Roommate male guest trigger PTSD panic attack

Discussion in 'Help Me! I Need to Talk to Someone.' started by BelovedDreamer, Jun 2, 2013.

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  1. BelovedDreamer

    BelovedDreamer Well-Known Member

    This might sound really idiotic, but I'm having a panic attack about my roommate having a male guest, possibly a boyfriend, sleep over without giving me a heads up. I have PTSD, from childhood trauma, which she knows. We were friends from college before we decided to be flatmates. She texted me last night to say her female friend was really drunk and might need to crash the night, and was that okay, and I of course was like sure. This morning I woke up and her door fell open as I was walking past and I realized there was a guy sleeping in her bed. We'd interacted briefly the night before when I got home and she came out of her room to get some water, and she didn't say anything about the fact that someone else had ended up staying in the house. Generally I wouldn't care, she pays half the rent, she can have whomever she wants over, but as neither of us has had anything in the way of a dating life in the last few years it, we've never talked about any sort of house rules. Like a tie or something on the door. I know I probably don't have any right to be upset, but my panic disorder/ptsd means that I sometimes have trouble around strange men, and when I realized there was a man in the apartment I felt uncomfortable because if I had realized I wouldn't have been walking around in shrunken-up shorts with no bra on. I've roomed with people in relationships before --like my roommate in college had a boyfriend who spent weekends in the room we shared, and I had no problem with it. She introduced us and I also knew that there might be a guy around unexpectedly, so I never got triggered. My anxiety issues have gotten worse since then, but just being aware that I might want to put on less revealing pajamas or make sure my door was properly closed when I changed was nice to know. What with us being two female roommates and long-time friends both my roommate and I have gotten sort of casual about whether we bother to close our doors all the way while changing or whether we're walking around in sports bras and shorts because it's hot out. I know from college that my roommate is really secretive about her dating life. She was in a couple of serious relationships while we were in college, but she hid them from all of her friends. I happened to find out one day when I knocked on her door looking for her when she happened to have her boyfriend over. She would sneak them up the back stairs and smuggle them into her room like they were contraband. She said she liked to keep the different parts of her life compartmentalized. Maybe I should have expected it given her dating weirdness in college, but it never occurred to me that considering we share a small city apartment and we're close friends, that she might try to pull the same weird smuggling trick with someone in our apartment. She's very controlling about who I have over to the house, like even if I am just having my female friend over to stay the night, she wants plenty of notice and acts as though her space is being invaded. Is it really out of bounds of me to feel uncomfortable that she didn't give me a warning knowing what she does about my PTSD? She's seen me have panic attacks and knows that I have these sort of triggers. She's pretty familiar with PTSD (her mother is a therapist, she's had another friend with similar issues before). I feel like a complete idiot but I'm shaking and I feel like vomiting and I also just wish I feel like I could say something to her whenever we next talk about maybe figuring out a "tie on the door" sort of code, but she's very private and hyper-reactive to feedback to the point of taking any sort of attempt on my part to discuss the whole guy in the house head's up idea as personal criticism and refuse to speak to me for who knows how long. Is there any good way to bring this up? Can I bring this up, or am I being unreasonable? I'm a lesbian and if I got into a relationship or had a one night stand I'd give her a heads up just being like, so fyi, I'm seeing this person so they might be around or just text her and be like, fyi I'm bringing someone home for the night so don't be surprised if you bump into a stranger in the house in the morning. I don't know what to do, and if she doesn't acknowledge that she had this guy over and tries to sneak him out and not mention it my PTSD issues may make me feel paranoid about whether she might bring him over again without telling me and I might bump into a strange man in the house on the way to the bathroom in the middle of the night or something, which would trigger the crap out of me. Help. Please be honest and tell me if wanting a heads up or what not is completely ridiculous. Sorry for the ramble, I have trouble thinking straight when I'm fighting a panic attack.
  2. Sadeyes

    Sadeyes Staff Alumni

    You have a right to your feelings but the only transgression I see is that she did not bring over the person she said she was going to...maybe there is something in your relationship as to why she had to hide this...I do think you should talk to her about this...when things are calmer for you...she is not responsible for your reactions to things but should have been honest with you
  3. meaningless-vessel

    meaningless-vessel Well-Known Member

    For one to be secretive but have to know every detail of the other, sounds like controlling behaviours.

    I think you may need to have a conversation she wont like. Be prepared for silence afterwards, but you have a right to know who is in the apartment for your own safety.
  4. Theodora

    Theodora Well-Known Member

    Rules/ agreements spoken or tacit should apply to all those involved. Simple courtesy of letting you know there was a male around just to give you warning not to walk round scantily dressed should apply I think.
  5. BelovedDreamer

    BelovedDreamer Well-Known Member

    Thank you all for your responses. Sadeyes, I didn't feel she had made a transgression, per say. I was just in the middle of a panic attack after feeling vulnerable after realizing a strange man was in my house and I was barely dressed. I am very respectful of her various emotional difficulties. I don't ask much regarding mine, they are my problems and my reactions are no one else's responsibilities. In this case I would like to ask her to in the future do one small thing that would be very helpful to me. For someone with PTSD from childhood sexual assault, this situation isn't just an issue of "you brought home a different friend than you said you were going to", it's a situation in which this could have gone very badly. If I had on the way to the bathroom at night run into a strange man in the hallway in the dark, could easily have been triggered and it could have turned into a very painful and embarrassing experience for all involved. I have no issue with her having men in the house. She deserves a full and happy social life, but she moved in knowing that I had panic attacks/PTSD with triggers, just as I moved in knowing that she has issues that we'd have to work around, and all I'm asking for is a tie on the door. A tie on the door or some other agreed upon signal meaning 'I've got someone over for the night', something which I'm given to understand that even without PTSD complicating things is a common roommate agreement. Good for both people. Good for me so I don't walk around the house underdressed in 90 degree weather not realizing that there's a stranger in the house and good for her so that she doesn't get interrupted, and ditto if the situations were reversed. I don't think it's too much to ask that she hang a sock or some other signal and I do the same so that awkwardness or anxiety or what-have-you doesn't occur.

    As to the comment about controlling behaviors, it's definitely been brought up to me before. My family and friends want me to move out, but I'm locked into a lease and also am very bad about walking away from even unhealthy friendships, which is something I'm working on. My therapist feels she is severely passive-aggressive and manipulative, bordering on emotionally abusive. I don't think she does it consciously to people, myself included, but she seems to feel the need to subtly control everything around her. She demands to know everything I am doing all the time. Where I am going and with whom, when I will be leaving and coming back. She doesn't like my having people over to the apartment, and demands extended notice when I do. This includes my family members. They tell me that she makes them feel uncomfortable when they do come over--she does odd things, nothing huge, but enough to make things awkward (i.e. she'll come out and ignore the other person completely, down to the simple pleasantry of a hello or basic eye contact, while talking to me and acknowledging my presence in a normal manner). It seems to be deliberate- she's not socially inept, she's normally quite outgoing and can even be charming when she chooses. She belittles all of my other friends and my family. Constantly making fun of them or telling me how terrible they are and how I shouldn't bother with them. She regularly puts me down, in small and large ways, often trying to pass it off as a joke if I react. She likes to know everything I'm doing but it's not a two way street, which is good because I don't want to know her every move. As I was typing this she came into the room and demanded to know what I was typing and why I'd been typing for so long and tried to see the computer screen. Yesterday when she told me about a beach trip she was taking with some friends, I made the mistake of asking which beach she was going to (I was mostly trying to just make polite conversation, but was curious, since I still don't know certain things about this area that well, what beaches people go to around here) and she responded by glaring at me and being like, "Why do you care? Why does it matter? God, you're so nosy." I don't know. It sounds silly, but this sort of stupid stuff adds up and it's not a great environment. I wish I could explain better.

    I didn't mean to go into all that. I just want one small thing from her-- an agreement to put a tie on the door if either of us has someone over for the night.
  6. meaningless-vessel

    meaningless-vessel Well-Known Member

    I find that in reading this, your therapist is thinking along similar lines to what I would be.

    Sometimes, people are doing it consciously, they just act up to give a falsified impression. And that's what the reaction of her trying to pass off her abusive behaviour as a joke suggests to me. That she knows full well what she's doing, and because of how you generally are with her, she is using you while abusing you. It is unhealthy, yes. And for your family/friends to be uncomfortable to be in your place, because of someone else, not you/family/friends, then perhaps it is a case of seeing where you stand with regards to the lease. Could you potentially opt out because of everything you are suffering (friends/family testimonies to her behaviourisms could help), and potentially move back in with a family member/friend temporarily?

    For her to know everything you do, it is up to you to stand up for yourself and remind her that your life is your business, her life is hers. She's demanding your respect and control on your life that she is not entitled to have, not earning the respect or the right to retain it. And with all of this spilling out from that, is it really worth keeping hold of this one particular friendship?
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