The words “bed” and “bugs” might not bring the kind of chilling shiver to your brain that they should, unless maybe you’re from NYC or I guess the Midwest (apparently there are some pretty bad infestations there) or you know someone who’s had them. Even then, it’s difficult to really comprehend just how completely they can take over your entire existence. Tiny, almost-invisible blood-sucking insects infest the place where you’re supposed to be most comfortable–your home or your bed–and instead make you incapable of sleeping through the night. Bed bugs have to be top 10 on the list of Smallest Known Insects Most Capable of Ruining Your Life.
I have to Zafa myself (a la Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, sorry if you haven’t read it) any time I even think about bed bugs or even type the words out.
In a way, even these opening thoughts are similar to injury.
If you’ve somehow (maybe you are a robot?) never been injured, it’s hard to imagine the mental anguish and turmoil that goes along with being sidelined from what you love, usually at the most inopportune time possible. You are hit where it hurts – your literal house in the case of the bugs and your figurative home when dealing with injury. Do I have to support the claim that running is home for a lot of athletes? It’s tied up inextricably with their identity, as my colleague Nicole Bush excellently explained in her post on dealing with injuries. This is why getting injured feels so much like your world is falling apart.
It’s a lot like the feeling when you can no longer come home and trust the walls of your house or the bed that looks so inviting.
You go a little (sometimes more) crazy. You might end up showering at least three times a day even though there’s no proven connection between showering and ridding yourself of bed bugs. You might throw out all your cloth towels and have to use paper towels to dry yourself after the three showers as you huddle in a corner as far from your bed in your bedroom as possible.
The first twinge you feel on a run isn’t that bad. You think ‘Oh, this won’t be a big deal. You can run through it.’ It’s the same with the first huge red mound that shows up on the back of your leg one day and begins to itch like nothing else has ever itched you in your life. It’s like a homemade wool sweater x poison ivy x fire ants x rolling around naked in grass. But even with the eye-watering itchiness, you wonder if maybe there was one single rogue mid-winter mosquito that found its way to your skin? Mutant ingrown hair? Spider? Your mind does not go immediately to the terrible double B-word. It doesn’t want to accept that.
Feeling of waking up and not remembering what’s wrong for a moment
You’re only cognisant of a small nag at one side of your mind that hints to you: things aren’t right. A second later it clicks in and you instantly full-body scan. With bedbugs: you run your hands over your body and ask do you have more bites? With injury: you localize your approach, focus on the place you already know is messed up. Poke it, flex it and analyze whether or not it’s miraculously repaired itself overnight with bated breath.
Trying to get back to Situation Normal seems impossible. It feels like all the hope/help in the world has been sucked into a giant huge Roomba that gets stuck in a corner and just keeps hitting its plastic casing into the wall over and over again. With bedbugs: it’s the realization that you immediately have to wash and dry all your clothing, linens, etc. Then make at least three appointments with exterminators. In the end, you probably just throw almost everything you own away, to be safe. With running: it’s time and unending rehab, exercises that you’ve been doing for weeks and that you just don’t want to do anymore. You’re tired of icing, of aqua-jogging and of watching your zest for life dwindle into the pillows you use to prop yourself up as you binge-watch Law and Order, SVU and Criminal Intent.
Light at the end of the tunnel
Neither bedbugs nor injuries last forever. ZAFA. But I’ve never heard of it happening in either case. And neither will kill you. They usually do not. It’s important to remember that.
Once you get past the tunnel and into the light, it takes a while for it to sink in that you’ve made it. You still don’t trust your body. You’re on hyper alert. Any tiny itch or twinge makes you instantaneously want to throw up your hands, and say “@#[email protected]*(, it’s back!” At times you even start to make up phantom pain or feel things crawling over you at night that are not there.
Eventually you start to ease back into normal life. You buy a real towel again. You run three days in a row. You go out for longer jogs. You spin your wheels on a few strides. Before you know it, you barely remember unless you dig deep what it really felt like to be there, in the throes of bedbug/injury depression and paranoia. Like any and all memories, it fades into the dark spots of your consciousness. Until, you get too comfortable. That’s why it’s good to reflect every once in a while. Bring out those triggering memories and turn them over in your palms, consider them, saying ZAFA ZAFA ZAFA and reminding yourself to be grateful that you are #blessed.