Monica Bielanko
A chronicle since 2005 of my marriage & move to Brooklyn in my twenties; becoming a mother in my thirties; moving to Pennsylvania and learning to amicably coparent after divorce in my forties while living 3 doors down from my ex-husband in a small country town.
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Monday
Jul112011

Yeah, I Cried. So What?

We were driving somewhere. Maybe to Home Depot? Hell, I don't know. We've driven so many damn places in the last few weeks. Walmart, Home Depot, Lowes, Walmart, Walmart, Walmart...

I was casually rubbing my head when I felt a small lump. What the?

Now listen. I have big hair. I have A LOT of hair. And it's thick. Now that we live in a humid climate, it's bigger than ever. I haven't even attempted to blow it out straight because, oh my God, I'd have better luck trying to shave my legs in airplane bathroom.

Because of the aforementioned big hair - I'm talking Bon Jovi hair from the eighties, y'all - I have glooped in a fair amount of "product", as fancy hair stylists types call it, in an attempt to control the mess. Again, controlling this mess is like trying to herd wild stallions. Ain't happenin'. But I tried. So when I came across this small lump I kind of thought that maybe it was a glop of hair gel that I didn't rub in and so it somehow welded itself to my head. Gross, but I've heard of worse things.

I dug at it with my finger and after a few good fingernail digs it came off onto my finger. I brought it out of my thicket of hair expecting see a clump of product or whatever and it was a SQUIRMING BUG.

Did you hear me? I said a SQUIRMING BUG!!!

I immediately started hyperventilating and screaming and showing Serge - who was still driving - the bug. "OH MY GOD OH MY GOD WHAT IS IT WHAT IS IT? IT WAS STUCK TO MY HEAD OH MY GOD IT WAS STUCK TO MY HEAD!"

He barely glanced over and said, "It's just a tick. Calm down."

I tossed the little bastard out the window (the tick, not Serge, although I felt like doing the same to him) and started to cry. Look, I don't come from tick country. I've heard of them, yes, but I guess I just never really thought about it. I mean, I kind of pictured a sliver of wood or something but not a LIVE SQUIRMING BUG.

So I started to cry.

He who offered absolutely no sympathy at all told me to calm down, I'm scaring Violet. "It's just a tick." He said while casually flicking the blinker to make a left turn. "It just attaches itself to you and sucks blood. And probably not even that much blood at all. Like, a drop a week, maybe." He continued in a bored tone.

"Are you hearing yourself?!" I screamed. "It's a bug that melds itself to your head and sucks your blood?" I sobbed. "Wait. A week? Did you say a week? That thing might have been in my head sucking at my brain for a week? How can someone be calm about that?"

It was traumatizing, y'all! I had something attached to me, drinking my blood. And this was no Robert Pattinson-type vampire, it was a squirmy, gross little bug with a bunch of wiggling legs. Did I mention it was squirming? It was SQUIRMING.

The story is currently making the rounds of all our new country-dwelling friends who think it is just HI-larious that I cried about a tick. Now I'm constantly feeling like something is creepy crawling all over my head and can't stop obsessively checking my skull for critters. And wondering what other body parts the little bastards will attach themselves to when I least expect it...

Reader Comments (34)

One of my biggest fears is finding lice or a tick on one of my children's scalps. We live in VA so... ticks are AWFUL this year...

July 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterApril

I have a serious fear of ticks. I would probably do more than cry if I found one in my head. For reals. They are scary as fuck.

July 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDi

You poor thing! I would have cried too. And promptly gone to the hair salon to get my hair chopped off.

July 11, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterbec

DUDE!!! I totally had one in my hair when I was six! My father had to burn it out with a match because the little son-of-a-bitch had started to dig it's way into my skull and they don't let go easily!

Also...... Hello lyme disease!

July 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKami

Welcome to Pennsylvania. Check your dogs frequently, your kids, and yourself. Serge can do his own thing. But he's right....it;s really not a big deal as long as you're vigilant. You don't want them to swell up. Then they truly are gross! The tick you've described is different from the tick that's the culprit for lyme disease. That one is very tiny and is tough to find.

July 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCarole

I found one on my head two weeks ago, and I had to talk myself down from a full-on panic attack. Not to ick you out, but...they like to crawl into places with hair. So, yeah. I guess it depends on your grooming habits. :-) I still have the creepy crawlies. If you leave the head in by mistake, you can get a nasty infection, so digging it out like you did is actually the worst way to get rid of them (but I understand the panic of wanting it out as soon as possible.) Next time you get one, put a big blob of Vaseline, Neosporin, or even liquid soap on top of it. Fight the rising panic and wait until it starts to suffocate and back itself out of your skin. Then, the head won't get left behind. It has worked every time for me.

July 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLeslie

we have ticks really bad in western ky. we can go play in the backyard for an hour and will have a tick or two on us. you have to check yourself and the kids, they really like the head, and any warm spot on your body..behind your knees, underarms, and of course the "hot spot" between your legs!!!!!! you should prob invest in frontline or product of some kind for your dogs to ward off ticks. they can swell up super big on dogs!

July 11, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterhilary

I grew up in Montana and I HATE TICKS! I don't care how country one is, ticks are vile foul and creepy.

July 11, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterjeneria

I freaking hate ticks! I've lived in the South all my life and you NEVER get used to them or like them. They make me want to cry, too! HATE THEM! And I also thought ANY tick could carry Lyme disease, not just the small ones. So yes, be careful. I pulled a crapload off my dog just this weekend - and we use the no-tick meds. HATE ticks.

July 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPam

Yes, I feel your pain. I found one in MY BED last week. And....
This will totally freak you out and I'm sorry...but two years ago I was bit by a tick while in NJ and it gave me Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Seriously. And the fun part was that I went undiagnosed for 6 months!
So, if you get a weird rash or fever in the next couple weeks, BE AWARE.
Debbie Downer jingle...

July 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCristin

I WAS jealous of your move. Thanks for curing that!

When we were our two boy cousins stayed with us for a week. Everyone one was bed, and then all of the sudden one of them yells, "There's something on my balls!!!". Yep, it was a tick.

We were all under 10 and that memory is as clear as yesterday. Also, my sister and I could NOT figure out how he found it?! Ah, innocence.

July 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGreenInOC

Ticks in Pennsylvania and other east coast states often form swarms called "Hotpots". These swarms of up to three million ticks have been known to lift small children right off the ground and feast on their hair before dropping them into a pond miles away.

Also, some tick "Hotpots" can cluster into tight softball-sized mini-clouds and hide in places like your glove compartment. Then, you're driving down some nice country road and BAM: they pop out and eat your eyes.

Not trying to scare you, just trying to warn you to stay vigilant. It's hard to recognize the real threats in this culture of fear anymore. But ticks have always been one of the most dangerous monsters known to man. They are the real deal, Monica.

July 11, 2011 | Unregistered Commentersantos

On the plus side, the fact that it was squirming means it was still alive, which means its head isn't still embedded in your scalp, which means you won't get an infection from bug bits being stuck in your skin. I'm nothing if not comforting!

July 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCJ

I found one on my then 14-month-old daughter last summer and totally freaked out. I was glad my husband was there. A week later I thought she had one again and totally panicked and made my husband come home from work to get it off. Yeah, it was a piece of chocolate.

July 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterShannon

I don't blame you for crying AT ALL. That said, I grew up in GA and spent summers in TN. It sounds bizarre to say, but ticks were so common and really no biggie. (Still gross, but no biggie.) I got used to wearing a bandana or hat whenever I was out under trees, to keep the ticks off of my head. That was the hardest habit to break when I moved west.
Also, there are a couple important ways to remove them, especially if they are embedded. You don't want to pull the body off and leave the head. You can use tweezers, or a hot match (at least I used to--don't know if that is still an approved method), smother with vaseline, so on. (All this is 12 year old advice though...) And while heads are a really common spot for ticks, they, umm, sometimes end up in your armpits or bikini line.

Have you met chiggers yet? Do they have those up in PA?

July 11, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterphancy

Welcome to PA!! Ticks are everywhere and they suck.

They have been especially bad this year but that may just seem like that to me since we got a dog. But my favorite tick story is....finding a tick on my 5 year old son's balls about a month ago. He was laying naked (anyone else have boys that like to run around naked?) and I thought he did something gross in the bathroom but Nope it was a tick. It had attached itself although it was new, so I had to use tweezers. He was very brave but he screamed for the next 15 minutes. poor guy.

Lots of hats and hair brushing. I also have tons of hair and it seems as if I have too much hair and the ticks stay to the boys light colored and weight hair.

July 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBeth

Dude, seriously...make sure you got the head out. My mom used to do a tick check each night on all of us...me, my sister, the dogs, the cats, the step-dad...all of us. And she found one on someone at least once a week. You might have to start a nightly tick check too.

July 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAbbey

Okay, this is totally going on the list of complaints about my childhood (such a charming thing to keep, really).
I hail from Minnesota, and that is definitely tick country. I got a few on my head when I was growing up, and we always learned that you had to get the tick to pull away on its own - sometimes you can't even get a good grip to yank them off with tweezers if they haven't started letting go of you. (I now realize it was probably the bit about the head staying behind - OMG gross.) Anyway, my smoker parents and grandparents always held a cigarette or match near my head, and I had learned that hot things were the only way to get the tick to withdraw. The adult(s) would usually push the hair aside and hold the burning end of the cigarette near the bug until it stirred, all the while burning the hell out of my scalp and leaving me terrified that one of them would have a twitchy hand (or a cocktail or two in them) and would ignite my hair. And VASELINE - simple, friendly VASELINE - was a legitimate option the whole time?!

Anyway, ticks are worth crying over and I've done it too. Also, my MIL did not come from tick country and was absolutely as horrified as you when she visited MN and learned about ticks. Stunned that such disgustingness could be tolerated by the population at large is how I'd describe it.

Wear a hat when you are outside in the woods, and some people tuck their pants into their socks in springtime (safe and AWESOME) if they are hiking or in longish grass or something. Also, I heard that if ticks stay on a dog too long, a little layer of skin can grow over the tick. I am not sure if that is true, but the point is the tick medicine is a must for the dogs. Otherwise they'll just carry them into the house, and who needs those nightmares?

July 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterErin

Oh, Santos is just too mean! I come from Connecticut -- as in the state that houses the town for which Lyme Disease is named -- and I freak the hell out about ticks too. I've never had one (at least not that I'm aware of...though probably have because I used to do a lot of outdoorsy stuff in CT & MA). Being a little panicky about ticks is a healthy thing. You should do regular tick checks as others have suggested -- not obsessively, like every hour or anything, because it takes awhile for them to cause damage. But, yeah. Check. Ticks on the balls though? As a woman and mother of girls...hadn't ever thought about that. Double yuck!

July 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKristin

ugh... I hate ticks so much. I went on a camping trip in ND and walked through a field with some friends and my dogs and we all ended up with them. I had a dozen or so on my head and it took my parents all afternoon to get them off. Most of them hadn't gotten to far and they were able to pick them off but one on the top of my head required the match trick. For ages after that whenever I got a headche, I could feel that hot pain on the top of my head. I refuse to go camping now. ick ick ick.

July 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDanni

Ok not to freak you out more, but I actually taught art lessons to a 17 year old who was still dealing with Lyme disease she'd contracted at age 11. Really, really serious business, she was constantly ill and had to be homeschooled because she was usually too weak to leave the house. So, yes, ticks are common, but that doesn't mean they're not dangerous--and Lyme disease is rare, but serious enough to be super vigilant and super careful.

July 12, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterbetter safe than sorry

Thank you peoples!! You packin up to move back home yet Monica??

July 12, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermama

Ever had head lice Monica? Same deal only smaller! They suck your blood and lay their little babies in your hair. So perhaps the tick is preparing you for the inevitable - when Violet gets nits! It's just horrible the first time your precious child's gets them, but after about the fifth time you get quite blasé -so I'm sure it's the same with ticks - this time next year you'll be ripping the tick out and biting its head off. As for the nits, come back and see me when she, with the beautiful blond curls gets itchy!

July 12, 2011 | Unregistered Commenter(London) Amanda

This isn't even close to over.

*sent from my Blackberry bush outside your house

July 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterState College Tick

Monica, what a great excuse to examine you, every square inch, every day you live in Pa. Serge is missing out if he didn't insist on checking you for ticks every evening. You would get tired of it, I'm sure, after a few times, but, heck, any excuse to get the lady nekked and observe at close range with both eyes and hands. Ah, I'm heading back to Georgia from SLC. Thanks. I'll use that one as long as she will let me.

July 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSouthernMan

Call an eco-friendly exterminator to spray your yard for ticks, so at least you'll have a little bit of a safe(r) zone.

July 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterStarsky

Oh gosh that's horrible. I was glad to hear it was a tick though and not some glandular swelling or tumor thing. Ticks are creepy though, like spiders, and maybe moreso because you don't feel them crawling or digging in, the way you do ants. I understand exactly how you felt but you should really not toss them out the window, though because you should try to determine if they are the deer ticks which carry lymes disease. These kind of ticks are tiny and reddish. check em out online. Your dogs will also be needing some kind of tick repellent. If the dogs have picked up any ticks, they will be plumping into grayish-tan shiny balloons and will also freak you out. Maybe have Serge check them...and Violet.

July 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGina

Last summer, when I was about 8 1/2 months pregnant, I found a tick right below the waistband of my panties! It freaked me the hell out. Had I not been checking out my gorgeous, stretch marked self in the mirror before taking a shower, who knows when I would have found it. I couldn't exactly see that area of my body anymore. My husband burned it off with a match, which you are not supposed to do. I called my doctor and wouldn't go into work until the nurses assured me I would be fine, just to watch out for a rash and fever. If either of those developed then I would have something to worry about. Everything was ok, but I don't blame you a bit for crying. Ticks are icky.

July 12, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterjennifer

PS. Not sure if it was the epidemic of head lice or the shag haircut, but I cried for days.

July 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGina

Vaseline smothers them, and they panic and try to back out, but who has that lying around anymore? maybe try some gel type product and tweezers, rather than prying a tick out with your fingers... this way you don't pull him out without his head or leg.

July 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGina

ticks are super gross. you can cry if you want to!

July 12, 2011 | Unregistered Commenteramy

Just remembered, have you heard the Brad Paisley song called "ticks"?

July 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPhancy

Please don't take it lightly. There is a whole website called The Road Back of people who have Lyme Disease and other auto immune diseases that cause serious health problems. Watch that area for a bulls eye rash that forms, and get to a doctor to start antibiotics like Doxycicline or Minocin.

July 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCassie

My friend, TICKS ARE A BIG DEAL. They carry LYME DISEASE, which totally fucking sucks. But, since you are out in the country now, I'm going to let you in on a great secret for keeping ticks at bay. Guinea Hens. They eat the shit of those lousy blood suckers.

Also, whenever you have one, you can't just pull it off. You need to wipe the affected area with baby oil in order to extract their legs properly. Also, next time, heat a needle to get it off.

July 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKaty

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