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Advice for a complicated roommate situation
February 20, 2014 10:58 AM   Subscribe

Synopsis is that my roommate has severe PTSD and blames my own recent mental health problems for triggering a relapse in her. She has not acknowledged that this has been hard on me, only how it affected her. She wants me to move out, tried to get me evicted by the landlords (who favor her because she is younger), sent 5 hours of harassing texts to me on Monday. Because this is Wisconsin in February, there aren't a lot of apartments available, and I have to be extra picky because of a very fixed income and not having a car/relying on living near things and buslines. This is seriously impacting my own mental health now, worsening my depression/anxiety. I don't want to go through the stress of moving, especially since she didn't offer anything (like paying moving expenses). She feels as though she has done everything for me and I am an ungrateful traitor--there are a couple things I'd like to apologize/take responsibility for, but I don't want to do so if that will be construed as me taking responsibility for her relapse, something I will not do. We are both on the lease, which goes through August. I will answer any questions about details.
posted by mermaidcafe to Human Relations (20 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
What is your question?
posted by JohnnyGunn at 11:16 AM on February 20 [8 favorites]


What should I say to her? If I take responsibility for some things, is that unwise or a good thing to do? Should I move out, move out only with incentives, or stay put?
posted by mermaidcafe at 11:24 AM on February 20


I Don't know your question. As someone with severe PTSD I'm guessing whatever this is most likely rooted way in the past and has little to do with you.
I'm sorry this is putting so much stress on you but probably the best thing you can do is get out unless you have plans to continue a relationship with her. If you do the strategy changes.
posted by AlexiaSky at 11:24 AM on February 20 [1 favorite]


I don't have plans to continue a relationship, no. I posted my questions in a comment above.
posted by mermaidcafe at 11:30 AM on February 20


You're being vague here about what things you feel you should take responsibility for and/or apologize for, so it's hard to know whether you really need to or how that might affect the larger situation.

But I'd say think about the kind of person you want to be, and the kind of ripple effect you want to have on your own life and the people around you. What would make you feel, looking back on this situation years from now, like you were both fair and kind, both to your roommate and to yourself?

If you do end up apologizing or taking responsibility for those things, you can only be as clear and straightforward as you can be, and beyond that you can't control how she construes it.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 11:34 AM on February 20 [2 favorites]


Move to save your sanity. It will be stressful in the short term but probably no more stressful than having to continue to deal with your roommate, especially if the problems are outside your control.
posted by xiaolongbao at 11:34 AM on February 20 [2 favorites]


Here's the thing, if you don't want to move, don't move.

Talk to the landlord yourself and ask him/her what their take of the situation is. You say they "favor" her. What does that mean? She can't evict you, they can, and frankly, if the rent is paid, why would they?

Tell your roommate if she's unhappy, that SHE needs to move out.

Other than that, hunker down. If your rent is paid and you're not doing anything against the lease, they can't force you out.

Tell your roommate, "Your mental health is not my responsibility. I have my own fragile mental health to deal with. If you are unhappy, you need to figure out a way to deal with it, because I don't plan on moving out. When the lease is over in August, I'll see about getting my own place, but I don't have the money, time or inclination to deal with your whim in February."

This is HER problem, not yours.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:34 AM on February 20 [22 favorites]


I apologize for being vague. She is lumping all of her dissatisfactions about me together, llike how she has also had to feed my cat when I went into the hospital a few times, and I think she feels because she's done things for me, I should be more considersate of her (and therefore move out). There's stuff she blames me for that really comes down to communication issues,like instead of asking me to clean x or y, she would do it and then feel put upon,and now she's bringing that stuff up. I want to say yes, I appreciate you feeding my cat and maybe even "I'm sorry you didn't feel you could ask me to do x and y and that left you feeling put upon."
posted by mermaidcafe at 11:40 AM on February 20


Why are you so adamant about refusing to take responsibility for her relapse? It's entirely possible you did trigger it, especially if you forced her to be solely responsible for your stuff for a while. Responsibility can be a trigger, depending on whether it's combat or noncombat PTSD.

But more seriously, accepting responsibility for a relapse has no legal standing whatsoever. She can't take you to court and sue you for it.
posted by corb at 11:46 AM on February 20 [3 favorites]


1. Be polite and the best roommate you can be.
2. Take care of YOUR responsibilities in the house/apartment, don't ask her to take care of things for you.
3. Stay where you are while you look for a new place that fits your needs.
4. Determine if you can move prior to the end of the lease with no penalty.
4. Then move.

In the meantime, don't engage with her about this, I suspect it's a no-win situation for you if you do.
posted by HuronBob at 11:49 AM on February 20 [11 favorites]


you have as much right to be there as she does, you're on the lease until august. stand your ground.

save those texts. if she texted you for five hours in one day, she's a nutbag, and this evidence will demonstrate this fact when the time comes. get her to text you some more, because the more she does, the more you own her with the potential of revealing them.
posted by bruce at 11:52 AM on February 20 [1 favorite]


Don't let her push you out into some disastrous situation.

Looking at your past questions, it seems like you have had some really rough stuff happen recently. If the stress of dealing with your emergencies did in fact push her back into a PTSD episode, that is definitely a very tragic and upsetting thing for her, but you did not choose the hospitalization and other crises. It seems very sad but not anyone's fault - not everything is someone's fault. And you certainly don't deserve to be evicted and forced into an inferior living situation (which itself may have bad effects on your own health and financial security).

It seems like moving would be good - in the longer term, when you can find a good place. Do you think your housemate would feel better if she knew that you were definitely working on moving out?

I would not get into any question of fault, though, especially about cleaning and passive-aggression. People are not the sum of their mental illnesses; housemate stuff happens to everyone, especially over chores, and IME (of some very frustrating housemate situations!) it's generally more of a personality conflict and a mutual fault situation than one person being terrible. (Unless there's exaggerated filth and irresponsibility, of course, but a little bit of conflict over cleaning - as frustrating as it is, and I know because I am the tidy one in my house - is just conflict, not a sign of personal moral failings.)
posted by Frowner at 11:55 AM on February 20 [8 favorites]


I think there is often value in letting the other person know she's being heard. It's impossible to say how your roommate will react, but if you do talk to her, be very very careful not to put her on the defensive. Saying something like "I'm sorry you didn't feel you could ask me to do x and y and that left you feeling put upon." can be inflammatory because it implies that it's her responsibility to ask you to do your own chores, and it puts the blame on her for how she's feeling. You can either take ownership of the fact that you didn't do x and y or you can let it alone, but if it's something you were responsible for and you dropped the ball, trying to turn that around on her will only make her more upset about it.
posted by payoto at 11:55 AM on February 20 [3 favorites]


"I appreciate you feeding my cat" would be a great thing to say.

I would tell the roommate, "you've done more than your share of cleaning x and y so far. Thank you for that. I will take responsibility for cleaning x and y myself [insert reasonable time period such as daily or weekly] until I move out."

I would also start looking for a place, and tell her now that you are looking. You can't promise to find a place, but you can promise to look.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 12:06 PM on February 20 [1 favorite]


roommate has severe PTSD and blames my own recent mental health problems for triggering a relapse in her. You aren't responsible for her mental health unless you have bullied or gaslighted Roomie. Express sympathy and concern, but don't take responsibility.
She has not acknowledged that this has been hard on me, only how it affected her. People do that.
She wants me to move out, tried to get me evicted by the landlords... We are both on the lease, which goes through August. You have a lease. Unless you behave rather badly, you get to live there until the lease ends. I used to be a landlord; when tenants came to complain, I told them it was their job to work out issues. I ran interference occasionally, but that's not really the landlord's job.
sent 5 hours of harassing texts to me on Monday. You can document this by saving the texts. It may be harassment. But you're far better off not escalating so, for now, ignore them.
This is seriously impacting my own mental health now, worsening my depression/anxiety. I don't want to go through the stress of moving, especially since she didn't offer anything (like paying moving expenses). Make dealing with *your own* mental health your priority. If she wants to break the lease, she needs to work out a better solution. But if it's miserable for you, it's not worth fighting the battle. If you decide to leave, get a signed agreement with her and the landlord, so you're not held liable for the rent.
She feels as though she has done everything for me and I am an ungrateful traitor--there are a couple things I'd like to apologize/take responsibility for, but I don't want to do so if that will be construed as me taking responsibility for her relapse, something I will not do. She has feelings. They're valid and you should listen respectfully, then take appropriate action based on your own judgement. Bentobox's comment is useful.

What should I say to her? If I take responsibility for some things, is that unwise or a good thing to do? Should I move out, move out only with incentives, or stay put? You should express concern for her health, offer to resolve issues of cleaning by clarifying expectations about level of cleanness and who will clean what. You should tell Roomie you're willing to find ways to work things out successfully. Most of all, you should disengage. Back way off, spend less time in common areas, go to the library or the Mall for chunks of most days. Be tidy and polite. Depressed people are irritable and difficult, which is no fun for you or her, but not exactly cause for eviction. She has PTSD and may not be a perfect Roomie. Try to be kind to her, try to keep your depression out of her space, and try to focus your attention someplace else.
posted by theora55 at 12:34 PM on February 20 [1 favorite]


Don't respond, but save all her texts and voice mails. Try to avoid interacting with her as much as possible. Her behavior is a typical technique for trying to get someone to move out of an apartment when there's no real legal precedent to make you move. It happens all the time in San Francisco, for instance.
posted by BabeTheBlueOX at 1:14 PM on February 20


What should I say to her? If I take responsibility for some things, is that unwise or a good thing to do? Should I move out, move out only with incentives, or stay put?

I'm assuming one of your tabs on the browser is metafilter, and the other tabs are searching for apartments...

This is hurting you as well, so you have to move out.

Don't say shit to her. Ignore everything, and try not to have even a bit of contact with her.
posted by hal_c_on at 1:18 PM on February 20


Wow some of the uncharitable responses her are like what. I'm having a bit of fun imagining what the responses would be like if someone had posted the other side of this story...

Don't prod her, don't provoke her(and these are both directed at thoughts of things like "get her to send more texts" "get her to act more out of line so you have evidence" sort of stuff), and just generally leave her alone.

There are definitely elements of passive agression here in the whole "oh, you left something to clean later in the day, i'm going to clean it now and not give you an opportunity to do it without saying anything then be mad at you later" and uh, fuck that shit.

Regardless of whether or not you or i feel it's fair, the easiest way out of these situations usually is to leave.

I understand where you're coming from on not wanting to admit responsibility for anything, because that seems like an escalation of the conflict on some meta-level as etrigan so well describes there. Pretty much, i sympathize with the idea that you'd be opening the door to more harassment and dumping-on if you admitted that, since you would then likely just receive a torrent of "you fuck everything up and everything is your fault and you need to leave now. you even admitted it!".

The thing is, that's no win, but so is where you are now since you're being harassed and dumped on as it is. The choices are essentially bunker down in your room and cease any interaction with her until the lease ends, or leave.

Personally, i would move out even if i had to break the lease. even if i had to pay to break the lease. Even if the fact that i had limited funds meant i had to like, sell some of my stuff at a loss on craigslist/ebay to pay. Having been in multiple bullshit housing and roommate situations my only regrets at this point are staying.

Something worth noting, and part of the reason you need to talk to the landlord directly and now is that a lot of times landlords wont remove one tenant from the lease if the other tenant wouldn't qualify to rent the apartment on their own income wise. This in and of itself might seem like an inescapable hole, but it may or may not be the case. If it is though, you're stuck in the ethically questionable realm of having to find a replacement roommate to live with someone who should really live alone or with family or something since they obviously can't deal with having a roommate.

One step at a time though. Find out what you'd have to do to break the lease or get removed, find a new place, and get out. Even if you have to take a reduction in space or quality of the place to stay in the area you need to, what you need to do is leave whether it's "fair" or not. After all, it's not like she's going to leave.
posted by emptythought at 1:56 PM on February 20


I know you are in a difficult place yourself, but last month's suicide attempt in your shared apartment was traumatizing to your roommate as I am sure you understand. I don't think you can rescue this relationship as there is so little good-will or positive memories for either of you to draw on during your mutual healing. You also don't have the reserves to help your roommate with her crisis, even though you appreciate her past support of you - and she has clearly indicated she will not give you the support you want in future, as is her right.

Your energy would be better spent on finding a healthy place to live for yourself; you might want to ask your care providers if there is any subsidised or supportive housing available to you. Do you have any family that can take you in for a while so you can recover your equilibrium? You've taken great studies in building up a support network; part of that though is recognising people/situations that are not helpful, and making positive, proactive choices for good health. Peace.
posted by saucysault at 2:27 PM on February 20 [9 favorites]


Don't get into protracted and emotional conversation with her about who did what when and how much concern you've demonstrated toward one another.

Be very matter of fact and discuss logistics only. Keep all texts and keep notes about agreements and/or arrangements that you two agree to.

The first call should be to your landlords to find out whether you can be allowed out of the lease with no penalty before the end of the term. Find out what kind of formal notice they require (how many days, whether it has to be a mailed or if email is ok). Make sure that you have a new apartment before you formally end your lease. Find out whether they will refund your deposit before the end of the lease term.

Get the support you need and continue with healing. Maybe you have friend/family/counselors who can help you? Keep going to your appointments.

You are not responsible for her PTSD. She is responsible for her own care. You can be compassionate, but don't take responsibility for her experience. It sounds like this has been exceptionally challenging and difficult for both of you, but it's not a situation where one person has to accept blame.

Good luck to you.
posted by quince at 2:54 PM on February 20 [1 favorite]


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