Join 3,558 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


How do I deal with the stress of bedbugs?
March 9, 2010 9:08 PM   Subscribe

I have bed bugs and it is driving me crazy. The exterminator won't arrive for another two days! How do I deal with the psychological stress of it all?

I keep imagining the bugs crawling on me everywhere and I can't sleep. My imagination is running wild and I keep thinking of the worst scenarios. I'm overwhelmed by what I need to do, and the possibility that the bugs have gotten into everything. I have a lot of stuff to go through and I feel helpless. I haven't told any of my friends because I feel ashamed that I have them. I know that I need to get over it...but the feelings of fear and shame is paralyzing, and I can't get anything done. How can I get over this?
posted by anonymous to Home & Garden (15 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
I don't know if this makes it worse or if it's even accurate, but tell yourself that the trillions of germs swarming over everything on this planet are like bedbugs--just much, much smaller. Things only look clean because our eyes can't see everything on them. Dust mites are hosting parties in your friends' beds every night. And yet we all live on, made smug by the fact that we no longer sleep in dirt with bugs we can see.
posted by sallybrown at 9:13 PM on March 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


My imagination is running wild and I keep thinking of the worst scenarios.

Well, the worst scenarios are not very bad, since bed bugs haven't been found to transmit any diseases. They're irritating (psychologically and physically) and they leave marks, which will go away, and that's all. They are not going to cause anything seriously bad or long-term to happen to you.
posted by Jaltcoh at 9:30 PM on March 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


First of all, don't feel shame. Bed bugs have spread to high-end hotels and more people have them than you know.

They are really pesky and don't respond to repellent sprays. Here's what I would do:

1) In the immortal words of Douglas Adams, don't panic!

2) Plot your post-exterminator strategy. What do you have to clean, boil, or throw out? Get all of that organized.

3) Seeing as the bug guy will be arriving in two days, why not confide your problem in a friend or family member, and ask to stay with them for the intervening period?
posted by teedee2000 at 9:34 PM on March 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


First, I am so sorry for you. I would feel exactly the same. I feel your pain.

Second, I know we're only three answers in, but those three answers are why I love Ask MetaFilter.

Good luck.
posted by hapax_legomenon at 10:08 PM on March 9, 2010


Seeing as the bug guy will be arriving in two days, why not confide your problem in a friend or family member, and ask to stay with them for the intervening period?

I don't agree with this part of teedee200's advice. You really shouldn't risk infecting someone else, especially not someone you're close to.

That said, you can get through this! Bedbugs suck, but they're not the end of the world and they're more common than you think.
posted by ripley_ at 10:13 PM on March 9, 2010


If it was me I think I'd start sleeping in my bathtub under a space blanket until it's taken care of. YMMV.
posted by floam at 10:14 PM on March 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


Oh, I feel for you, and I'm sorry. It's horrible. I didn't sleep more than a few hours at night for several weeks while dealing with them in my old apt. And I didn't want to go stay with anyone either, just as a precaution so as not to spread them further. They came home with us from an upscale hotel, I'm pretty sure, but it still made me feel ashamed.

Here is what I did:
- I decided to get over the ashamed factor and talked about it with a few friends. Their reaction allowed me to stop feeling so bad about it. I'm sure your friends would be supportive in the same way.
- I vacuumed the whole bed and the bedroom (afterward, throw out the vacuum bag). Then I got a bright white fitted sheet and a bright white pillow case and an allergy protector for the pillow, and then I slept without a blanket. If you have white sheets, you can easily see if they have been feeding, as there will often be telltale blood stains. No stains made me feel better.
- I placed the bed away from the wall and got a roll of heavy-duty double-sided tape. I taped the sides of the bed, so that the bugs would theoretically get stuck if they tried to crawl over the barrier. It made me feel a lot safer, at least until the exterminator came.
- I will confess that I kept a flashlight with me in bed. When I woke up at night with the creepy crawlies, being able to check the bed to see that there were no bugs there helped me go back to sleep.
- I got a box of large, heavy-duty ziplock bags, and used them to store every item that I had washed and dried to spec. It really helped to be able to get started on the washing and drying even before the exterminator came. I kept things that I KNEW were clean and bug free in ziplock bags in my car, until I had washed everything I wanted to keep and had thrown the rest away.

-For post-extermination peace of mind, I would recommend the Climbup Interceptors. They don't control an infestation, but it really helped to be able to monitor for bugs. I used the bugs I found in them to get the exterminator to come back when he was supposed to. Then after having them completely bug-free for a few months, that's when I knew I could finally relax.

You are not alone! It's not your fault. It's possible to get rid of them, I promise. Feel free to MeFiMail me if you need a sympathetic ear.
posted by gemmy at 10:19 PM on March 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


My theory focuses singularly on getting plenty of rest to give you the stamina to deal with the problem. To this end, though I can't speak from experience, a couple of years ago I browsed the bedbug blogs regularly out of curiosity and I am pretty sure I recall reading about mosquito-tent -like enclosures on the market where you can set up a bed inside, zip it up, and have unviolatable space (assuming you prep it and the blankets inside properly). The other thing I would try (having had a minor scorpion infestation many years ago) is set up a bare bones bed or cot, mattress and frame fully inspected and free of cracks and gaps, and grease the legs. Keep the blankets off the floor and the bed away from walls and you'll have little to worry about. You can also put square of double-sided sticky tape in a broad square on the ceiling in case the things try climbing up and dropping down, which I recall some people have mentioned. In any case these suggestions ought to help you get rested and on the right track.
posted by crapmatic at 10:50 PM on March 9, 2010


In August through October 2005, I was you.

I wanted to be sure to write this tonight, but am also quite exhausted, so please excuse me being getting to the point. But to address your items:

First, the bugs don't get into everything; like most animals, they stay close to a food source. That means that if you spend a lot of time in one spot, they may be there -- if it offers good cover from sunlight. For example, with my infestation, I had bedbugs in my bed and on my desk chair -- the two central spots I was most at. They weren't, for example, under my sink, in my silverware, et cetera.

Second, Bedbugger is a very, very good website for this, but at the same time, do not fall into the trap of reading about other people and assuming it will happen with you. People who get over bedbugs quickly leave the community, because who wants to focus on bedbugs once you're done with them? The very bias of that means that people who hang around the forums tend to be having far more problems than the average bedbug sufferer.

Third, as for the psychological stress, one thing that helped me is ... well, this may not help you, but it helped me to realize that the bedbugs weren't malicious. This wasn't a matter of a predator, some sort of lion trying to take me down on the veldt. This was just another life form whose manner of living happened to be incompatible with mine, but all that's in their "minds" is to eat and reproduce, like us. We have to stop them from doing it for our own welfare, but there's no thought on their part where they desire to make our lives miserable.

The anxiety you're experiencing is normal. But realize that it's going to end, and to do so, take it to an exaggerated degree. I don't know how old you are, but ask yourself, "Do I honestly think I'll be dealing this when I'm 80? 70? 60?" Work backwards, until you've managed to wrangle from your anxiety when it imagines the end date to this being. Then compare that to reality. The likelihood -- and this is from a survey of exterminators -- is that most infestations, depending on size, are wiped out either on the first or second try. It very rarely goes up further than that.

As for shame, bedbugs rarely travel with people, so there's little chance of you infesting friends. (Yes, they *can* travel -- but it's really not common.) And, as already said, it is utterly and completely a proven fact that bedbugs do not have a causal relationship with cleanliness. If you recently traveled or stayed in a hotel, that may well be the culprit, but it's also highly likely you'll never know. But there's utterly nothing to be ashamed about. It's like being ashamed that a bolt of lightening hit your chimney.

You're going to get through this. It's no fun going through it while you're going through it, but the good side is that there is an endpoint, and you will reach it. So it's just an endurance game in the meantime.

Good luck.
posted by WCityMike at 11:02 PM on March 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


Also, this is going to be an awful thing to say ... but it is important. Don't move to a new place to sleep. Don't set up blockades. As awful as this is going to sound, you need to remain available food to these bedbugs for your exterminator's solutions to work.

See, how exterminators handle this is twofold: a contact kill and a barrier kill. Bedbugs are usually hiding in the baseboards and other unreachable areas, and hide in sunlight and bright room light, so contact kills aren't very effective.

So what they do is lay down a barrier kill. However, in order for that to be effective, the bedbugs have to come out and cross that barrier. If you're not available food, then they very well may not come out and cross that barrier kill -- and bedbugs can go for many months without food, whereas the half-life of the barrier kill is only a matter of weeks.

The longer that your warmth and carbon dioxide are ringing the dinner bell for the bedbugs, the more likely that you're going to get them all to come out, cross the barrier kill, and kill themselves.

Don't just believe me, ask your exterminator or Google it up. Unless things have changed utterly and drastically in bedbug exterminator treatment since my infestation, it's the way it works.
posted by WCityMike at 11:07 PM on March 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


If bedbugs avoid bright light, could you sleep with a bright light on in the room for the next two days?
posted by _cave at 5:30 AM on March 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


I completely sympathize. Think of it as a public health issue. You, a clean healthy person, have been infected. Take some time from work, make a list of what needs to be done, and go through it methodically, so that the infection is less likely to spread. If the lack of sleep gets to you, use a sleep aid for a couple nights.
posted by theora55 at 8:32 AM on March 10, 2010


Watch the 30 Rock "Audition Day" episode, where Jack gets bed bugs. I'm serious -- there's just something about seeing Jack dealing with all of the same feelings of shame that I went through that made me feel better about it. Apparently, they've also been featured on It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and King of Queens, and during a David Letterman appearance, Mary Louise Parker mentioned that she had them.

And don't lose hope, or think that you have to get rid of all of your stuff -- I've been bed bug free for one year after hiring an exterminator.

Kenneth: Oh, my sir. It looks like you got a bad case of the chewdaddies.
Kenneth: Ozark kisses? The woodsman's companion? Bed bugs. They're a big problem in New York right now.
Jack: I don't have bed bugs, Kenneth. I went to Princeton.
Kenneth: Sir, anyone can get them. Back in Stone Mountain, even the mayor had bed bugs, and she was a horse.
Breckman: I'm sorry, am I interrupting?
Jack: No, Breckman. It's nothing.
Kenneth: It's not nothing, sir. Mr. Donaghy's got Blue Ridge quilt ticklers... oh, sorry, bed bugs.
Breckman: Bed bugs? Can't those live in your clothes?
Kenneth: That's true, Mr. Donaghy. The Mayor had to burn all her pantsuits.
posted by amarynth at 10:55 AM on March 10, 2010


I had the same problem when bed bugs followed me home from a US trip. If you live near an outdoor or camping shop - get something like this. There are also repellents you can use to keep them off you - short term. It helps a bit till you have the means to tackle them. I used both these methods and was still able to find and completely exterminate them when I got the right insecticides and went in for the kill.

Bear in mind that they're just insect bites - no worse and a lot less dangerous than mosquito bites, and that you're absolutely not at fault. If you're worried about them being in your clothes, then put the clothes in the tumbler dryer at a hot enough setting to kill anything. If you are unable to stand it and want to move out for a day or two, this would be the sensible to thing to do - make sure anything you take has been put through a dryer cycle that will kill the bugs, so you don't take them on tour. Here's my original ask mefi post on the subject in case it helps.
posted by Flitcraft at 10:55 AM on March 10, 2010


Don't believe all the horror stories on bedbugger or that they're impossible to be rid of. I did it myself a couple years ago. I just sprinkled some food-grade DE around and bag my bed. If you do this it could give you the feeling of doing something before professionals arrive, and I highly doubt it would jeapordize the effectiveness of their treatments, since it's not a repellent (repellents are what you want to avoid since, as mentioned upthread, you actually want the suckers to want to get to you).

You're not alone. Happens all over the place, due to all kinds of things. You'll be okay and it will be over. If there are more units in your apartment, see if you can get all of them treated. It wasn't necessary to solve my problem, though, so if they can't or won't do this don't panic either.
posted by lorrer at 6:38 PM on March 11, 2010


« Older I'm taking a 10-day road trip ...   |  Why do I hate goat cheese so m... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.