Before my family and friends freak out about bed bugs…
Let me just put your mind at ease—we do NOT, nor did we EVER have bed bugs. And to validate that even further, we went through hell treating the house for bed bugs anyway! (Anyone who has had bed bugs knows exactly what ring of Dante’s fiery damnation I’m talking about.)
I talked about my bed bug scare—and the un-green process I had to go through because of it—in this first ever Green Divas Confessions episode. Please listen then read on for the entire story:
Anyone that knows me, knows that I’m a bit like Howard Hughes. Unfortunately, not the bit that’s a billionaire. No, I’ve developed a touch of germaphobia. I wash my hands a lot.
Enter grand kids: So, the Universe, God, Goddess, Karma—whatever you want to call it—decides a great way for me to work on this particular issue is to send my grand kids to live here for a year and a half (so far). C’mon man, small children are like a germs’ best friend! I couldn’t adore any two little humans more, so yeah, I’m busy practicing all kinds of deep breathing between washing my hands more.
My immune system is bolstered by it, as is my ego’s sense of triumph that somehow I’ve gotten better. The walls have new dirty trails up the stairs and there are toys loitering in odd places in the house, but I started to feel like I had a handle on this wee cute invasion.
So, God/Goddess/Universe/whatever chuckles and says, “Oh good! Then you’re ready for the next level of growth, right?” I’m arrogant. I’m like, bring it on dude.
I don’t love spiders and the various bugs that can inhabit and haunt an old house like ours, but they don’t necessarily make me want to move out or anything.
But… bed bugs?
You flinched reading that, right? I know you did.
I flinched writing it. For two reasons: 1) the mere mention of the tiny critters-who-shall-not-be-named (unless I choose) brings on a visceral response as if to invoke them instantly by reading or speaking the words; and 2) there’s a terrible shame and stigma attached to admitting publicly that you have dealt with them.
I’ll admit it. Until recently, if a friend told me they were dealing with bed bugs, I would feel huge compassion for them, step back about three feet (make that three-and-a-half), and would probably need therapy in order to cross the threshold of their front door again. I hate this about me. It’s like the germaphobe thing times 100.
I want to be brave. I want to be the friend who shows up and helps them rip apart their bedroom and house and delivers dinner during the trauma. If it were cancer or drug addition or almost anything else, I would roll up my sleeves and show up.
So when my poor daughter started having unexplainable bites on her NECK every morning, we soon came to the horrifying conclusion (so we all thought) that we were being plagued by critters who shall not be named (okay, bed bugs).
We brought in the special bug guy (yea, there are special bug guys or gals who deal with bed bugs), who was recommended and accompanied by our trusted “Bat Man.” (The heroic Bat Man had previously cleared out our resident bats, which had loved venturing into our living space through the attic into the third-floor TV-room-now-aptly-named-bat-cave and across the hall into our bedroom to fly around and scare the crap out of us. Bat Man sealed the attic and bat cave, thus doing his job. But I digress.)
Our special bug and bat removal warriors identified the ‘lil bastards, but commented on their odd behavior. They ONLY went into my daughters room and appeared to be coming out of a vent in the ceiling, and they never settled in any bed. Okay, so wow, we had unusual bed bugs. I felt very special.
So, we set about to exterminate the bed bugs (no small feat), but I had such a strong emotional reaction to the situation. I felt like there was an invading army and it threatened the sacred space of my home and, more directly, the place where we find peace in the dark of the night. My daughter was being chomped on at night and I imagined we all would soon be midnight snacks for these beasts.
I knew something deeper had been triggered by these bed bugs.
Apparently there was inner work to do. Ugh. I kept saying to myself, “No one is dying here, the world isn’t imploding. Get a grip, Meg!” And that would work for a few minutes and then I would just sink into a sense of dread.
A weight of hopelessness and isolation settled upon me like a heavy shroud those first few days as we got instructions on the extensive preparation that would need to be done PROPERLY to ensure the nuclear option would work. (Yup, this green diva wasn’t fooling around w/ herbal options. Sorry. Not this time!)
Take a few minutes to listen to this Green Divas at Home episode with Rachel Sarnoff for tips on safer pest control and fumigation…
Okay. Back to my bed bugs story.
There are a lot of folks out there who would take serious advantage of people in this vulnerable situation, because most people, while not as dramatic as me, want those little creatures of doom out and out NOW!
When Ken, (aka Bat Man) said to me, “Meg, I wish you had called me and told me you had cockroaches, because they are easier to deal with,” I cried and practically screamed at him, “Ken, that’s not helping!”
So, with a frightening set of instructions, we embarked on two weeks of preparation before our first of three treatments. My daughter, who was the only one afflicted was like an optimistic warrior—geared up for battle with no complaints. Me? I was on a wild emotional roller coaster ride featuring crazy corkscrews.
There were, until now, only three or four people outside the household who knew what was happening. Another thing most people know about me is that I don’t hold back and pretty much live my life on my sleeve. So having to keep this bottled up was like pouring salt on the wound. In my recovery from alcoholism, I found talking to my fabulous network of women when things bugged me (cute, right?) was a critical aspect of my healing and growth. NOT being able to talk about this felt like a strange version of hell to me.
The bed bugs’ (and my) shift
Green Diva Lynn Hasselberger was among the poor few who knew what was happening and had to endure my erratic emotions during that time. She proved herself to be a better friend than I even knew. And brave.
In the midst of a meltdown while on Skype, she suggested I go meditate, which seemed like preposterous notion. While I wanted to scream at her that this couldn’t possibly help, I knew better… and I knew she was speaking the truth.
I began to meditate more than usual and stepped up my practice of prayer as well. Within a day of focusing on my spiritual connection, I felt empowered and got perspective on the situation.
But the surprise was that I realized I had drifted from my usually strong connection to spirit. Yes, I had been keeping up with my daily yoga/meditation/prayer, but I had become distracted by the excitement of all the good things going on with the Green Divas and got sucked into the busy-ness trap and sparkly happenings of the day.
Nothing like a good shot to some deep core triggers to force my knees to the ground in a new sense of humility.
At one point, as I was meditating, I started to chuckle as the realization of how absurd this all was spread throughout my being. Whatever shroud I had been operating under was pierced by light and quickly evaporated and I had a sense of strength and renewal I didn’t know I needed. I didn’t realize how far I had drifted or for how long.
I prayed for the critters who shall not be named. I talked to them. I called them by name. The bed bugs’ message was coming in loud and clear. We had some clearing and cleaning to do… on more levels than the physical house. There were messages for all of us and once received and lessons gleaned, everything began to shift. I not only thanked them for these life lessons, but politely asked them to stay put in that one room, informed them that they would be nuked soon and asked for their forgiveness. Sound crazy? I swear I sensed their acquiescence.
Rolling up my sleeves, I was able to get to work armed with spray bottles of alcohol (my new weapon of comfort as it kills the little bastards and their eggs on contact and does no harm to anything else). I was ready to do battle and began a spring cleaning like no other.
The good news is that we found zero evidence of bed bugs anywhere else in the house. And let me tell you—we meticulously combed through EVERY book and EVERY corner and tore apart beds and bedroom bookshelves and drawers.
but if we had found any buggers, we likely would’ve wanted to replace all the mattresses. ugh!
May 21, 2015 at 12:20 pm
Yes, I flinched reading this. I flinched throughout the entire article. And squirmed. I have a mortal fear of bedbugs especially because I also have an addiction to second hand merchandise. It’s cheaper and infinitely better for the planet – if it does not come with bedbugs. Hooray for you for taking some good lessons from this and emerging relatively unscathed.
May 21, 2015 at 8:58 pm
There are a lot of non-fatal gross things in this world to which I also have a visceral reaction. Especially when you have kids. I have a lot of trouble keeping perspective as well. My sister had bed bugs when she lived in Ghana. And it was pretty bad, but it’s not like it will kill you. Good reminder to pray and meditate more. All about the perspective.
May 21, 2015 at 10:11 pm
It was hard for me to read this post just thinking about bed bugs. I loved that you talked to them and asked them to stay in one room. 🙂