me think of a book I had just recently read. The book is titled “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien. It’s actually a book about Vietnam, but the tales in that book are quite relatable to my situation and the “things” I’m carrying. I wonder what Mr. O’Brien would think if he knew his book about the horrors of Vietnam was being used as part of my bed bug war strategy?
And thus, “Be the Bug: My War Story” was born. Telling this little back story helps reminder me that I must be a Warrior and when I look at my thread title I am reminded of the same.
Anyhow, with all good news comes not so good news right? So, the bad news, and I don’t even know if it’s bad news or not, but we found a dead little sucker on the floor by the closet baseboard in the guest room. Not sure what that means, not sure if that’s good or bad, but what I am sure about is that a dead bed bug is definitely good bed bug!
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