sort of suffering? put a bag over your head

I’m convinced no one knows true hardship until bugs infest their bedroom.

Of course this is silly of me to assert, as there are plenty of terrible things that can happen to one in life, but really… bugs infesting my room?  What did I do to deserve this?

Carpet beetles are tiny devils that made a nice home under my bed a couple years ago. They chose to live there not because I have any carpet in my room that they can chew on, but because I chose not to vacuum under there for a few years while my rabbit’s fur slowly built up. After destroying their home with said vacuum, they fled…. to my bed, closet, clothes, books, CDs, etc. I had to wash everything, heat treat everything, throw out everything, caulk the cracks in my floors and walls, get an exterminator, vacuum at least once a week, store heavy bedding, etc.

My room is pretty much barren these days besides my large pieces of furniture, my smaller amount of clothes, and yes, my rabbit.

I’m still not over it.

The experience of having your personal bedroom, where you spend most of your time, infested with something other than your own detritus is scary.

So when I awoke the other morning to bug bites all over my neck I panicked. The day before I returned from vacation in North Carolina where I was bitten many times by “noseeum” bugs.

My instant reaction was that I somehow brought the noseeums back home in my luggage.

And so I spent a whole day washing everything in my room, putting things in the freezer, leaving items in black garbage bags on my front lawn, and spraying heavy amounts of insecticide.

At the end of the day, as an antidote to my sufferings, I decided to pick up a book of essays by Joan Didion, Slouching Towards Bethlehem, hoping to find some advice on how to be a normal person.

She granted me that in one of her essays, “On Self Respect”. She writes, “It was once suggested to me that, as an antidote to crying, I put my head in a paper bag. As it happens, there is a sound physiological reason, something to do with oxygen, for doing exactly that, but the psychological effect alone is incalculable: it is difficult in the extreme to continue fancying oneself Cathy in Wuthering Heights with one’s head in a Food Fair bag.”

unnamedI sat with a reusable shopping bag over my head for a bit to see if I’d feel any better. I just felt silly. Not silly because of the bag, but silly because of my immediate overreaction to a few bug bites. I can confirm the bites I had found were leftover from North Carolina, but now my room is completely clean at least.

So the next time you jump to the worst possible conclusion about something, put a grocery bag over your head for a bit before you decide to drive yourself crazy.

unnamedArlie Johansen graduated with a BA in English from SUNY New Paltz, which has lead to her current career: working in retail. On a normal day you can find her lurking around on job posting sites, re-watching The Office, and trying to make a good cup of coffee. Check out her  website,, to see more of her writing.

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