I’ve always heard horror stories from other people about their homes being invaded by bed bugs. It frightened me to hear about those little insects that kick you out of your home and rack up your bills.
For some reason, whenever I hear of someone’s bed bug anecdotes, I express my condolences, and then I carry on with my bed bug-free life, sparing the unsettling details.
Some higher power must have observed my negligence because soon after, my suitemates and I awoke with tiny red bites on our hands.
I could almost see fate laughing in my face.
These are the six lessons I learned from getting bed bugs:
1. Denial gets you nowhere.
When my suitemates and I analyzed these bite-size marks, I refused to believe the first thing we all thought. Denouncing anyone’s accusations of bed bugs, I ended the conversation by declaring they were mosquito bites and carried on with life.
How could I have bed bugs?
My one, much wiser, suitemate suggested that regardless, we should get our room sniffed out by that adorable pudgy beagle in the commercials.
As he waddled around our rooms sniffing, he and his trainer brought us the news none of us were prepared for.
More often than not, denial makes any situation worse. If my suitemate didn’t file to have a dog come sniff our beds, we would’ve been waking up to new skin patterns on our hands and feet.
2. Your life can change in an instant.
I went from sitting at my table eating a grilled cheese, laughing at how a beagle was making more money than me, to feeling utterly disgusted as the man proceeded to tell us we had bed bugs.
In an instant, bed bugs utterly f*cked up my schedule. Between my class assignments and work, I needed to drop everything and tend to the begrudging activity of washing every single article of clothing I owned.
I shed a tear when I glanced at my giant stuffed orangutan, Tangy, perched on my desk, which the man said was a hotspot.
We often forget our lives aren’t designed to stay on the same track forever. Some happening will eventually derail our schedules and plans, and we’ll be forced to just roll with the punches.
3. Sometimes, you just have to do it.
My anxiety kicked in when our maintenance man gave us the steps of how to debug our living situation. We had to move out within a couple of hours, bag all our clothes, wash every piece of cloth in our space, re-bag our clothes and store away all our belongings so the exterminator can come that same day.
Essentially, we were kicked out of our home for some unknown amount of time.
I didn’t even know where to begin, but I knew it had to be done ASAP. With a variety of detergents, garbage bags and mental breakdowns, I spent six hours and $40 dollars deep in clothes I’m sure shrunk and tore with my haste. But through all that, I didn’t hesitate to get the job done.
Some things are just unavoidable.
My dad always told me if you look at everything you have to do as a collective, you’ll psych yourself out and become overwhelmed.
When I was texting my parents during this whole ordeal, my dad replied with a simple, “take it one step at a time.” It’s the secret to defeating any mammoth of a task you have waiting for you.
4. Thoroughness goes a long way.
The exterminator couldn’t emphasize enough how thorough we had to be when washing our clothes. If we missed one sock or a pillowcase, the whole process would be compromised.
I’m nowhere close to Martha Stewart. I’m that college student who overloads the washer with mixed colors of clothes, dumps unnecessary amounts of detergent and then blindly chooses a setting.
With that in mind, Tangy still sat, sulking and infested in the corner of my room. How the f*ck am I going to wash everything?
I read tag after tag. Some shirts needed dry-cleaned, my bras needed to be hand-washed and Tangy needed a bath. It was an endless list of demands.
I wouldn’t allow myself to cheat and mindlessly throw everything in, for fear of having to do this all over again and ruining half of my belongings.
Care for detail definitely goes a long way.
5. Stop being inconsiderate.
When strangers saw me walking into the elevator with six trash bags, their curiosity grew and they proceeded to question me.
"Bed bug... Oh," they said, as they sidled a little closer to the other corner of the elevator. I felt like a leper, or the kid in class everyone knew had lice.
People start to treat you differently. It made me realize the reaction I gave people in my situation is the reaction I received, and it sucked.
If someone is going through something tough, showing signs of disgust or disinterest never helps his or her situation. It’s actually just very rude.
Next time, if I see someone struggling with anything, I’ll ask if the person needs help, instead of selfishly asking him or her if I’ll be affected in the process.
You never know what kind of day the person's been through.
6. In the end, reward yourself.
After I cried in front of the exterminator and suffered a multitude of panic attacks from suffocating under pounds of my own laundry, I went to get pizza because I damn well deserved it.
This goes for bed bugs, a stressful week, final exams, etc. Giving yourself little gifts because of your hard work shows you’re appreciative of yourself. You deserve a little congratulations after a hard day's work.
We’re human; we’re not wired to take on tasks until we sleep at night. Set aside time to enjoy yourself
In the end, bed bugs felt like they nearly ruined my life, but I can’t deny that in a few months, I may laugh at all of it.
Well, I will unless I get bed bugs again. In that case, I’ll just set my wardrobe and furniture ablaze.