5 Tips For Dealing With A Mentally Ill Roommate
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Politics and Activism

5 Tips For Dealing With A Mentally Ill Roommate

"Mental illness can make day-to-day interactions and tasks much more difficult than they normally would be."

5 Tips For Dealing With A Mentally Ill Roommate

As the start of the fall semester approaches, I often reflect on the many nightmare roommate stories I've heard during my time at college. These stories often feature people that have been construed by the person relaying the story to be as mean, inconsiderate or even sadistic as possible. While I'm sure my friends' experiences were just as horrible as they sound, sometimes my heart goes out to the nightmare roommates themselves. More often than not, the incidents my friends describe to me are symptoms of a mental illness. Most mentally ill people are perfectly nice, high-functioning and pleasant to be around. You may not even know they have a mental illness until they tell you. However, roommates see a side of one another that no one else sees, and sometimes that side can be... unfavorable. If your roommate shares with you that they have, say, borderline personality disorder, or generalized anxiety, there is no need to panic! But if they start to show symptoms that affect you by proximity, you can do your part to maintain a healthy and peaceful living space by following these tips:

1. Remember that their mental illness is an explanation, not an excuse.

Mental illness can make day-to-day interactions and tasks much more difficult than they normally would be. However, this does not mean that individuals with mental illness should get a free pass to forgo their responsibilities. If your roommate forgot to wash their dishes, they still have to wash them. They may need a few gentle reminders, but keep in mind that you are under no obligation to pick up their slack. Patience is everything, but it only goes so far. If you've asked them three times to vacuum the living room but the carpet's still covered in Cheeto dust, try putting the vacuum cleaner next to the mess and leaving them a note where they'll see it – the bathroom door and the fridge are my go-to spots!

2. Spend some time with them.

Many mental illnesses can lead a person to isolate themselves and alienate their friends. This can make for some pretty lonely evenings. If you're not still annoyed with them over the Cheeto dust, consider inviting them to tag along on your weekend plans! Use discretion – if you've noticed they've been having a bad week, they may not feel up to it. In that case, go for something a little more low-key. If it's nice outside, you could go for a walk together to get your blood flowing and soak up a little Vitamin D. Even just kicking back with some hot tea and their favorite flick will beat watching an entire season of The Office alone.

3. Communicate.

Make sure to keep things open and honest. If you're worried for your roommate's safety, or even if they just keep wiping their damn Cheeto fingers on everything, you need to speak up. Keeping your feelings to yourself will just enable their problematic behavior to continue. However, you may find yourself in a situation where you need to pick your battles. If you come home to an empty apartment, but a kitchen cabinet and the front door are wide open, the cabinet can probably be left out of that discussion.

4. Help out when you can.

Even a person with permanently bright orange nail beds deserves to be treated with kindness and compassion. You don't have to be fake-nice to them, but being mindful of their illness and helping them at your convenience is never a bad idea. Maybe offer to do their laundry when you're already doing your own, or bring them a glass of water and tissues if you hear them crying. Even just picking up their favorite candy while grocery shopping is a nice gesture that they'll be hard-pressed to forget.

5. Take care of yourself.

You don't have to love your roommate, or even like them, but you do have to live with them – to a point. If you're in a living situation in which you often feel uncomfortable or unsafe, you are fully justified in removing yourself from that situation. Remember – you don't owe them an explanation. Your own personal safety and mental health need to take priority. No matter how much you may want to help your roommate, you cannot let their illness take you down with them. Often, separation can preserve a friendship between roommates that were on the outs. At the time, they may not understand why you're leaving, but eventually they will come to realize that you did what was best for you.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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