Creepy crawlies in my brain
July 18, 2013 2:20 PM   Subscribe

We've had an unusually wet year, and we've seen more roaches than normal INSIDE OUR HOUSE. I'm starting to perceive roaches everywhere. This is not normal; what do I do?

We have sliding glass doors in our bedroom to the backyard deck, and FWIW, I think the roaches are getting in via the bottom rail. Our pest control isn't the problem here. I am using boric acid in the rail & everywhere in the room the pets can't access. There's no food, the pest people still spray quarterly (just came today), the leaves & underbrush are far from the house, and the bedroom is pretty clean. It's just not stopping all the roaches (this is the coastal south, palmetto bugs are the state bird). There have been three encounters that have particularly affected me; these guys were huge - 2-3"+ long. (And my side of the bed is their first obstacle to the rest of the house once they enter the bedroom.)

1) Getting back to sleep at 6 am, and feel something on the sheet on my face. Put hand out, brush roach onto bed, scream, jump out of bed, freak out cats/dog/husband, and spend the next 30 minutes pulling out the drawers from under our platform bed to hunt down the bug. Didn't go back to sleep, but we're up at 7 anyway.

2) Getting back to sleep at 2:30 am, and I HEAR the damn thing crawling on my hip on top of the sheet again. Jump out of bed, watch roach crawl to the end, jump off bed, go under a shoe, and husband kills roach. Didn't go back to sleep, and really hated the next day. (His form was beautiful btw, a perfect arc through the air off the end of the bed; hated to kill such a graceful guy; my husband said it was like smushing a tarantula.)

3) Reading at 3:30 am, kept hearing intermittent rustling on my night stand. We have 2 fans going on hot summer nights (in addition to the AC which I won't set below 78), so I wasn't sure if it was the papers in my stacks of reading. Finally turn on the light, continue reading, then I see a roach leap from my nightstand to the window behind. Call husband awake to kill it b/c I hate smushing them, and I'm not wearing my glasses, so all I see is a blur.

Now I'm sleeping with my nightstand lamp on (i think it does deter them b/c they know a person is there), and every rustle or tickle has me bolting upright to survey the room. My hairs been falling out a lot lately, and every stray strand feels like the tickle of insect legs. I jump in surprise at least once a day bc I think suddenly that there is a bug on me.

Do i need to go to therapy? Do i need sleeping meds and just let the roaches crawl on me? I am a notoriously light sleeper after 1:30 am, and this stuff is just making me a crazy person. I hear roaches rustling in the office, I see roaches crawling up the wall in my peripheral vision, and there's nothing there. It's like I'm living in a horror movie, and I'm slowly watching myself go crazy. Any advice?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (24 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Would it be possible at all to stay somewhere else for a week or even a few days?
posted by kagredon at 2:23 PM on July 18, 2013

I think you are traumatized because your bed (and the shower) are just the worst places to get a bug problem. WORST.

So! What you need is to 1: block that door a better way (also check any other ways they could have of getting in) and 2: sleep in the guest room/on the couch for a few days until things calm down, assuming there is less of a problem there.

Are there cracks around the doors or windows that could be caulked? I hate to mention this, but we once had them come through the a/c vents (AAAAGH) and had to get the Orkin guys up in there too. Also: tub drains, sink drains. Window A/C units, if you have them. Cracks in the floor if you don't have a cement slab foundation. Trees that touch your porch are bug highways. Etc. You need to caulk and recaulk and seal and block any possible entrance.

Here on Mefi I was introduced to this mail-order stuff called Maxforce roach gel, and that stuff really works. But you don't want it where you have a pet. We got rid of the ones that kept coming into our kitchen/bathroom with it. Beats the spraying/toxic fume problem.
posted by emjaybee at 2:30 PM on July 18, 2013 [3 favorites]

It's actually pretty normal to start "seeing" bugs everywhere after an infestation or scare. My first apartment was crawling with roaches when I moved in, and though I miraculously managed to get rid of them pretty quickly, for weeks afterward I was jumping at every shadow and dark spot.

I wish I had advice on how to handle it, but it is normal and it does go away eventually, usually after the bugs have disappeared. So redoubling your pest control can help.
posted by Metroid Baby at 2:52 PM on July 18, 2013 [6 favorites]

I'm starting to perceive roaches everywhere. This is not normal; what do I do?

You know what, I disagree. I lived in a building in NYC that had them (we call them waterbugs) and would see them dead on the stairs all the time, but I thought they were mainly on the ground level with this fast food restaurant in the building, I didn't think they would come all the way up to the 5th floor where I was.

So this one time. I was sitting in my room, when I started to hear the rustle that would HAUNT MY NIGHTMARES afterwards. I looked over to where the rustling was coming from. It was my armchair. I saw nothing. All of a sudden THE BIGGEST COCKROACH I HAD EVER SEEN, which I guess had been crawling up the back of the chair, came over the top and started crawling down the front.

I SCREAMED!!!!! I chased it! I threw things at it! I sprayed a very unhealthy amount of Raid.

It got away from me. I called my best friend hysterical. I told her, and I was serious, that I needed to get a gun and shoot this thing. I told her I could not come back to my apartment until I had a gun. I left immediately and stayed at her apartment for the next two days! Then, finally, I went back (without a gun), and systematically searched my room with Raid in hand until I found the disgusting thing and killed it. Thinking about the way it died still makes my stomach churn. It was easily 3 inches long with another 3 inches in antenna. Shudder. I froze every time I heard that classic "rustling" sound for a long, long time.

I became an ANTI-ROACH NAZI after that, until I was able to move. My room was as spartan as possible and almost everything else was in plastic tubs they could not get into.

The point of this is, those huge roaches are totally disgusting. I do not think it's abnormal to have an extreme reaction of disgust to them and not want them in your living space. And feel like you cannot live in a space where they are. That's how I reacted to one of them being on my chair. If they were in my BED, on my FACE, I might still be freaking out!

I do not think it's unreasonable, weird, or abnormal for you to be in distress as a result of living in a place with those things.

Rather than getting therapy (I mean if you think it will help you, totally go for it), but to me it would make more sense to re-do the door so they can't get in that way anymore.
posted by cairdeas at 2:53 PM on July 18, 2013 [5 favorites]

I also live in the Deep South about 10 miles from the Atlantic, yet in a rural zoned area. I never ever have roaches. I think you should call your pest control guys and let them know that they must create a better barrier around your home, period. If they say that they can't, it might be time for a new service company. Having someone else out may also help the psychological issue (Man, I don't blame you a bit. I still remember seeing a roach crawl across my sleeping mother's face and that was 35 years ago. Ergh.)
posted by PorcineWithMe at 2:56 PM on July 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

Don't forget they fly and come down from above rather than just crawling along the ground. If you haven't already, spray in and around the top and side rails of your sliding door.
posted by magicbus at 2:59 PM on July 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

wow okay. i grew up in south texas and not until i went to law school did i realize that not all roaches are the flying, dinosaur roaches we have down there. i hate roaches so much that this post brought tears to my eyes. tears of HATRED AND DISGUST for roaches. i cannot stand to even see video or photos of roaches. for a while there was an exterminator commercial of a roach appearing to crawl on your TV--ingenious but it made me hysterical. okay. moving on.

i didn't feel this was about them until i went to Bangladesh when I was 6 years old. there, they sleep in in beds that are canopied and completely covered by these large, diaphanous nets. pretty example. this is to be sheltered from all manner of disgusting bugs. when i was there, a behemoth roach landed on my goddamn face, and i lost my six-year-old shit and basically refused to come out of the nets for the rest of the trip. anyway, these nets it seems to work against most things. i would absolutely buy one if i were you. actually, if i were you i would leave my house and never fucking go back there again, but i'm pretty sure i have a legit phobia of these things. god. i can't stop shuddering. ugh.
posted by anthropomorphic at 3:00 PM on July 18, 2013 [4 favorites]

for a while there was an exterminator commercial of a roach appearing to crawl on your TV

Ackk!!! I despise commercials like that so much! Talk about having a really unpleasant and jarring burst of adrenaline...
posted by cairdeas at 3:03 PM on July 18, 2013

Are they the small roaches or the ones that are the size of Texas and make horrible thumping sounds when they scuttle into things? The bigger ones are apparently water-dwelling or something and that may be why you feel like you're seeing more since you're in an area with heavy rainfall.

you have not experienced terror unless you have seen a roach crawl out of your shower drain just as you are about to get into the shower to take a bath. may this never happen to you.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 3:10 PM on July 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

I lived in New Orleans for a long time and while I saw the occasional giganta-roach inside (and did have a few traumatic episodes), it was never that bad. I think you might want to talk to another exterminator.
posted by radioamy at 3:13 PM on July 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

no, no, no THIS is terror. and what i think about every single time i meet a new shower.
posted by anthropomorphic at 3:15 PM on July 18, 2013

HATE HATE HATE Palmetto bugs (which is totally a cop-out. THEY ARE ROACHES). I lived in the coastal south as well in a crappy apartment and there was no keeping them out forever. Also I had slugs . . . but that's a different story.

You are completely normal. Although, if it were me, I would try to rearrange my bedroom so that my bed was as far away from any doors as possible. And probably also invest in one of those nets.
posted by chainsofreedom at 3:20 PM on July 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

They're obviously coming in from outside. You've got to seal that sliding glass door.

In Japan we live in an old house with plenty of cracks and ways to get in. I identified those places, and put down some roach motels (essentially glue traps for roaches).

The boric acid is not going to deter them or kill them immediately, so it's not an immediate solution.

Seal off the sliding door with duct tape or something. Move to another room. Use mosquito netting to protect yourself while you sleep.

Also, clear clutter. Roaches love clutter. This includes clothes, books, shoes, magazines, books on the floor, trashcans... Anyplace they can hide.

But maybe sleep somewhere else? You're in a transit zone.
posted by KokuRyu at 3:29 PM on July 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Put up a bed net over your bed to help keep the bugs out.

I have this over my bed and it does a pretty good job keeping the mosquitoes and stinkbugs out: Dreamscape Hoop Canopy

It tears easily, so I ended up getting a second one and layering them.
posted by Jacqueline at 3:44 PM on July 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Get some large roach motels and put them where you think they are coming in at. And call your exterminator.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:03 PM on July 18, 2013

I read on imgur/reddit about an entomologist who was, for unspecified reasons, spending a number of nights in a room in a house infested with brown recluse spiders. (Yes, that link has pictures of spiders. NSFArachnophobe)

One of his tactics to protect and defend his safe territory (bed) was to move the bed away from the wall (and tables, etc.), cover the legs with foil, and place the legs on paper plates he poisoned with bug spray (not sure if you can do that with your animals around, but foil's a great move). You'll want to remove or rein in any bedskirts, stored items under the bed, etc. that might aid and abet an Eurycotis invasion. He also swept the bed completely and thoroughly in case the enemy was already encamped upon it. This deterred most assaults by the enemy, as airborne/vertical assaults were not particularly likely from the spiders. You should try the same. The bug net is also a good idea, since they have airborne deployment capabilities. The bed is your Green Zone. Don't surrender an inch of it.

Also, activate your domestic-animal reserve forces against these bugs. It's time for them to earn their kibble. Next time the state bird pays a visit, get your kitties on the case. They've got all those hunting instincts, and now they can finally bring you something dead that you really want to see dead (if you must see it at all).
posted by Sunburnt at 4:03 PM on July 18, 2013 [3 favorites]

The newfangled roach bait gel works really well against the little German roaches, and maybe the big American ones. The "barrier" stuff does seem to kill the American roaches, so that's positive. And when we lived in Houston, and Raid was ineffective, we uses Bengal spray. It's from Louisiana. It kills the big ones (though maybe not the little ones).
posted by Huffy Puffy at 4:58 PM on July 18, 2013

Check your electical items such as your bedside lamp and fans for nests. My one HORROR HORROR roach experience was realising that the roaches in my kitchen were not coming in from outside but living and breeding in the base station of my cordless phone.
posted by Kerasia at 5:27 PM on July 18, 2013 [4 favorites]

Your reaction isn't abnormal or unusual. You're not hallucinating or anything; you're hypervigilant and you're going to have a hard time overcoming that until you know, for sure, that the bug problem is taken care of. You can minimize your hyperarousal state by doing relaxation stuff like deep breathing, meditation, etc... but you should do it somewhere other than home because you'll have trouble relaxing there.
posted by windykites at 7:37 PM on July 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

Also you should move.
posted by windykites at 7:40 PM on July 18, 2013

I just want to say that I'm so sorry you have to deal with icky bugs. How gross. I felt a tickle on my neck just from reading your question, so I don't think your response is unusual! I would sleep somewhere else for a few nights, if possible, and get more help from the exterminators. it's their job to help you get rid of this problem. Good luck!
posted by sucre at 8:23 PM on July 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

I had almost the exact same experience as you did. In fact, I've tried pretty hard to suppress all memories of it, I had second thoughts about responding to this. I would say it almost took 6 months for me to not hold my breath every time I turned a light on, or heard a rustling sound in the dark.

Buy big roach motels, like 12 of them. Put them everywhere. I think that is what finally kept them from breeding inside. You'll still have an occasional bastard or two sneak in from outside, but don't kid yourself. If you're seeing this many inside, they're living inside, or at least partying heavily in your home.

Keep everything off the floor. Any pile of junk/clothes in the back of the closet, a couch with ripped upholstery, any boxes with tiny openings, suitcases with a zipper slightly undone, etc. Any dark space with an opening, they'd love to hang out and breed. Go totally minimalist. Get furniture that has legs, and keeps large areas off the ground. Get your bed away from the wall, and don't let covers or blankets hang onto the ground, making a convenient access ramp to your bed. Make sure your boxsprings don't have a hole in the coverings.

And right in front of that sliding door, you should make a big strip of duct tape, sticky side up. Both inside and outside.

Also, you can get more like monthly pest control service in the summer if you need it. And I sure would.
posted by fontophilic at 5:10 AM on July 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm starting to perceive roaches everywhere. This is not normal

every stray strand feels like the tickle of insect legs.

Been there, done that, bought the t-shirt.

I faced a roach infestation while living in a grotty student house, about ten years ago. After the exterminator had come and gone, I was still 'seeing' bugs out of the corner of my eye and 'feeling' them on me for MONTHS afterwards; I was also just generally rather anxious and miserable. I mean, it's your home, you want to feel safe there, and not live in fear of bugs. It's a horrible feeling. I really feel for you.

On the bright side, the horrible experience did really make me up my game, cleanliness and tidiness-wise. And the paranoia and anxiety didn't last. Although even now I am pretty observant and vigilant about bugs.

I would follow the good roach-deterrent advice you've got on this thread, but do not Google or otherwise delve deeper into how to get rid of them; it will feed the anxiety. Put enough deterrents into practice as you reasonably can, and then try not to think about it. It will be hard at first but it will become habit.
posted by Ziggy500 at 7:40 AM on July 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

No you are not crazy.

I once had a house centipede crawl up my neck and INTO MY HAIR. I couldn't sleep for days without waking up periodically convinced there were bugs crawling on me.

I don't have any roach-specific advice other than you are NOT crazy and it will go away. Also you are probably starting to get pretty seriously sleep-deprived. If you can sleep somewhere else for a night or two, that would be a good idea.

I'm going to be jumping every time my hair brushes against my neck for the rest of the day just having thought about this...
posted by inertia at 10:43 AM on July 19, 2013

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