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Mentally ill housemate

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notrealname

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Ok...this is coming from someone with a mental illness herself, just to clarify.

So I agreed that a friend could move in as a lodger. It seemed like a great idea at the time, but I was in a depressive episode and was basically thinking about how I couldn't be arsed to get a lodger and sort all that stuff out and she was looking for a place to live...it seemed to solve the problem of my apathy....etc.

Then about a week later I started to regret that decision because I wondered whether we would just stress each other out. She also has MH difficulties but different from mine. She's one of those people who needs to be around other people at all times or she becomes stressed out. I am one of those people to whom it is absolutely essential that I have several hours a day completely alone or I get stressed out. I don't think it's just introversion/extroversion because we're both extreme in these ways. In addition, in the past she has become drunk/helpless/very vulnerable under stress and I do not feel I can care for her. I will need her to be completely independent.

I just explained to her before she moved in that I am not a social person (she knows this anyway) and that I need a lot of time alone/in the quiet. We talked about it, I felt she had understood and was happy with that etc. I was also sure she seemed more stable before she moved in than she has been in the past, I hadn't seen her seeming very vulnerable/helpless for quite a while and she is in treatment so I felt it was more under control.

But yeah so I come home today feeling fried because I haven't slept well for days and that tends to make me feel unwell. She seems...drunk...all over the place...throwing up, repeating herself, not listening when I say I'm not feeling well and need to chill out...

There definitely need to be some guidelines around here but I'm not sure how to present them? I don't want to hurt her feelings or for her to feel rejected or like I'm telling her how to behave or anything, but if it continues I'm just going to have to chuck her out and then she'll have to go through all this moving again (which is obviously stressful).

I may have made a huge mistake here, but I think perhaps if we talk about it then we can make things agreeable. My concern, really, is in that she is vulnerable - more vulnerable than I thought by the looks of things - and I don't want to be harsh to another person with MH difficulties or to make them feel bad about themselves, and I don't want to be controlling because this girl leaps from one controlling relationship to another and I just don't want to be the next one. I don't know what the best way is to talk to someone who is acting this way out of vulnerability to explain that they will need to make concerted efforts to manage these things if they're going to stay?

I've definitely been in something like the opposite position before - when things have been really awful and I just don't know what to do about it and I feel like I'm the one who needs taking care of etc. and I know how ashamed I felt about everyone - in their own way - kind of telling me "your problems are too stressful for me, you have to get better because you are a problem to me". It's horrible to be told that, even if they don't say it like that. Because we are all, always trying our hardest to be ok and sometimes it's not possible just yet, but we will get there. It isn't nice to feel that you are a problem for someone else. I don't want to do that to her.

Wah!
 
C

Crazy Lady In Stanton

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You sound like a really caring person, and I'm sure you will tell her how you feel in a kind way. But I'm afraid that if you are dealing with an alcoholic, that will not help, especially if the alcoholic is the type that displays out of control behavior. I have an alcoholic aunt that I loved dearly growing up, but by the time I was in my late teens, her behavior was so out of control, and frankly, abusive, that I had to keep her at a distance. I still loved her, and told her so. I just needed to protect myself. You may be in a similar situation. Maybe you can't live together, but you can still be friends. You can love her and support her in other ways.
 
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notrealname

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^Thank you. I don't think she's alcoholic, actually. Her drinking seems to come in phases (and I perhaps naively thought it was a bit of a one-off when it was happening a couple of years ago). She seems more...helpless...I suppose, I don't know how to explain. She spent this evening basically talking about the same thing over and over and over again. She doesn't only do this when drunk, she just kind of talks and talks and talks and doesn't listen to anything (or really listen to the fact I want to have some quiet).

Her problem tonight was that she had told a person she used to live with that she would cook her dinner, but she didn't seem to like this girl, she kept saying this girl was "mental" and complaining about her, then saying again that she had to go make dinner for her! She seemed exhausted and I'm now a bit unsure whether she was drunk or just completely fucked up from exhaustion...it's difficult to tell sometimes, she becomes very uncoordinated and I realised after a while that while she looked/sounded drunk I could smell no alcohol on her at all. So she discussed this situation about making her "friend" (who she appeared to hate?!) dinner over a period of four hours (she fell asleep a few times) and each time all I could say was: "I think if you're not feeling too good then you'd be better off looking after yourself tonight". Literally the only advice I can give.

I don't know, I find it really stressful when she's this stressed out and really not with it. I feel for her, but I am definitely 100% not the person to help. I end up just feeling resentful because I've got my own stuff to deal with and it is kinda...frustrating...it's like listening to a broken record and it's quite distressing to see someone appear that ill. Like I say, I'm now fairly sure she wasn't actually drunk, just so ill she appeared to be, because even if it was something like vodka you can still smell the ethanol and there was not even a hint of alcohol on her breath.

Boo. I'll just try not to think about it for now. I guess it seems more like sometimes what she needs is a carer - like a professional team. I don't think any friend can really provide the level of support she needs at the moment and although I'm certain she can be independent in the future, I don't think she's really got the capacity at the moment to solve anything herself.
 
Boris

Boris

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Seems to me that you both could have a lot to learn from each other... wouldn't it be great if through talking you could understand each other ;)
Like others have said though, living together might not be such a good idea. Try and take responsibility for finding her a suitable home if you can, unless you feel you can carry the weight while things improve (assuming things are improving) :)
 
N

notrealname

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^Thanks.

I've had a think and decided the following things:

1) Aside from contractual matters, I do not want to tell her what to do with any part of her life. If she were a stranger I would not be asking her not to drink so much etc. because I would deem it none of my business, and also I just don't want to get involved. So the same applies to her. Also. EVERYBODY tells her what to do and this DOES NOT help her. If anything, it makes things worse. I don't want to fall into the same trap.
2) I will give time for her to settle down - perhaps this is a phase, I wouldn't be thinking of chucking out a stranger at this point - and see what happens. I will not interfere in anyway. If after a few months it is unliveable I will explain that our lifestyles are too different and give her a month to find alternative accommodation (by herself - sorry, but I'm not her carer and I have no responsibility. I have enough on my plate).
3) I will help her find services if she requires this.

Basically, I've realised that I'm stressing myself out because I don't want to look after her. This will sound cold but I find it difficult to feel any real emotional caring about her welfare. I came home today and the front door was open and she was lying face down asleep on the carpet with bottles of wine in the recycling bin. I didn't feel bad for her, I just resented her. I think it's fairly natural but I'm usually compassionate. I didn't mention it because again - her business - but I did have a word with her about the door.

My decision is that none of her problems are any of my responsibility. I can do literally nothing bar providing compassion and occasional emotional support (i.e. as and when I have the resource to do so). Everything else will have to come through the same means as I went through (i.e.she will have to put the effort in herself to make changes - I have not seen much evidence of her doing this, frankly; and she will need to find additional professional support if she requires it. There are charities in this area that are very good and available to her so she will not need to rely on the NHS).

This calms me. I'm sorry if it sounds cold, but just knowing that I'm not responsible for her makes me feel a lot better. We can still be friends, but I can't be her carer. Besides, I don't know how many times I have said on this forum that everybody has responsibility for themselves/their behaviour regardless of their mental illness (bar psychotic episodes), and if I'm going to apply this rule to myself (which I do), then I will have to apply it to others too.
 
N

notrealname

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It's starting to look like I need to ask her to leave and I'm kinda stressed about it/avoiding it. I feel really bad for her, I feel that it is my fault for agreeing to letting her move in when I knew she had mental health problems, but I guess I didn't realise what it would be like. She hasn't even had time to unpack all her stuff yet - she finished moving on Saturday - and now she's going to have to do it all again, but I can't live with someone like this. It's making me want to avoid the house/her and it can't be good for her, with her particular problems, to be around someone who genuinely doesn't want her around, can it? I'm not good at facing this stuff, I keep hoping if I ignore it it will just go away by itself.

Unless there's another solution? I mean, do I just say that the drinking isn't on? I don't like the idea of controlling her because everyone controls her, you see.

I asked her about what professional services she was seeing and she's supposed to be seeing someone soon but she hasn't sorted it out, and I asked her about using the charities around here and she was just like "yeah..." and seemed non-committal/uninterested, which doesn't really make me feel like she's that committed to getting better right now. I mean it's shit for her, she's had a terrible life, but I can't help with this one.
 
Jaminacaranda

Jaminacaranda

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I get it that you're on a bit of a guilt trip but really, truly, honestly - you cannot be responsible for your flat-mate. I mean if she was your sister or your very bestest long-term friend, I might think differently but she isn't, is she?

You have your own problems to deal with. You have to put your own well-being first. You've obviously tried to help this girl but you're right, you can't really go down the route of compulsion ie. saying 'You must stop drinking' not because that would be morally wrong (because it wouldn't be) but because you know it would be ineffective...yet...would it be? It wouldn't be about 'controlling her'. It might be the last step before actually asking her to leave - having that conversation with her where you say 'I'm sorry, I can't go on like this' and then being truthful - explaining that you see her drinking as out of control and dangerous to both her and yourself - acknowledging her MH problems but saying she must get help for that as soon as possible because at the moment she is proving impossible to live with. Maybe she needs that kick-up-the-arse?
 
N

notrealname

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I guess so. I mean, that would assuage my guilt that I'd given her a chance...but I don't really believe she'll do anything about it. It would just give me the moral superiority wouldn't it? It would just mean I could say to people: Well hey, I gave her a chance. It feels like even giving her that chance would essentially be for me. But maybe I will do it. Perhaps she isn't as incapable as I think she is right now.

I haven't tried to help this girl, by the way. Not for years. I helped her a couple of years ago when she made an attempt on her life (we've known each other 12 years and lived together in shared houses before, but we've never been like best mates or anything), but then soon afterwards I hit a rough spot and found that the help does not go both ways so I have not made myself available for "help" since then. The reason I said she could live with me was because I needed a lodger for money, I was in a depressive state and frankly too lazy to do anything about my spare room, and she offered to take it. I did it out of convenience and because she seemed in a better way than she had been a couple of years ago (she has a public face, as most of us do, so you can't tell how bad things are). I should have thought it through properly, I do know better than this. I've been a bit stupid out of pure laziness. I didn't want to have to actually advertise or do anything about it, and I convinced myself that because she was good to live with years ago she would be now, but I knew really she had gone downhill since then.

I do need to take some responsibility here, though to be fair I did not know it was this bad. I don't know, I'll give it another day to think about exactly what I do. She's too drunk tonight to speak to, she's still flat out on the carpet in the living room. I'll speak to her tomorrow and tell her that as this has happened three times in her last week (started happening before her "first official day" here because it was happening when she was moving stuff in) then there's clearly a problem that makes us incompatible and she'll have to start looking for somewhere new (or drastically change her behaviour but I don't see that happening).
 
Jaminacaranda

Jaminacaranda

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Can't you start a conversation with 'Hey, (insert name) we've been friends a long time and I'm really worried about you...'
 
N

notrealname

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Can't you start a conversation with 'Hey, (insert name) we've been friends a long time and I'm really worried about you...'
Thanks...not to be an arse, but is it still ok if that's a lie? I mean, I'm not worried about her, I'm just irritated with her. I feel absolutely no concern for her welfare. I should probably feel guilty about that, shouldn't I? But I guess it's compassion fatigue. I can remember when I went through a really awful patch years ago that lasted a couple of years and my friend told me basically: "The reason no one cares that you're upset is because you're always upset", which was harsh at the time, but I totally get it. I have run out of care for her. I used to care but I don't anymore.

My guilt is more because I should never have said she could live with me, I feel that I have led her on unfairly. It would probably still be more effective if I said I was worried though, wouldn't it? Just feels weird...but I know you're right, I should probably be worried really and it would be more effective if that's what she heard (and a lot nicer for her).

I guess I must have some concern for her welfare if I don't want to just chuck her out on the street. Maybe I'm just angry right now and I would feel more concern otherwise.
 
Jaminacaranda

Jaminacaranda

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Look, I lived with someone with MH problems and yes, when I first moved in with him I knew about that but being a resourceful and tolerant person (and in love!!) I thought I could cope. It's something I feel I don't dare mention on this forum, but actually, living with someone with MH problems 24/7 is f****** hard and it doesn't matter how much understanding and compassion you have - or whether you have MH problems yourself - it can screw you up and no-one should be blamed for bailing out. So don't feel guilty. At all. If you want to, throw her out. There, I've said it now.
 
N

notrealname

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Thanks. I'm having to work from home today because I couldnt' get out of bed this morning, I felt too depressed and my body hurts from tension. It's not tenable this way, I have too many problems of my own, so I need to chat with her and perhaps all of us (all our friends) could get involved to speak to her and see if she can get somewhere else to live and the right kind of support rather than me trying to deal with this on my own. I guess I feel I need back up and it's difficult not to feel like a traitor without the support of the rest of the group (who, I'm sure, would be better at speaking to her anyway because I am not good with the touchy feely stuff necessarily).

I guess one thing that makes it difficult for me in these situations is that I know I have been incapacitated by MH problems before and haven't been able to fend for myself and in that situation I found that if you can't help yourself then that's it: No one else will help you. I'm not saying that's bad, it's just the way life is, but I can remember how difficult it was and how I snowballed being in that stuck situation where help is not available because you are "too bad", but you are also too ill to be able to sort yourself out. I guess this is the situation she's in and every time I'm in a situ where I have to deliver that message (sorry, but you're too ill and I can't cope), it reminds me of what I went through. But you have to do it anyway, that's just what life's like. I stayed with a boyfriend too long - way, way past after I stopped loving him - for a similar reason: I couldn't bear the thought he would go through the same kind of pain I had and I think somewhere deep down I wanted to disprove the whole thing and show that SOMEONE would always be there even if you can't help yourself right now. But that didn't do me any good.

So I guess with me there's that personal aspect of knowing the pain from the other side and having to deliver it to another. And also, I suppose, the fear that one day perhaps I would return to that place if I lost my independence for some reason and wasn't able to look after myself anymore. I guess it just reminds me of that fear of becoming dependent myself and what would happen to me.

But perhaps I conflate her issues with mine too much. I don't much remember what it was like back then so I don't know if there are really similarities between us. With the ex I realised it wasn't the same situ because I was always trying everything I could in the world to help myself and he tried nothing.
 
Jaminacaranda

Jaminacaranda

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You mention other friends - can you lean on them for support? I only ask because in my experience you can't always rely on friends that way, but if you can - for sure, counsel them and try and get their support.

What you say with the situation with your ex - well of course, any of us who are 'people orientated' and value close relationships would do the same - but you say:

I guess one thing that makes it difficult for me in these situations is that I know I have been incapacitated by MH problems before and haven't been able to fend for myself and in that situation I found that if you can't help yourself then that's it: No one else will help you. I'm not saying that's bad, it's just the way life is, but I can remember how difficult it was and how I snowballed being in that stuck situation where help is not available because you are "too bad", but you are also too ill to be able to sort yourself out.
This still sounds like a 'guilt trip' and c'mon, you can't ever be held responsible for your friend's MH condition/stability. I know you want to help. You're actually a pretty amazing person for trying to, but it doesn't mean you can cure her or solve all her problems. does it?

The man I lived with had Asperger's syndrome, depression, anxiety and an 'unspecified' PD which in retrospect I suspect was ASPD. I tried to love him but you know, that never helped because he just couldn't accept that there was anything 'wrong' or 'abnormal' about him. He thought everyone else was wrong.

The point I'm making is...if your housemate can't accept there's anything wrong or abnormal about the way she thinks/feels/acts there is little that you can do.
 
Mayfair

Mayfair

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I think jamina makes some good points.

Having looked at your posts notrealname, it reminds me of my situation a couple of years ago. Not exactly the same because the issues were slightly different, but I stressed about it for a long while. The bottom line is this. This can't go on, and they have to go. It's not selfish or rude, or malicious... it's just not working and clearly isn't going to.

You have 2 options I think. Do what I did, which wasn't particularly pleasant, which was lie to get rid of them. Or just tell the truth (as much as is needed).

i.e. I'm sorry, it's just not working out, and I need to live by myself again. Then perhaps add something whatever seems easier - maybe one of these or whatever is the truth:

1. I thought it would be a good idea for me to live with someone else, but I don't think it is.
2. This was only intended as temporary, so you need to be looking for something else

Whatever you do, don't get caught in a money discussion btw. They might say 'if it's money I can pay you more', and if you accept this, it will get you deeper into it. Money isn't the case (I assume?), your well being is.

As a lodger they don't have many rights, so you don't have to worry if they bring this up.
 
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N

notrealname

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I'm not worried about the legal situation. I have spoken to her other friends and have spoken to her about her problems now, which I think she really thought I hadn't noticed.

I'm sorry if this sounds cold but there is a slightly misconception here. I'm not trying to help her. I.e. I am not feeling guilty on her behalf, if that makes sense, this is completely self centred. With my ex, yes, I was trying to prevent him from going through what I went through because I couldn't bear to see anyone else suffer in the same way. I felt guilty for staying with him when I didn't love him, and only because I wanted to ensure he was safe, and eventually left. I learned a big lesson with that.

To be honest, what's stressful here is not that she needs my protection. She doesn't. Someone else will pick her up, something will save her, nothing bad will happen. The problem is more that I haven't got the resources right now (mentally) to get another lodger in, I can barely get out of bed, and it's been so stressful moving her in (just because that's always stressful) and she has been here literally less than a week so I would have to go through it all again with her moving out, and then again with someone else moving in. I understand what you're all getting at, but I think the problem is different. I'm essentially just unable to face the music. It's like part of me wants to ignore it all so I don't have to do anything right now because I'm so tired and I just want a rest.

That's basically the issue. I do understand what you're all getting at and totally agree, but I should really highlight that I'm not offering any help to this girl at all. I'm more just unable to face the music and unable to face confrontations right now. I'm just being weak. I will sort it out, I hope, instead of just going to bed and ignoring it!!!

The other side of course is that I am getting secondary gains here. I'm not well myself and I didn't really want to try and hide that around a stranger (not comfortable with a stranger knowing my business). With such an old friend I can be myself and there are certain benefits...(frankly, she mothers me - I know, I know...)

I know I'm being irresponsible etc and I will regret it if I don't move her out. I'm well aware. I just need a bit of time.
 
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