My Story: 14 Months Later(5 posts)
It was requested that I write a "success" story of my experience with bed bugs, but to be honest, I'm afraid to declare success, for I fear the fates will smite me with vermin if I dare declare myself bb-free. I'm also not sure my story can be deemed a success, but it will hopefully help others.
In November of 2010, I moved into what I thought was my dream apartment. I had been told that the building had some issues with bed bugs but that management was on top of it; I was also assured that no one near me had ever had bed bugs. I also figured that I was better off in a building where I knew they had a bed bug management plan. I had spent the past few years getting my obsessive-compulsive disorder well under control. I thought moving into the building was the ultimate sign that I was better.
The part where no apartments around me had bed bugs turned out to not be true. My next-door neighbor had seen a bug a few weeks before I moved in. I'm also skeptical that my apartment was not already infested; the long-time tenants had suddenly broken their lease. I was told they were moving back to their native country, but later found out they'd moved to another part of the city where I live.
Within two weeks, I'd found my first live, adult bug crawling on a wall nowhere near my bed. I started getting bites. I called management and they sent over their PCO, who confirmed bed bugs and set up an appointment to spray. Over the next four months, I had 6 total chemical-only treatments. The situation would get a little better, and then it would get worse. I learned that some of my other neighbors had been self-treating with unproven treatments or not allowing access to their apartments for inspections. My apartment had bugs crawling all over the walls. I kept all my clothing in Ziploc bags. The PCO felt that the bugs were coming from another apartment. I begged management for a more thorough treatment plan.
My therapist, meanwhile, refused to treat me in his office because he was afraid of the bugs. We had a few phone sessions but I didn't feel like they were helping, so I stopped therapy.
The head of the management company came, apologized, and offered to move me to another apartment in the building. . . so, he wanted me to take all of my infested belongings and take them to another apartment, sharing the bugs with another group of apartments?
April came and a friend offered me a sublet of her apartment while she was away for four months for work. I accepted. I hired a lawyer who wrote a letter to the landlord stating I was breaking my lease and asking for my security deposit back. We never heard back.
I moved to the friend's apartment. I threw out all my clothes, furniture--basically, all my belongings, even stuff I knew was probably safe to keep, like DVDS. I wanted to own nothing. I had my cat bathed. I couldn't bear to part with my Macbook, so I double Ziploc-bagged it and put it in storage. In the meantime, I bought a cheap netbook.
At the new apartment, I started getting weird bite-like marks. . . not every day, but 4 or 5 times over the course of the summer. I was devastated. I paid for an inspection of the apartment; the man who inspected was not very thorough but thought my bites looked like bed bug bites. My friend whose apartment it was then paid for a Night Watch rental that turned up nothing. She has been home for 5 months now and has seen no signs of bed bugs. We are assuming and hoping the bites were residual and due to stress/heat.
Even so, I did not want to take any chances. My cat got another bath. My parents paid for me to have my new clothing, my Macbook, my netbook, and a few other items I'd acquired Vikane gassed. Because I had so few items, I was charged a few hundred dollars instead of the thousands it can cost to treat a lifetime of belongings.
I was so stressed out at this point that I had my family find me an apartment. If it had not been for my cat, I might have just skipped town and lived a life of vagrancy. I didn't want to live anywhere. I didn't think I could feel safe anywhere.
I slept on inflatable beds that kept deflating for a few months until I was finally persuaded to get a new mattress and bed, which I've had since November. It has more slats than I expected, so if the bugs ever do come back, it's going to be a pain to treat, but hopefully it will not come to that.
The apartment has roaches, and the landlord's PCO refuses to treat an apartment with a cat. (IF the bbs come back, he's going to have to get over that.) I am controlling them as best I can and chalking up the ones I see to city life.
I've started going to the movies again. My jacket goes into a dryer at the laundromat for half an hour and my clothing is washed as soon as I get home and change. I carry a plastic-coated handbag my mother bought for me so I'd stop carrying everything in Ziplocs. I keep my jacket in a Ziploc bag at home and, when I remember, my shoes. I am especially worried about picking bbs up from the bus I ride to work every day, but I try to remain calm. My laundry is kept in a laundry bag that I tie tightly at the top--not a fool-proof trap, but one I'm willing to live with. I vacuum much more than I used to. I don't allow any clutter.
I still worry about every little bump or red mark on my skin or black spot I find in my apartment. I feel I am more prone to hives now and I've had about 3 "bites" reappear since August. I worry about the summer, with the heat, but hope for the best. I hope my skin is not damaged forever.
My OCD is not under very good control right now, but I have decided not to go back to therapy. (I still see a psychiatrist for medication.) I don't want to risk being banished from another office.
I'm using techniques I learned in the past to try to improve. I force myself to go to the movies. I took a plane trip to Denver--another hotbed of bbs--and actually had fun. I am going out more. I'm trying to work up the courage to get my hair cut, which I have not done since November of 2010--because the first bug I found was found on the day I got my haircut. I know it's not rational. That's the disease at work.
I admit that I need medication to help me sleep at night more often than I did before this all happened, but it is prescribed and not abused, and I do what I need to do. I don't endorse nor condemn such medication.
I would like to use my Macbook again but it currently sits in a plastic bin, double Ziploc-bagged despite its being gassed. I'm too afraid, and I'm not sure if my concerns are realistic or not.
I ache for those of you who are going through your own infestations. And I also ache for those of you who are suffering from anxiety either from an actual infestation or from fear of one. I hope this has been of some use. And though I'm too afraid to say it, I hope that this will prove in the future to be an actual success story.
Dear ravensfan. Thank you for posting your update. I have followed your journey on this forum as it resonates with my own in many ways. I am glad you are finding some happiness in life again and I wish you all the best in sustaining the strength you have found to move on. I am scaling down my time on this site as i too feel I need to move on with my life, but acknowledge that I would not have been able to do so without the support, education and advice that I have received here. What I find has helped me most is the practical, methodical and calm approaches advocated by the experts here. I note that killer queen has posted a few characteristically to the point replies today. His assertion that bbs can be located and treated and that they are in fact just bugs was gloriously blunt and reassuring. No catastrophising, no drama, just the cold facts. I find this comforting. I wish you continued success in getting over this distressing episode in your life. Regards nduk
Thanks, JDuk, and thanks to Killer Queen, No Bugs, David in the UK, and everyone who has provided valuable information and support over the past year +.
Ravensfan99, what a nice and educational post. I have to admit that your earlier post when you were banned from face-to-face therapy made me a little sad, but it sounds like you are doing very, very well, and it will get better every day. How brave of you to give up so much..it reminds me of the End of Materialism post.
One thing I found very kind in your post was that you were respectful of the people worried about getting them. I think people logically know the risks, but it's kind of like anything else...the waiting is hard...Personally, I think I'd be much more OCD if I had a pet again or children at home....
Best of luck...you are a success story!!!
TAOT (one of those OCD "worriers" who feels bad when she reads about the people REALLY suffering)
[code]I've only had an infestation for two weeks ("confirmed" anyway), and I totally understand this post already. I have a lot of anxiety issues, meticulous, and hate losing control. Now every time I get on the bus (also the way I commute), I think about all the upholstery. My coat is Ziploced every night (though that makes sense since I'm in this shit hole apartment which I describe as such because my LL is NOT being cooperative about doing the extermination the proper way that's actually effective, hiring non-legit PCO, etc). I can't sleep, and my psychiatrist told me to pop 100 mg of Benadryl...I still haven't done it. It's just been too much madness.
After all this, I can imagine it's hard to go back to being "normal." It's like an airborne disease really...and suddenly, you're a "hypochondriac." (Although are you really?) I feel that way now.
I hope you stay BB free! Good luck! And thanks for posting this. I can relate, even if I've only been dealing with this a fraction of the time you have.
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