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The Many Horrifying Stages of Bedbug Grief (And How to Get Through Them)

Bedbugs...who needs em? That’s a stupid question because the answer is obviously nobody. I just had to start this article out somehow, and that’s the first line that came to my mind.

But seriously--if you live in New York, you likely live in fear of these little fuckers. They’re not just a myth from the dark ages. They’re real. Oh so real, and they’re all over Bushwick. Though microscopic in size, their mere presence can make life so traumatizing that once infested, it’s hard to believe you’ll ever get through it. The terror of bedbugs can even cause PTSD!

I’m here to give you words of guidance and encouragement on just how to deal with the many stages of grief these monsters bring when they invade your home. FULL DISCLOSURE: I’m not a therapist or an exterminator, so you should really take this advice with a grain of salt, but I am a comrade. So here’s my words of wisdom from one peer to another. I sincerely hope you see the light again soon.

Stage 1: Denial

When many people first see signs of bedbugs, such as itchy bites in a cluster or row, they try to rationalize it. They tell themselves it’s just a mosquito that somehow survived this winter tundra, or maybe a skin rash from your new wool sweater.

To them I ask: What’s that river in Egypt? D’NILE. And if you’re showing traces of this devilish creature--denial is NOT where you want to be. The longer you prolong taking care of your situation, the more the bedbugs will spread, making it close to impossible to evict them. So first off, you need to come to terms that it’s quite possible, even probable, that the itchy bumps on your skin are from bedbugs.

What to do: Stop avoiding it and get an inspection from a professional ASAP. Don't just lift the sheets and expect to see them. They can be in cracks and crevices you haven't thought of, so you'll still need a certified person to check, even if you don't see any. Again: The longer you hold off, the more they multiply like evil gremlins who get wet after midnight or whatever. I'm repeating myself because I can't emphasize this enough.

How to cope: Tell yourself that getting the inspection will put your mind to rest if you DON'T have them. If you do have them, tell yourself it's good you caught it sooner rather than later. I know, not the sexiest thoughts to be running through your mind, and I'm sorry.

Stage 2: The panicking

Once it’s been confirmed you have them, in comes the panicking. You realize taking care of this will cost A LOT, and even though you always felt like you had nothing to wear, you’re now starting to realize you actually own a lot of clothes that you're contemplating just throwing away because who honestly has time for this kind of laundry. This sucks. This really sucks. And I’m not here to sugarcoat it for you, because it’s going to take money, time, and serious work.

What to do: Don’t think about it. Start hustling. Do everything the exterminator tells you to do. If they direct you to strip your curtains, you take that shit down. If they’re like “go buy a bed cover,” you go spend that money. Do all your laundry. Seriously all of it. Leave no wash rag or seemingly innocent pair of slippers unturned. The more work you put in now, the less work you have to do later.

How to cope: By now you’ve come to terms with the fact that you’re in a shitty situation. Next, load up on Netflix subscriptions and games for your phone, because you’re going to need distractions while you bag up your stuff and move in to the laundrymat. Angry Birds will be your guide. Now entertain yourself and get it right get it tight. Spray all the things. Wash all the things. Heat all the things. Just entertain yourself during this shitstorm so you don't go mad.

Stage 3: The Shame

While you're in the process of evicting your new, ahem, roomies, you probably won’t want to explain to your friends why you weren’t able to make it out of the house the other day. To say it blankly: having bedbugs is embarrassing, even though it shouldn't be. Peers, I tell you… This is normal. But even saying you have "a pest" gets people freaked out. Hell… I wouldn’t be surprised if some people dropped me just for writing this article. That's why I'm writing it anonymously, baby.

What to do: By taking all the necessary steps, you should rid yourself of the evil creatures. That should be your main focus right now. After that, offer to meet friends in public places, until the problem goes away and they forget you ever had them.

How to cope: You need to recognize that the horror you’re going through is something other people don’t want to relive. Don’t be upset with your homies for not wanting to hang out with you, they’re just protecting themselves. And honestly--can you blame them? Over time they won’t care you ever had bedbugs, as long as you get rid of them...

Stage 4: The meltdown

So now we’re in the homestretch. You’re broke, itchy, lost a few days to evil vermin and none of your friends want to hang out with you. You contemplate leaving New York all together. “Why do I even put up with this shit?” you ask. You’re sitting in the laundrymat watching all your clothes tumble and time pass you by. The load’s up, you need to add more money to your card. You cry.

What to do: Grab the wine. Drink. Eat ridiculous indulgent food. Do whatever it takes to get you through these few days. Rent movies. Watch Scandal if you have to, dammit! Guzzle vodka from a rooftop, reminding yourself of the fantastic things that can happen here. Go for a walk. Take a deep breath.

How to cope: While indulging, begin to understand that this is something people have been going through for centuries, and you’re not alone in this. This has always been a problem. A right of passage. You’ll be okay, little chickadee, you’ll be okay.

Stage 5: The aftermath

Once you’ve finally had things all washed and sprayed, you’ll end up with paranoia. In the middle of the night, you’ll feel things crawling on you that aren’t there. Any red marks are reasons to be alarmed. You'll be paranoid you spread it to others at you're job and you're going to get fired. You’ll feel itchy all over.

What to do: I’m sorry, but there’s nothing I can possibly say to help you here. This is just something you have to get through and there’s no way to reconcile it. Only time will help your paranoia subside. Actually, no. Even time cannot help you. From here on out, every moment you get a red bump on your skin you'll wonder...


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