Dear Annie: My roommate, “Michelle,” is suffering from depression. Six months ago, she suddenly lost interest in going out with friends and would cry for no reason. She began calling in sick so many times that she was fired. She cashed out her 401(k) and now sits in her room all day watching TV and eating. In the past six months, she has gone from a size 10 to a size 24.

Michelle seldom bathes or does laundry. Once in a while, she’ll go on a shopping spree. Last month, she spent $1,000 getting oddball things such as yarn and coffee cups. Her bedroom is a hoarder’s dream, and it’s spilling over into the rest of the house.

Today, she went to the mall, and I cleaned her bedroom so we wouldn’t get ants from the dirty dishes. I found a shoebox full of prescription medications, all belonging to her grandmother or ex-boyfriend. I even found one of mine, along with bottles of alcohol on her nightstand. I confronted her when she got home (with $200 worth of peanuts and birdseed). She claimed she may someday need those medications and got angry. I called her mother with my concerns, but she was more worried about how it would look to her friends to have a daughter like that.

I finally asked Michelle to move out, and she threatened to overdose on the drugs. I called the police, who told me they could put her on suicide watch for 48 hours, but if she really wants to kill herself, she’ll find a way. My boyfriend says I should be prepared to find her dead one of these days.

What else can I do? I care about Michelle, but I can’t keep living like this. — Stressed-Out Roomie in Michigan

Dear Roomie: The depression combined with the out-of-control shopping could indicate that Michelle is bipolar. Please contact the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (dbsalliance.org) for suggestions. But ultimately, you must consider your own well-being. If Michelle is turning your home into a hoarder’s paradise and you are overly stressed, try to help her find another place to live. Check on her as often as you can. But you have no obligation to be held hostage to the destructive behavior of someone who refuses to get help.

Dear Annie: My daughter-in-law says if food is on the floor for three seconds or less, it is OK for her 4-year-old son to eat it.

At my house, I insist that he wash his hands before eating, and when I can, I clean his fingernails with a small brush and soap because his nails are always filthy. At his own house, however, he never washes his hands before meals. Should I say something? — Concerned Grandma

Dear Concerned: Unless your grandson is frequently sick, say nothing. A lot of people follow the “three-second rule” about dropped food. It’s not the healthiest thing to do, but we assume the floor is cleaned regularly and the food isn’t covered in grime (or worse). Continue to teach your grandson appropriate hygiene in your home, and suggest to your son that he do the same.

Beyond that, let it go.


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