I knew that I was entering a toxic living situation, but did not know what to do about it. I was in a similar situation last time I had a roommate. I had two part-time temp jobs and had to get out of my mold-ridden apartment. A woman I used to hang out with was losing the house that she rented because the owner was putting it up for sale, so we both needed a place to live at the same time. I knew better, but I had very little income, a lot of bills, and nowhere to go. I used to hang out with this woman a few times a week, but I’m reluctant to call her a friend. She was very bossy about where we would go and what we would do and she had a very obvious drinking problem. We would make plans to go to a concert or a movie, and she would invariably say “Let’s have a couple of drinks first.” Then once she had “a couple of drinks” she wouldn’t feel like doing what we had originally planned, and she would sit and have at least eight more drinks (no exaggeration) and argue with people or act like an idiot. I have no idea why I put up with that nearly every weekend for almost two years. We had been friends back in college, but then lost touch for several years then started hanging out again. She had a steady (but low-income) job, and with our incomes combined we could afford a 2-bedroom apartment in the small town we lived in at the time. We rented the top floor of a small house that had been divided into three apartments. I knew it was a bad idea, but I really did not know what to do. The roommate I had before that had moved to Seattle and I was stuck in a small town with no steady income.
We made a deal before we looked at the new apartment — we didn’t have to make a decision right away. If we liked it, then we’d take it, and if we didn’t like it, we had other places to look at. Unfortunately, she liked it and I hated it. I can look back on many times in my life where I needed to be more assertive, and this was one of those times. I thought the apartment was too small for the price and just weird. It was painted strangely and the staircase that led up to our unit was obviously thrown together as an afterthought once the house had been turned into apartments. The staircase was tall, steep, visibly lopsided, and it looked dangerous. Once I saw the place, I was fully prepared to just make some noncommittal comments like “Oh, we’ll get back to you, we have some more places to look at” but the ex-roomie liked it and wanted to take it right away. And because that’s what she wanted, that’s what we did. She was always more willing to fight, and I was always more willing to step back to avoid a fight.
I lived there for six months, and in that time we had exactly one day that the hot water worked. It wasn’t even the whole day, but I was able to enjoy a warmish shower for maybe 10 minutes. I complained about the lack of hot water to the landlord a lot, but nothing was done. The basement of the house served as a laundry room, and often it was flooded at least ankle-high. The landlord wouldn’t do anything about that either. The basement was always trashed, but it wasn’t clear who was supposed to maintain it. We had messy neighbors who would just throw trash in there and no one cleaned it up. Garbage would float in the floodwater. I avoided bathing as much as possible because the shower water was ice-cold. We had to use a landromat because of the flooding. Sometimes, when it wasn’t flooded that badly, I would just do my laundry in the basement, anyway.
My drunk roommate lost her job very shortly after we moved in together. That’s when it got really bad. Around the same time, I got a full-time job just outside Seattle. It didn’t pay much, and I had to drive over 50 miles one way to get there. It was the worst job I have ever had (which is saying a lot) and I was under extreme stress every day. Every day I would just get into my car and scream. If I was lucky, my roommate wouldn’t stagger home drunk and coked-up until I was just leaving for work (or after I had gone for the day). When I was less lucky, she would stagger home drunk and coked-up with several other drunk, coked-up people while I was trying to sleep or just relax by myself in the living room after being yelled at and publicly humiliated all day. There were often creepy strangers milling around our place when I got up in the morning. After dealing with an extremely hostile work environment, living like that wore on my sanity. I still hung out with the roommate on occasion, but she got me into a couple of dangerous situations and I moved out and never spoke to her again. I’ve seen her a couple of times randomly. She looks sick and awful and I don’t feel sorry for her. She’s 32 but could pass for almost 50.
While my current situation isn’t nearly that bad, there are some big problems. I was very nervous about staying with this particular friend because she is such a negative person. She has an ability to take everyday situations and turn them info full-on disasters. Even completely neutral situations that have nothing to do with her somehow become huge crises in her world. I’m beyond thankful that she’s offered to let me stay here, but I just knew I’d spend the whole time walking on broken eggshells.
Weeks ago she asked me where I wanted to sleep when I stay with her. I told her that I just wanted to sleep wherever it was convenient for her and I wouldn’t interfere with her daily routine.
“Oh, it’s your house. I’ll sleep anywhere! Feel free to just boss me around tell me where to put my stuff. I’m not picky.” I laughed, and said it in the tone I use when I’m telling a funny story or making a joke.
Two hours later she called me sobbing because she thought that when I said “boss me around” that I had been calling her bossy.
“Is that what you really think of me?!”
I had said it so casually that I didn’t even remember that I had used those words, and I would have used the same words with anyone else I considered a friend. This is the level of sensitivity I’m dealing with.
I thought that perhaps things might change a bit because a week or two ago, one of her best friends “broke up” with her because of her negative attitude. She asked me to give her honest feedback about her personality and actions. I did, though reluctantly. I named a few occasions where she has shot herself in the foot by being so negative. I also reminded her of another incident –when I lost my keys last June and was stranded and freaked out at 4am, she was angry that I did not call her. She yelled at me over the phone and said “Obviously you don’t think of me as a good enough friend.” I was the one who had had the bad experience, but she was the one who got personally offended. It is textbook emotional manipulation. If I had called her, she would have moaned and groaned all week about how I threw off her sleep schedule. Also, I didn’t call anyone, so it’s not like I called everyone except her. It was a very strange argument, and she actually cried and turned it into her own problem when it didn’t affect her at all. The goal of all of this is to inspire guilt or possibly pity.
I don’t respond well to such theatrics, if I respond at all. The new roomie keeps starting drama, in particular with my cat. She already has a cat, so I don’t understand it. I don’t even want to write about it because it is so incredibly stupid that it hurts to think about. She has said things to me that no sane person would ever say ever. She locks my cat in the freezing basement, then gets mad at me when my cat meows at the door. The obvious solution would be to not lock my cat in the freezing basement, which only became a factor long after she offered me a place here. I don’t even want to get into what she says will happen if she doesn’t lock the cat in the basement, or worse –what she says will happen if the cat doesn’t quit meowing. It’s too stupid to document. I said in my last post that she was worried about the neighbors complaining if the cats fought. That is a true but much less dramatic account of what she actually said. She thinks the letting my cat in will trigger an apocalypse and her life and livelihood will be in danger. I wish I were kidding.
My mother used to do similar things, but only after she had brain damage. That’s probably part of why this makes me so angry at her irrational behavior. My mother’s brain-damaged guilt trips wore me down physically and mentally. I was young and trying to establish my own life, but I got sucked into my mother’s illnesses and divorce on top of her excessive dramatics and manipulative behavior. My new roomie is paranoid about things that will never happen and every day some new drama comes into being. I can’t stand illogical behavior. I found another place to stay, but they don’t take cats. Dogs, yes; cats, no. Every dog I’ve ever known has caused way more damage to their home than my cat, so I don’t get it. Heck, I cause more damage to my home than my cat is likely to. Also, she’s declawed (not my choice, my parents declawed her as soon as I went away to college and wasn’t around to protest). I’ve started the Pet Travel Scheme for my cat and don’t want to leave her anywhere else for a while because I need access to her so I can get her to her vet appointments at the appropriate times.
My cat has actually broken out of the basement a few times, and the results were as uneventful as any sane person would expect. The two cats saw each other, but didn’t fight. Because I’m (generally) respectful, I put my cat back in the freezing basement. She sleeps on top of me every night, and I think it was upsetting to her that I was upstairs sleeping on the sofa. I got a little air mattress from someone on Craigslist so I’ll sleep on that. It’s still very cold down there, even with the space heater.
I’ve given up my car, so I’m going to be stuck here a lot. Also, it’s very likely that I have gout, which would explain my freaky joint pain. The doctor ordered blood tests and X-rays because something was visibly (and painfully) affecting the joint on one of my toes. More news about that on Monday.