My friend and roommate is driving me crazy, and it makes me feel like a bad person!
November 11, 2011 3:54 PM Subscribe
How can I help my very depressed roommate/old friend without being dragged down into her vortex of drama?
posted by andhowever to human relations (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
About two months ago I moved in to an apartment with an old college friend (a third woman lives with us). It's not going very well and I don't know what to do.
Some background: My roommate (I'll call her Sally) is one of my oldest friends. We met just before freshman year of college and became very close. We drifted apart a little bit in the latter half of college, mostly due to some very scary personal stuff going on in my life.
We reconnected immediately after college and decided to live together when my lease expired. It's now about a year and a half after graduation and our lives have diverged considerably.
Me: Chose not to go to grad school, was planning on drifting for a while. That didn't happen. I lucked into a really great job doing what I love, have met a lot of really great friends, and have a really great boyfriend. With some ups and downs, am doing well.
Her: Chose to go to grad school at the same university where we did our undergrad, in a field she's not exactly sure she wants to be in. When she graduates this May, she's looking at another stressful SOMETHING, whether it be applications to another grad program or trying to find some kind of paid job in her (somewhat esoteric) field. She and her boyfriend broke up earlier this year in painful circumstances but remain in a dramatic on/off relationship. She has few friends remaining in town.
In short (too late), she's not doing so hot, and I am relatively warm. Most of this is down to different choices we've made in the past year that might end up with different consequences for us further down the line. It's always awkward to experience this kind of inequality in a friendship, but that's not all.
I recognize that she is depressed, and that much of what is making her depressed is beyond her control. But what I find harder to excuse is her behavior in dealing with her depression.
She has become very anxious and adopted a very little-girly attitude, often saying things like "I don't get it, I just don't get it." It grates on me because I know her to be a very intelligent woman. She is EXTRAORDINARILY negative about basically everything (a recent conversation saw her complaining about the quality of bowls we have in our house). She talks a lot about wanting more friends but refuses to do anything that would help her make them, like go on OkCupid or go out to the bar. She often talks about things she wants to do but will never organize or take an active role in spearheading them. (For example, she will wistfully say 'We never go out anymore. . .' on a Friday night at 9:30 PM, when I've either already made plans or have put on my pajama pants. But she would never, say, ask me on Wednesday to hit the bar with her on Friday.)
This has been going on for a long time. At first I thought it was just a rough patch, but now I'm seriously concerned both about her and about her friendship. I've done everythign I can think of: took her out, did active things with her, introduced her to some of my friends, encouraged her to seek therapy, told her I would go to an Al-Anon meeting with her (her ex/boyfriend struggles with alcoholism), cried with her late at night, talked to her frankly about my concerns, etc. I respond with enthusiasm when she (rarely) invites me to things and invite her to things at a reasonable rate. Because we live together, she sees first hand that I am a very busy person at the moment, but because we live together, I think we both feel we should be closer friends than we would be otherwise.
I'm not saying I've been a perfect friend. I've had a lot on my plate, inlcuding starting a new career and a new relationship while in recovery from aforementioned (remember that?) scary personal drama. As a person and a friend, I am easily overwhelmed by emotion and don't hide my feelings very well at all, which makes me sure that Sally knows I feel very pained and awkward around her. I am at the end of my rope with this and feel myself withdrawing from her because being around her makes me feel so stressed and unhappy. I really want to be a good friend to Sally, but I feel like the person I loved is totally subsumed under this woman I would have trouble liking or respecting if I met her now. But also, I have to maintain a cordial roommate relationship with her!
The other wrinkle that makes this particularly painful was that when I was going through aforementioned scary personal drama, my very good friend withdrew from me in a similar way that I feel myself wanting to withdraw from Sally. Although my friendship with this person and my friendship with Sally are very different in terms of intensity and commitment (the former was much greater), I know how much it hurts to be on the other side and I am very afraid and ashamed of myself that I see myself doing it. It may be normal to grow apart from friends, but I have to think there's a good way and a bad way of doing it.
tl; dr version: How can I maintain some sort relationship with a roommate and friend who is turning into an unpleasant person?