The “featured image” is a bumblebee because they are nice and cute and pollinate plants and don’t want to be in my home.
I had bed bugs three years ago and it was one of the worst experiences of my life. Not the bugs themselves, which were awful and gross and a huge pain in the ass, but at the end of the day they were just a bunch of stupid if persistent tiny creatures. What got to me was the sense of invasion — one’s own bed in one’s own home should be inviolate — and the knowledge that at any moment they were out there, waiting to feed on me while I was asleep.
The way to handle a bed bug problem can lend itself to some disordered thinking. For about a month I slept in a sleeping bag on a bare matress. In the morning I would put the matress up against the wall, seal the sleeping bag in a giant ziplock bag, and sprinkle diatomaceous earth all over the floor. I kept rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle to hose down suspect surfaces. I actually only ever saw a single bug after the initial gross discovery, but I remained constantly vigilant.
(I eventually moved, and on my way out I put all of my belongings in a rented box truck and had it super-heated. The process killed two hard drives and melted my bicycle tires, but the peace of mind was well worth it. It actually felt pretty cleansing! Not only no bed bugs — no moths, no strange bacteria in that third-hand copy of House of Leaves that I still haven’t read. I recommend it sometime even with an insect-free move.)
The point is, the whole thing was pretty traumatic.
Cue modern day. Life was just swell, and then.. we got ants.
There are ants in the baseboards of TWO different locations in my third-floor apartment. And okay, they’re ants, you don’t want them forraging in your home, but they don’t bite. They don’t want to live in your stuff. They’re not even a particularly subtle bug, and you can buy 6 ant traps for $5. But the ants have set off this round of deep panic within me that I didn’t even know was still there.
There is a small spot an inch from the floor on the jutting closet corner behind me right now where the paint has been knocked off and you can see the metal brace underneath. I know because every single time I turn around, my eyes dart to it, and I think, “yep, that’s just the divot in the paint, it’s still okay.” I have found four (4!) ants on my desk since this all started, and now at least once a minute I have to scan the surface to try and identify invaders. We found two ants in the kitchen yesterday — as people who love to cook the prospect of ants in the kitchen is some major bullshit — and I haven’t eaten at home since because I’m afraid of spilling something ant-licious.
Obviously, I dream about ants.
It’s the weirdest sensation, your body pumping adrenaline into you like you have to punch a bear RIGHT NOW while your brain knows that you’re wildly over-reacting. I feel a little like I’ve been taken hostage by my own nervous system. It’s awful.
I frequently find myself turning to my infinitely patient partner and thinking, “don’t talk about ants” as another AntFact(tm) that I learned from obsessive internet research tumbles out of my mouth. Sometimes he takes my hand, looks me in the eyes, and says, “They’re not bed bugs.” And, I mean, he’s right, but what if we wake up tomorrow and our entire home is just a rippling swarm of ants? What if they eat the fancy peanut butter I just bought and wiggle around on my grandmother’s blanket and live in your game controller and then one day you hit the X button and ants just come pouring out of it, huh? I realize most of my furniture is decades-old IKEA, but I earned the money to own that and it deserves more than to be an ant poop zone. (Do ants poop? God, I hadn’t even considered that until I said it just now. Nature is the worst.)
I’m not sure exactly why I wrote this, except it felt good to write down. If you or a loved one has phobia-induced anxiety attacks, I’m sorry. It totally sucks, and it will probably get better. Right?