My Upstairs Neighbor: Stressed or Disturbed?

A new neighbor moved into our building just before New Year’s.   She’s divorced, half Italian and half Portuguese, with a cat and a 10 year old daughter who lives with her father.  And a broken foot.  She was taken away in an ambulance on Jan. 2 and came back with a big cast on her right foot.

Let’s face it, it’s hard to get around with a foot cast when you live upstairs and when the snow doesn’t seem to stop.   C had no phone or internet yet, since Comcast hadn’t arrived yet.  So I found myself offering to help with little things.  On the first day we emerged after the 2+ feet of snow, I took her to Walmart to get some groceries, then visited her in her apartment, met the cat, helped out a bit.

She was very emotional and demonstrative, which I attributed to her Italian/Portuguese family.  But things started to emerge that didn’t make a lot of sense and my radar was up, especially when she went back to the hospital the following week after a visit from the police & ambulance.   She had the cast redone but another neighbor and I were wondering about the loud arguing we’d heard before and then while the cops were there.

I’ve been the single woman physically limited because of surgery and knew what it was like to depend on friends and neighbors to help with things.  As a new resident, she really didn’t know anyone here – and the mounds of snow everywhere made it difficult for people to come visit.  So I picked up some groceries, came up to visit, even gave her some extra chili when my pot had enough for everyone.

But I was noticing that when she was emotional, in addition to being loud and over the top, her voice was slurring and I thought I smelled alcohol.  She talked about me as this wonderful friend who was helping her so much.  I began to resent her wanting to spend so much time – I really do relish my privacy and quiet time.  And I felt uncomfortable listening to her tell me about her family.  Every story was more over the top than the last, and she would cry at the drop of a hat.

I don’t want to enable someone in behaving in self-destructive ways.  And that’s the fine line for me:  what is helping someone who’s down, and what is enabling?

I hit my limit today.  I’d gone up in the morning to feed her cat while she was with her family (her uncle is dying of leukemia), and this evening I got a call from a friend of hers that I met the other day, asking if I could come up and help comfort C.  My first reaction was to roll my eyes and wonder was up with her NOW.  When I got there, she was dressed in a satin sleep shirt, and was bewailing how no one in her family loved her, how she couldn’t trust anyone, how much she hated the cast, that she’d moved here for a fresh start and everything was horrible, etc.

Her friend met my eyes, and we both clearly knew this wasn’t good.  She was also glaring at us to not call the police and send her to the hospital – which is exactly where I thought she needed to be.  He got out in the hall and called 911, and she followed him out crying, “please don’t leave me.” When she figured out he had called them, she threw us out.  I was happy to go, even though I felt slightly guilty for not staying to try to help.  But I knew it was beyond me and I didn’t want to get sucked into something I couldn’t handle.

When the cops came, I met them at the door and explained what had happened before they went up to her apartment, and when they left, they told me that she was going to bed and in their evaluation, she didn’t need to go to the hospital.  That she clearly had problems but we all do.

I half expected her to come down and bang on my door yelling at me, but I guess she really did go to sleep.  Or is ignoring me.  I hope she gets some help and, selfishly, that I can have some peace.