I have been living with a friend for 4 years now. After the first 3 months she had a huge manic episode, was hospitalized and was diagnosed with Bipolar I with psychotic tendencies. When she got out she moved back in and since then has been in and out of the hospital several more times. It’s September and she’s in her major depression phase. She doesn’t shower or wear deodorant and my couch now smells like a homeless person, it’s awful. I told her gently that I can smell her when she’s not showered, but that has no effect. She hasn’t paid rent in 3 months and we don’t even ask her to pitch in for the utilities anymore. Her parents pay her rent but they are having financial problems, but she has a job for 10 hrs a week. I feel like the only way I can salvage our friendship is if she moves out. I want to know what is a good time limit to her moving out 60 days or 4 months? What happens if the date comes close and she has taken no action to move out? I feel like I might be sounding a bit harsh but I really can’t handle the situation anymore. Any advice on how to handle this effectively and passionately would be most appreciated!
It sounds like you’ve been a wonderful and extremely patient friend. I don’t think you’re sounding harsh. It’s obvious that it’s getting to the breaking point. My guess is that you’re correct; she can make it on her own. It’s easy to fall into a dependant relationship, especially when depressed. Moving out and becoming less dependent may boost her self-confidence and force her to get out of her depressive, self-defeating patterns. Mental illness has a way for shattering self-confidence. Recovery is a process, and part of that process is learning to take care of oneself. Moving out may be her first step. What’s important is that you approach the subject kindly and in a non-threatening way. I think it’s a great idea to go with her to a session with her doctor. Tell them both what you have told me. Broaching the subject with her via her doctor may soften the blow and make it easier for her to accept. You might want to contact the doctor prior to the appointment and let him or her know why you are coming.
If her doctor is not helpful—and sometimes they’re not—I’d suggest that you and your boyfriend approach her as a united front. You should be friendly, but firm. It won’t be easy, but this is necessary for you and for her.
I’m betting there are mental health care agencies in your area that can help her with housing. In my area, we have an agency called Transitional Living Services (TLS) which will work with an individual to find housing. They will subsidize the move, furnish the apartment, and help pay the rent until the person is recovered and can live independently. This may be something her doctor can help you with. She may need to be in a group home or assisted living at first and then move on to independent living. In this way you are showing her how much you care and are not just throwing her out on the streets. There can be a long waiting list for these services, however. You may need to set your move-out date based on the availability of housing.
If these services are not available or if it’s something that she won’t pursue, then you may need to set a firm move out date and stick to it. I think sixty days is very reasonable. I’d suggest you do this in writing. If she fails to take action then you should be prepared to remove her belongings, pay for a taxi to the nearest woman’s shelter, and change the locks. Now that sounds harsh! But sometimes it’s what’s needed to force people to begin to help themselves. If her name is not on the lease and you give her plenty of notice, you are well within your legal and moral rights. No one should have to live with someone who’s not paying rent and encamped on their couch—especially if they’re soaking that couch with homeless-person aroma. I wish all of you the very best.