On Bedbugs, Incest, and the Apocalypse

I don’t trust you to tell details about my bedbugs. That’s way too much exposure when we don’t know each other, and I really don’t want you to have such intimate knowledge of what happens inside my house. Forgive me if I rebuff your questions of curiosity, which frankly, are none of your business. I’ll tell you what I want to let you know. However, because I do care and do not want bad things to remain, if hidden, here is a link to recognize and respond to bedbugs: http://www.epa.gov/bedbugs/. (You will notice that I am not a paranoid conspiracist, as I have used a government website.)

That said, I wonder who I do trust. Until recently, maybe the last 8 years, I trusted damn near anyone who told me something, more often asking follow-up questions of detail and meaning, rarely those of believability and intent.

Them: “We value your work and are glad you are here.”

Me: “Great, so it sounds like we can move forward with . . . (project or conversation)”

Them: “Um, right. We’ll talk about it later when we have more time.”

Later: job change

—– or —–

 Them: “Are you okay? You seem to be hurting and if you want to talk I’m here for you.”

Me: “I appreciate that. Yeah, some things are falling apart and I’d like it if you help me sort it out.”

Later, after the person listens, offers some good support, and then asks several very personal questions  which I answer with detail . . .

Me: “Can we meet again for coffee?”

Them: “Um, I have a lot on my plate for the next few weeks. Call me back next month and let’s see if we can find a time.”

Later:  coffee time happens where I receive little eye contact while their coffee is stirred again and again,with the spoon tapped repeatedly on the cup or the napkin until an awkward exit is managed.

Once I learned that people outside of me cannot be trusted deeply in “matters of me” I knew I could still trust myself. Except even there I got surprised. When the wise nun offering spiritual direction looked me in the eyes and asked, “Do you realize that you have blocks of time that you aren’t remembering?” I immediately ran to the toilet. My gut knew the truth of my life that my conscious brain never dreamed.

Quickly I learned the fine art of distrust, moving from novice to master in a heart-stop. Then why would I listen to my therapist when she recently asked if I could begin to trust myself again, just a little bit? “Do I have to trust anyone else?” I asked. “No, not yet.”

My answer is becoming straight-forward as I live into the question: I don’t want to be isolated. My life matters to other people and their lives matter to me. With more caution and less dissociation, I want to be in relationships, deep and committed, frivolous and fun, casual or collegial, even some in cyber energy.

Who knows? Maybe one day I’ll detail the personal nightmare called bedbugs, tell why I sometimes wish for the apocalypse in spite of my thealogy, and celebrate how profoundly a child can be trusted when they speak their story, even decades after the event.


Innocently enough I listened to my exterminator tell me an experiential horror story, an account of the resurgence of bedbugs and how I wanted to keep them away. “They multiply quickly, are hard to detect, and it is expensive and difficult to exterminate them. Have you ever dealt with head lice?” “Yes,” I replied remembering my daughter’s kindergarten experience and the Girl Scout overnight canceled because of their proliferation. “Bedbugs are 100 times worse,” she replied.

The idea of bedbugs became planted in my mind for the first time, and I thought about what she said a few weeks later when I perceived myself bitten. Using the logic that I had been taught growing up whenever I wondered if something bad had ever happened to me, here is what I should have concluded: If I had never been prompted by her to know the signs of bedbugs, then I wouldn’t consider looking for them in my house. The only reason they’ll be a problem here is if I go looking for them. Of course, I’ll find what I’m looking for. I will leave it well enough alone. Mysterious bite marks?  Just my overactive imagination.

My idea that there are/were bedbugs was planted in my mind, and that caused me to look for them. I should never have spent time with my buglady. Her influence changed me and made me start seeing bedbugs everywhere. We all know that’s the way the brain works. Right?

Just like that incest stuff. My brother used this logic when I told him I was experiencing child sexual abuse flashbacks, saying, “I don’t want you thinking things like that just because some psychiatrist is planting those ideas in your mind.”

But the bite marks were visible, both from bedbugs and perpetrators. They matched the evidence from others who had discovered them and wouldn’t go away. Who in their right mind would want to confirm something that pervasive, that painful, and that expensive to address.

Next time someone tells you you’ve just gone looking for something because someone else told you about it, tell them that  you heard someone found money in the wall so you decided to look in your own walls, but so far you’ve  found nada and the holes in the wall have been easily patched and you’ve moved on. When something bad is real, and most of our “ideas” or “thoughts” find unwelcomed confirmation, it won’t go away until it’s addressed.

For the longest time I thought I matched some of the symptoms when I’d take a psychology course or hear mental health and child safety lectures, but I convinced myself that I’m not going to become one of those students who is convinced she has experienced the symptoms of every illness described, so I dismissed the thoughts over and over. Though I can never know what could have happened if I had paid attention to my relationship and sexuality symptoms earlier, I do know that I’m paying a heavy price now and can’t make them go away.  What really happened, even if the memory is locked away in another part of the brain, happened. The energy and resourcefulness that I used to keep the memories hidden is now increasingly released to clear out the insidious, ever-multiplying, free-loading, damned bugs.

I wish we hadn’t had bedbugs. I hope they’re really gone and that we never bring them back into the house again. But forever I will know how well they hide, how broadly they thrive, and how useless denial is to change reality.

On bedbugs . . . beware . . . after fifty years of virtual absence, they’re back! Fortunately, when I learned this first-hand, I had three years of trauma therapy under my belt and knew coping strategies.

On incest . . . the different parts of our brain can have such contradictory images of our family, and when one part finds the courage to speak the secrets long kept, vertigo follows.

On the apocalypse . . . sometimes there is comfort in living toward an imagined cataclysmic end when attention to the new responsibility brought on by the present day’s healing is necessary.

Of the first two, I could have lived forever being kind and empathetic with another in this experience. But seems like I became bound to statistics unwittingly, and not by my own doing: the 1 in 5 people who have dealt with or know someone who has dealt directly with bed bugs, and the varying statistics of girls sexually molested before age 18. Before I could skip and jump effortlessly, my small body became the possession of another who was known to me. Like elusive bed bugs, another lived in the crevices of my life, coming out when all was still and quiet, feeding unseen, then disappearing in the dark, unseen in the light.

Of the third, my first remembered experience of chilling fright was reading The Late Great Planet Earth as a young teen! Following my older brother’s path, I learned way, way too much fundamental religious fear at an impressionable age. Except for my mainline Protestant parents’ counterpoint, I may well have gone across the great divide. Would that I had known young the solid grounding of a good horror film or the sacredness of my sexuality.

Blogging about these three aversions that I know too well, I wish to speak myself into connectedness with curiosities and interests, healthy and confident people, and the whole child me who fragmented before she knew her spine.

As you read my words, if you think it’s “tongue-in-cheek”, it probably is; if it almost appears as humor, I tried my hardest; if it sounds like sarcasm, it probably is but could also be anger hiding next to the bed bugs. Thank you for reading my words as I re-connect to my interrupted self, to a world I can trust, and to people who are not afraid of the bigness of life.

et cetera