Ask Exene: What to Do When Your Depressed Roomie Becomes a Liability

Exene Cervenka is a writer, visual artist and punk rock pioneer. The OC transplant is the lead singer for X, the Knitters and Original Sinners. If you want to ask the legendary vocalist for advice, send an email to as******@oc******.com.

I feel as though I'm getting screwed over by my roommate. When we first moved into our little two-bedroom apartment last year, she mentioned that she suffers from some depression, that it can affect her ability to interact with others and that she keeps to herself a lot. I met her through a trusted friend, who has known her for years and vouched for her ability to be a good roommate. But lately, it seems that her depression–which she claimed last month was worsening–is now harming my living standards and my credit. For the past couple of months, she's been horribly late with her portion of the rent, electric bill, cable, you name it. She ducks me constantly, ignores my phone calls and texts, and locks herself in her room with the lights off. I've even considered going to her job to make sure she's still employed. I'm certainly concerned and want to help her out, but I'm also pissed because she seems unwilling to let me into her problems but more than willing to take money out of my wallet to cover her cost of living. Even the friend who introduced us is unsure what to do. I have five months before the lease is up, and I could really use some advice.

Love, Gabby

Maybe your roommate is so depressed she's unable to be responsible for herself, in which case, she needs immediate professional help. Ask her who you can call–family or friends–who could help her.


Ask her if she needs to go to a doctor or hospital. If she says no to that, tell her you are going to call a mental-health professional for advice on where to take her to get treatment. If she is depressed and has a history of it, she has a therapist, psychologist or doctor she can call. If she wants treatment, help her to get it. You started your letter with “I feel as though I'm getting screwed over by my roommate.” Let's address that now. Whose name is on the lease? (I'm guessing yours.) Does she have family? Friends? A job? Are you all she has right now? Has this happened to her other roommates? If she moves out, do you have another person who could move in? You can't afford–nor should you be subjected to–this behavior, no matter where it's coming from. You will be better able to discern the reality of this situation after you have had the conversation I suggested.

Love, Exene

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