I would rather have cockroaches than have bedbugs. I would rather have rats than have bedbugs. I would probably rather have an infestation of angry ghosts than have bedbugs.
Trust me when I say this: unless you’ve had bedbugs, you just won’t get this. That’s okay. I have no disrespect for you. In fact, I envy you if you’re never had to deal with the negative physical, mental, financial and emotional aspects of the literal hell that is bedbugs, and I use the word “literal” not at all figuratively.
When I first realized I had bedbugs, I went through the several phases of grieving as accurately as if a part of me had died. Infamously, the first stage is denial. Most articles you’ll read about bedbugs will tell you that the worst thing you can do is ignore the signs that you have them. That you should jump into action, bang on your landlord’s door screaming, hide in your closet with a spray bottle of two parts rubbing alcohol, one part lavender oil (bedbugs hate lavender oil because they’re tasteless demons from Hades), and that somehow this will do you some good. I’m certainly no professional—and I don’t negate this advice, but if you have bedbugs, you’re just fucked.
When I first moved into the apartment I lived in for the past five years until a couple months ago, I was nineteen. I was clueless. I’m still pretty clueless, but I’m getting gradually better with age. I moved in, settled, painted, decorated, revelled in the beauty that was my twentieth floor balcony in downtown Toronto, in a neighborhood where I might get stabbed but I wasn’t paying very much more than I could afford. Then I got a call from my father. He informed me that he had found my apartment building on “The Bedbug Registry”, a website where tenants can warn other potential renters that their building has bedbugs. A new type of “CONDEMNED” sign for the digital age, if you will.
I want you to all think about this for a second. There is no “Cockroach Registry”. I’ve never heard of an “Ant Registry” or online support group for tenants with a fucking silverfish infestation. This is your first window into the LITERAL hell that is bedbugs. I wouldn’t wish this shit on anyone. Bedbugs are actually so horrible, most decent human beings would not wish them on ANYONE. So much so that they take time out of their lives to warn perfect, faceless strangers about them.
When I got this phone call, I gave pretty much zero fucks. It’s only natural to assume that the things that happen in your life are products of your lifestyle, your choices, and really of things that you yourself have some level of control over. I lived in that building for four years before first discovering a bedbug and I can tell you my lifestyle did not change much, if at all over those four years. They can come for you whenever. They will come for you whenever. You won’t even see it coming.
Stupid, stupid, clueless girl.
The first stage is denial.
I have a vague memory of the first time I actually saw a bedbug and the thoughts that ran through my mind. I remember being on the phone, in my room, picking things up here and there and lifting my comforter to find a tiny dead bug taking up house on my otherwise clean, white sheet. It was so fucking small I almost couldn’t believe it had caught my eye. And I still remember the things that ran through my mind: “Is this a bedbug? No, it can’t be.” Was I on acid? Had I taken hallucinogenic mushrooms then forgotten about it? Anything, anything else it could be, must be what it is. I really, truly thought this.
I don’t really know why our brains do this when we’re in crisis. To keep from reverting into total panic, we convince ourselves that this bad thing that is happening, really is actually not happening, even when it is the most logical explanation, even when it is the only explanation. So I told myself I didn’t have bedbugs and I told others I didn’t have bedbugs and when I began discovering itchy, painful bug bites all over my body, I convinced myself that I was allergic to cotton, that I obviously had some sort of deadly skin disease, that I was reacting to stress, and that I was literally just imagining things. I did this for about a week before I had to admit I had fucking bedbugs, man up and deal with it.
The second stage is anger. And in the case of bedbugs, also almost total secretiveness. Bedbugs are shameful and embarrassing. Having them makes you feel gross and poor and unworthy of anything at all. Try this: tell someone—really anyone that you interact with on a daily basis—a friend, a co-worker, a family member, that you’ve just found out you have bedbugs and watch how quickly this human shamelessly runs the fuck away from you like you’re a rabid animal. Bedbugs are like a horrible, contagious disease. They’re like one of those STDs that you can never truly get rid of once you have. Even if the symptoms aren’t always noticeable, it’s still there, and you fucking know it.
I hate bedbugs. I can’t think of anything I’ve ever hated this much or been this crazy angry at. And it sucks because they can’t understand you when you scream at them. They will never sympathize with you when you cry. And the only time you can ever even begin to see them is after they’ve already been drinking your fucking blood, because before their first blood meal they are CLEAR. How fucked up is that? I cannot tell you how many times I have seen and squished a bedbug only to cautiously open up the tissue to double-check that the filthy creature is fucking dead and just think to myself “Yup, that’s my blood. There it is. I wonder where specifically he sucked this blood from? My wrist? My knee? Maybe it was the bite on my forehead. Which means this motherfucker was basically in my hair. I want to kill myself.”
I said I went through the several stages of grieving and I most definitely did. I bargained with God and with myself on the daily. “If I don’t see any bedbugs today, I’ll go to the gym. If I go to the gym today, maybe I won’t see any bedbugs.”
I was also depressed as fuck the first time I saw a bedbug after we had exterminated.
I was also depressed as fuck the first time I saw a bedbug after the second time we had exterminated.
And I eventually accepted that as long as I lived in that building, in that apartment, in that room, that I would always have bedbugs and I adjusted my life accordingly. I rubbed lavender oil on napkins and hid them all over my room. I kept a spray bottle of rubbing alcohol next to my bed to attack bedbugs with on the rare occasions I would actually see one. You don’t see them that much, but you know they’re there. You know from the bites on your arms and legs, and the dark marks on your curtains and the horrible feeling in your heart all the time.
I think one of the worst things about bedbugs is that they’re so small. No exaggeration, you can have a horrible infestation of bedbugs, spend a full twenty-four hours looking for just one and never even find it. They hide in cracks and crevasses and seams and places that most human beings who have not been so horribly emotionally damaged by a bedbug infestation would never even think to look for a bug, if they ever even found themselves looking for a bug in the first place. Your life becomes a dark and horrible guessing game, coupled with so many loads of laundry, you never want to see a washing machine again.
Anything that touched the bed remained on the bed until it was washed, which meant there was always a small pile of dirty laundry at the foot of my bed. Sexy, right?. I would actually lather myself with lavender oil before attempting sleep. If I felt so much as an itch, a movement, something even slightly foreign on my body, thrashing, screaming, digging through my blankets looking for vermin until my heart slowed, I gave up and decided to cautiously attempt sleep again. And I felt disgusting. I felt like the most disgusting human in the world, all the time. Imagine looking at everything you own, your favorite dress, your old stuffed animals, your nicest things, your most prized possessions and being perfectly and painfully aware that there is a good chance there are tiny bugs that want to drink all your blood, crawling and living all over them. It’s not a good feeling.
I haven’t lived in that apartment for about three months now. When I moved, I did my very best to wash and dry all my clothing. I literally threw away my bed, couch, curtains and pretty much anything else I couldn’t throw into a washing machine. Yet still when I moved into my beautiful new apartment with my newly washed belongings and my usually pretty-okay boyfriend I found myself in a ball on the floor, screaming and sobbing because I knew that there was no God damn way I could know for certain whether I had brought them in with me. Hell, when I am sitting, standing or lying anywhere and feel anything that I can’t attribute to myself, or another human in close proximity, I of course assume it’s a bedbug. Any crumb or piece of fluff that ever catches my eye on a pillow or the couch is a bedbug until I pick it up with a tissue and examine it under a light. And anytime I have anything that resembles any sort of bug bite at all, a loud and frightening alarm starts to go off in my head.
I feel like I have some weird kind of PTSD that will never quite go away. I feel like I will never quite be the same. I guess it’s not a bad thing to be a bit more aware, a bit more prepared, a bit more cautious, but I can certainly tell you that I never expected a bug—or I guess to be fair, a group of them—to have such an effect on my life. Having bedbugs has left me emotionally crippled. I still feel like I’m slowly recovering every day. I could tell you that what you should take from this is caution, and always be on the look-out for bedbugs and be super careful to make sure you don’t have them…but as I’ve already mentioned I don’t really think this will do you a ton of good. It’s super fucking hard to realize you have bedbugs.
You can be pretty horribly and negatively affected by a lot of different things in life I guess. I never thought a bug infestation would leave me so damaged. Philosophically, what you should probably take from this is that you can be pretty wonderfully and positively affected by a lot of random shit too. And also? Just be fucking nice to people. It’s so cliché to say that everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about, but what I can tell you from my own experience, is that if you were a total dick to me when I was in the midst of dealing with bedbugs, I definitely would have gone home and cried or pictured several different ways to remove your head from your body. Life is fucked up. There are a lot of fucked up creatures that want to do fucked up things like suck your blood and ruin your life. Just don’t be one of those creatures. And be aware of what can happen to you when they enter you life. That’s really the only advice I can give.
It’s 5:08am, I’ve been sobbing in the bathroom for the past hour because I’ve been awoken for the second time tonight and 4th night in a row by the itches caused by these demons. The first time it happened tonight it was three bites, I picked up my body pillow and got lucky – found the fucker and smashed him…whew! Got him, no more bed bugs…then I wake up digging my nails into my arm with 5 new bites. WTF?! I’ve lived with these shits for 8 years at least and at first it was BAD. We have no idea where they came from but it’s the worst thing that’s ever happened to me. Over the years it finally got to a place where I might get bit once or twice a year. But in the past week BOOM!!! Bites on bites on bites. I’m about to deliver and have a 2 year old. I think she’s gotten a couple
Of bites but they don’t swell like mine do and my heart is breaking. I can’t afford to move out right now but my babies don’t deserve to grow up with the same PTSD that I’ve developed because of these things. I’m tired of the DIY sprays, I’m tired of the washing in hot water twice and drying on high heat twice. I’m
Tired of pouring Campho Phynic on the bumps because it’s all that’s helped relive the itch. I’m tired of not being able to invite friends over or comfortably go to peoples homes because I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy. I’m drained for thinking that every piece of lint is a bedbug on its way towards me to taunt me. I’m tired of not having photos I love on the wall because I’m afraid I’ll have to throw them away due to the bugs hiding in their corners. I’m tired. I’m. Fucking. Tired. I’m looking for some type of support group because no one in my home understands because they aren’t allergic to the saliva. And surely I can’t share this information because I don’t want to be looked at like a price of shit by friends or family. Reading this helped me know I’m not alone in what feels like such an isolating environment. If anyone is open to more rants by me about these assholes please reach out. I’m happy to do the same, I welcome it! I feel so alone in this.
I’ve been mindlessly searching the web for the passed 24 hours about bed bugs, I found one lastnight and this isn’t the first time I’ve ran into them, it is fucking heartbreaking to say the least but I related to you so much with this, I’m glad I’m not completely fucking crazy about these bugs that other people are devastated by them. Thank you🖤
Im dealing with then too and I DUCKING HATE IT. I’m a housekeeper at a Holiday Inn Express and I suspect I may be bringing them home that way I’m seriously considering getting a new job. I’ve had treatments done and would go awhile without seeing any and think I’m in the clear, then THERE THEY ARE. It’s me my boyfriend and my 2 young sons, I know people react to the bites different some get a reaction some don’t, well me and my youngest get big itchy red bumps there ain’t nothing like seeing your sweet child covered in bites and not being able to do anything it’s one thing when they bite me but when I see my baby boy having them I get SO PISSED. there is literally nothing in this life that pisse’s me off more than a bed bug.My literal hell on earth, WHY do they exist?!?!?
I have these things too and I fucking hate them when I find them I enjoy fucking burning them and torturing them they’re the most useless piece of shit fucking bug ever and I don’t know what to do because I can’t afford an exterminator I just want all these fucking things to burn in hell and die
I have bed bugs right now and have had them for over a year or two now and it’s fucking terrible. My dad acts like it’s not a problem and seems to have never gotten past the denial stage. He accepts they’re there but acts like they aren’t a problem or it’s not a fucked up thing to crush some occasionally. I have killed over ten tonight and it’s driving me fucking crazy. I see him wake up and see a few bugs dart off of his clothes sometimes and this dude doesn’t even bat a fucking eye in response to it, it’s fucking crazy. What I hate the fucking most about them isn’t even the bites or the gross factor they’re everywhere you can’t see them, it’s how they haul ass away from you once spotted like a fucking recon squad that had a spot light shined on em. I also hate how as soon as they get underneath something they stop moving as if they outsmarted you or some shit and are safe. They smell like shit and I know when they are crushed the smell is to warn the others. I hate seeing them when they move in packs too like little hit squads of 2-3 sometimes 4 if they got a batallion going. It’s fucking disgusting and it’s making me very depressed no bullshit. I enjoyed your article, it made me feel slightly better no lie. Thank you, and I would’ve moved out already, but I’m a poor 19 year old that’s saving money from a shitty job so it’ll probably be a while longer whether I like it or not and I know measures aren’t going to be taken to get rid of them, not that it would probably matter anyway. I think the worst part is how disgruntled and frustrated my dad gets if I bring it up. He hits me with this fucking deflection every time like “Aw whatever man they aren’t even that big of a deal. There used to be more, there even isn’t that many” like that’s the fucking truth when it’s the complete opposite. There were less because it was cold for the past few months, but now it’s getting warm again so the horde will unleash itself once more. The biggest fear I have is that I’ll take some with me when I move which would make me go fucking ballistic if that were to occur.
I hope you never have to deal with them again, and I’m glad you understand what most people don’t.
I swear, I am 19 and my dad also does samething, he acts like they are serving mother nature. Those fucking creatures never finish, that’s what I hate about them. Beds and Sofas have gone, still this evil creatures are still around. I heard somewhere that diesel fuel is effective in eliminating them, I used and in 2 days time, they are back up. If I am gonna move out from here, I will be leaving naked without any material from this room.
Heat over 120 degrees and cold under 40 degrees for prolonged periods kills them. I also have a canister vacuum I vacuum with. Knowing what they look like helps.
My biggest dear is taking them with us when we move. That would suck