Three nights ago I woke up in the middle of the night scratching my legs. I can’t fall back asleep unless I pee, so I dragged myself to the bathroom and when I was done I glanced in the mirror. I had swollen bug bites all over my arms. On closer inspection they were all over my legs as well. I was itchy all over and starting to panic. For the next hour I researched bed bugs online and when I developed a plan of action I went back to bed. Z was stirring so I showed him the bites. He said he didn’t have any and promptly fell back asleep. He had to get up a few hours later to get on a plane so he wasn’t around for my manic cleaning session the next morning.
We are not tidy people. When it comes to cleaning I seem to move dirt around rather than eliminate it. My mother is a talented cleaner and I wish a tiny part of her cleaning genes were passed on to me. But instead I got her self proclaimed crappy hair. But I was so horrified about the bed bugs that I went into crazy cleaning overdrive. While T napped I got started on 5 loads of laundry and I vacuumed the mattress on all sides, pulled it off the base of the bed, and cleaned the wooden frame. I didn’t see a trace of bed bugs anywhere and after my hour of research on the computer I knew exactly what to look for.
That evening I got T down for the night without incident and ordered takeout from my favorite place. Turns out there was a NCIS marathon on TV (NCIS is my shameful guilty pleasure), Z might have been gone but it was turning into a pretty darn good night. Except I was getting more bug bites. And I was having an allergic reaction again. I was freaking out-there must be bed bugs in the sofa. I went to bed slathered in anti itch cream. And the bites and reactions got worse. A lot worse. I had the lights on and desperately searched for bugs yet I saw nothing. I felt like I was going crazy. When I woke the next morning the bites and rash were gone.
I spent a long time vacuuming the sofa in the morning. Again, no sign of bugs. The idea of spider bites had been floated by several people I called in a panic. And then later in the afternoon a friend came over and I told her the story. She very surely said it was clearly an anxiety reaction. I very surely said I didn’t think so. My anxiety is pretty damn reliable. It has manifested itself in the same ways for more than 20 years. I just don’t randomly get new manifestations. But a few hours later Z floated the same theory over the phone. So I thought about it. There really weren’t any bugs at all. What the hell was going on?
As soon as I had T down for the night it started again. And it was by far the most severe outbreak. I googled anxiety rash and found pictures of hives. They looked exactly like my reactions. I tried my best to relax so the itching and marks would go away, but no luck. It spread all over my body, I think knowing what it was made it worse. Finally I took some Benadryl and was able to sleep through the night. In the morning the marks were again gone.
Zeke is home tonight. I’m curious to see if the hives come back. If so I’m going to have to call the doctor. And this is definitely going to be the number one topic at therapy this week. The thing is I don’t like being in the house alone overnight. I get scared. I had been dreading Z’s trip since we figured out he needed to make it without us. But despite the dread I thought I was handling it really well. I thought I was totally fine.
There is a big part of me that doesn’t believe that mental illness is real. I should be able to pull myself up by my boot straps. I had a privileged and charmed upbringing. People like me are so lucky they don’t deserve to have mental illness. The shame I feel about my condition only ends up feeding it. Then every once in a while something like this happens. And I am floored by how powerful the brain is. My brain is actually making my body have a physical reaction. Without my permission. It is amazing and horrifying and embarrassing all at the same time. A few nights ago I didn’t think there would be anything more embarrassing than having bed bugs, but turns out being bat shit crazy wins every time.