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worried about my neighbour

(9 Posts)
leopardwasp Thu 07-Apr-05 18:52:18

A woman who lives opposite me consistently breaks arrangements to meet up, yet also keeps contacting me every month or so to make fresh plans. She seems like a really nice person. I am pretty sure she is having a hard time and is depressed. I like her, but I don't know how to help her.

Bit of background - she moved into our street about a year ago with her toddler son and partner. Just after they moved, her partner left her. I know she was distraught and in very deep shock for months. Both dh and I made a point of talking to her when we saw her, sympathising, offering support while trying not to be intrusive, and also inviting her round. On two consecutive Saturday evenings she didn't show up as planned. This has set a patten. One of us sees her, we talk, she sometimes invites me or dh in for a coffee, she's seems happy to make an arrangement to pop round but then blow outs of it. It's not that she goes out somewhere else - her car is still parked outside. Sometimes she phones to apologise, sometimes she doesn't. She does have friends round sometimes, and she may have a boyfriend (not sure as I have not asked her outright), so life is moving on for her.

A couple of days ago she phoned to see if I wanted to come round with my children over half term. My husband took the message. I popped round to see her, she invited me in and we tentatively arranged to meet up this afternoon. As it happened, my youngest son was not too well so I didn't want to make firm plans, but as he seemed a bit better by this afternoon, I phoned her to ask if the plan was still on. She said yes definitley, but her son was napping and she'd wake him up in half and hour and come round. She would phone me first. Two hours later, no sign of her. I phoned to say I was about to go on the computer, so the line would be busy. She said she was just giving her son a snack but would be round after that. One hour later and still no sign of her!!!

She really seems like a nice person, she's my age (40s) worked in the arts, and we found out that we used know some of the same people in south east london. I would like to be more friendly with her - and she's really very chatty and friendly when we bump into each other. I am sure she is depressed to some degree (I would suggest mumsnet to her, but don't know her well enough to do so) I just don't know where to go from here.

In case you are wondering, I am a regular. If I do tell my neighbour about mumsnet, I want be undercover for this thread, so if you guess who I am, please don't say.

donnie Thu 07-Apr-05 19:04:10

it sounds like you are doing all you can and I think you are a lovely neighbour! maybe the next step is to casually say something like ' it's a shame you couldnt come over the other day, what happened ?' just to try to establish what, if any, reason she has. It may be that she is really shy or feels awkward, but constantly breaking arrangements puts you out too.I would try to ask her as nicely as possible why she seems so hard pushed to keep to arrangements.

leopardwasp Thu 07-Apr-05 19:09:48

It's really difficult because I don't want to put pressure on her, or pry too much.

I stop myself feeling resentful if she fails to materialise by only making arrangments I don't mind breaking ie I was happy to be indoors with my sons this afternoon, so it didn't matter whether or not she was there.

I get the impression she is afraid of opening up, but also want to be friends. I know not being able to organise or follow through things is a sign of stress and depression. Considering what she has been through, I would not be surprised this is the problem, but I am only guessing.

Twiglett Thu 07-Apr-05 19:15:51

Well to be honest you don't know her that well so there seems no harm in addressing the issue head on

Why don't you pop round and ask her outright if she'd prefer to just be acquaintances and neighbours or if she's interested in becoming more friendly. Tell her that you're just concerned that whenever you make plans something seems to happen and that you will be totally lead by her if she wants to take your acquaintanceship further as you enjoy it when you do see her

mummytosteven Thu 07-Apr-05 19:16:08

I think it would be worth gently prying - it may be that she's crying out for help, if only someone would ask - sometimes it just takes someone to ask you if you are okay for the floodgates to burst open.

of course there could be something different going on to anxiety/depression, but rather than worrying, I think you might as well relatively gently try and get things out in the open.

foxinsocks Thu 07-Apr-05 19:18:35

does she go out of the house much? (thinking maybe she could be agoraphobic or something)
does she have other friends that pop round?

Could you take the initiative and invite yourself round for a coffee or do the old, 'I've run out of sugar' trick and knock on her door and get invited in?

Maybe she doesn't feel up to talking to anyone yet. Personally, I wouldn't do anything unless you think she is seriously in trouble. I guess you have to let her come to you. After all, you don't really know anything about her.

starlover Thu 07-Apr-05 19:21:19

why don't you arrange to go out to a local park or something with the kids.. and tell her you'll either pick her up (if you're driving), or you'll pop over and you can walk together.
That way she can't just not turn up... and once you have done it a few times she may feel a bit more comfortable if she does have issues with being brave enough to actually DO stuff...

In a way I am the same as her, although I have got better. I would make new friends at work or wherever and we'd make plans to meet up and stuff, but when it came to it I was always too scared to go so would make excuses why I had to stand them up! I'd be fine if people dropped by, and I could talk the hind leg off a donkey whilst at work... but when it comes to actually going out of the house and doing stuff with people I just can't do it!

So, she may be better in situations where she doesn't have to actively come out and meet you...

btw... you sound really lovely... i would love to have you as a neighbour, whoever you are!

leopardwasp Thu 07-Apr-05 21:07:07

that's very interesting, starlover. I used to be friends with someone like that. Spontaneous meetings were fine but anything arranged and she was all over the place. She was great company, but had a real problem when she felt she had to meet people's expectations. She would cancel arrangements all the time. I used to watch her doing it, as we worked together. All day she would say how much she was looking forward to seeing so and so, then cancel at the last minute. I used to hear her making excuses to these friends on the phone, or she'd ask me to phone them for her!! It was really frustrating as she obviously felt bad about messing people around like this.

I think you've made a good point about going round to see my neighbour at a set time, driving her somewhere etc so she isn't actively coming to meet me. So far, I have always given her a get out clause, made the plans vague so as not to put pressure on her.

I feel I need to see her properly before I can ask her any direct questions about her life. If we do manage to meet up, I do think the time has come to pry a little, as you say, mummytosteven. In the past she has said she didn't come round because she didn't want to cry all over us - but that was nearly a year ago. She seems to be going out and having people round sometimes, so I'm not sure if her state of mind has improved. Perhaps she is just one of life's scatty people.

It does make me feel paranoid I have to admit - perhaps she really doesn't want to have much to do with us. The last thing I want is get into a time-wasting friendship and then be let down.

batters Fri 08-Apr-05 10:30:24

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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