August 12, 2017 at 3:30 pm #163646
I have benefit a lot from other people sharing on the forums and the sage advice and kind acceptance. I guess I was wanting some advice on how to see a situation in a way that is not going to drive me increasingly paranoid.
I live in an apartment building and about two years ago, while I was playing the piano in my bedroom, someone banged on the wall, three times with calculated intervals between them, and it startled me. I could sense that it was done out of anger. It seemed to me there were two broad choices I had then: to stop playing and live feeling like a mouse to avoid angry outbursts from someone, or to confront the issue head on with the intention for a compromise. I was brave/naive/foolhardy enough to decide to seek out the source of the anger and try to figure out a resolution. Well, what seemed obvious to me was that I had made someone angry, possibly with the music, and my intentions were twofold: to be fair to both me and whoever it was who was angry and find a compromise, and I didn't intend to live like a mouse by cowering.
I found out that it was the tenant downstairs. We had a chat and he acted charming enough, while I tried to be civil as well (in spite of feeling outraged that he didn't express his concerns by speaking to my landlord/me, etc. but hiding). I listened to his concerns. He said he worked at home in trades (stocks?) and he had been bothered by numerous noises that he was certaiin had come from my apartment, which was directly above his: footfalls, “dragging noises, etc.” I made some concessions about the piano playing (I'd move my piano away from the wall made of wood that transferred noises) and since I could not fathom the footfalls and “dragging noises, etc.” I thought it would be a neighbourly gesture to give him my number to text me the next time he hears those, since I did not know how they could be (I am light on my feet, not a heavy-handed person, and I don't have anything to “drag” rather than the vacuum cleaner which I used on my carpeted floor.
Fast forward, one night, as I had been spending a good half hour to an hour in bed on my laptop, I got his text, in which he said he heard those “dragging noises” again. I replied to him to say I had been in bed for half an hour, and that it appeared I was not the source of that issue and wished him good luck getting it resolved elsewhere; I proceeded to block and delete his number, thinking that was the end of the matter. Of course I didn't hear from him again had he texted back (which I began to entertain thoughts of given the progression of events).
A week or so later, upon my friend's suggestion, I unblocked, then again deleted his number, since “he's a neighbour after all. Having a neighbour's number may prove useful.” (My friend is sensible in her outlook in general)
A few months later, I was in bed on my laptop, when I heard a bang and my cat startled, running from the living room towards the bedroom where I was. It was not unusual for my cat to knock something heavy over and give himself a fright, but I decided to check it out anyway. I saw some snow on the ledge of my window, and as I neared the window, I heard a male's voice muttering obscenity and a threat in relation to a gun and another person's head (I am not sure if it will prove too graphic if I were to transcribe it, even with the use of symbols instead of letters). I called the police.
To my great surprise, the police found out that the tenant living below me was involved. He admitted to chucking a pile of snow to my windows, and denied uttering the threat. He claimed that since he “complained” about the noises I made (I am not sure if that was before or after the wall-banging), the noises had got worse, and he was extremely frustrated. He told the police that he was “so frustrated that he was going to move out soon.” He was playing the good-guy/ victim, this I later surmised, because he did not move, and he was going to do/think of something even more bizarre.
That was Christmas 2016. In March 2017, I got a few text messages from a number not on my contact list (I hadn't thought about him or the incident and didn't put the dots together immediately) accusing me of the things he did to me (banging on a wall, throwing things at his window), persuading me to get “healing” at a church nearby he named, trying to diagnose me with schizophrenia and suggesting medications for me to take, and telling me not to listen to the devils who whisper in my ears. I had a gut feeling that these texts were sent by the tenant below for the acts he accused me of doing. I saved the text messages and didn't think more of them.
Two months ago, in June, I got three more texts from the same number, only this time, unlike his previous messages in March, he signed off with his apartment number. Most he wrote was in capital letters and a number typos. He issued a somewhat vague ultimatum that “it was my last chance” (and then he'll do what?), accused me of “appelfying (sic) elevator noises,” “listing (sic) into his apartment with mic's,” and claimed he had collected evidence for my doing those things with his own mic's. I called the police. This time, I was scared.
My side of the story is this: I had formed the impression that the tenant below was capable of violence to resolve issues (banging on the wall), slick and untrustworthy (lying to the police), psychopathic (charming and manipulative), fanatical in the way he sees things, and probably psychotic or delusional or both (projecting his beliefs onto me). I did not want anything to do with him, least of all to provoke him further. So I lived as I normally would have: going to work in the morning, coming home and getting on to the couch and bed as fast as I can. I refused to live like a mouse when I knew I did not make deliberate noises, and I had tried to work with him with what was within my control (I have played the piano with headphones on since the first incident).
What is troubling me is, the noises he alludes to (footfalls, banging, elevator noises) I can hear in my apartment as well. I doubt if not everyone on every floor can hear them seeing it is an old building. The footfalls I hear from the burly man who lives next door to me, who come and go multiple times, and who shut his doors rather quite loudly.
Since the incident in June, I have noticed I began to fear of not being believed. I am also getting increasingly conscious of the noises. When they happen, even though I had been used to them before, I worried that the tenant below must be brewing in his hostility with the zealous belief that I was making them. I notice that is a trend towards the irrational, and I'm scared of feeling scared by the man's irrational beliefs and behaviour.
Can someone please help me find a way through this in mindset?August 12, 2017 at 5:04 pm #163650
I'm sorry this is happening to you. I have lived in apartments a long time and know what a nuisance it can be with neighbors, barking dogs in middle of night, elevator noises, people talking right outside my window (once I got mad, and offered them a drink or cocktail), they immediately took their conversation somewhere else. I know what it's like to live by swimming pools with screaming kids, or teenagers who “sneak” in after pool hours in the dark and are rowdy and drunk. People coming home in loud cars from bars at 3am, etc.
If I have a problem with a neighbor, I never go to the neighbor, because you never know who you are dealing with. Instead, I go to the landlord or resident manager. They usually keep “logs” of complaints, and if other people are complaining, they go and resolve the problem for you. One time the guy upstairs refused to turn his loud stereo down. I did get a little annoyed and put a note on his door asking him to turn it down. I did not give my name or apt number. Next night, same loud stereo. I called the apartment complex number and dialed the option for resident complaints and left a message. In less than 1/2 I could hear the person on call that evening, asking the resident to turn it down which he did. I am wondering why your landlord was not involved, or the text messages shown to them from that man, or the police being called reported?August 12, 2017 at 5:42 pm #163664
Sorry that you're going through all of this. When I'm reading the description of that tenant uttering threats, advising you to not listen to the devil, listening into his apartment with microphones, him hearing noises of dragging, wall-banging etc – it is him who has a problem, it reads like a mental health disorder which may or may not have been diagnosed. Or he may not be taking his medications properly, hence the deterioration in his behavior (especially when he is living alone and there is no family, etc visiting).
I don't think your initial behavior of seeking him out to find a compromise was naïve, because it has shown you what your other tenant actually is like. There is nothing wrong in playing music during normal daytime hours (eg from 9am to 7pm). Have you asked your landlord for some advice? I've always believed in knowing a brief background of your neighbours at least (but can be hard sometimes when you don't meet the rest of the tenants due to work, etc).
Have you also asked the burly man next door if this particular tenant has tried to ‘threaten' him in the same way he has done to you? Get a friend to accompany you. The burly man may not have realised the situation, and on your part you may also get a new neighbor keeping an eye on things. The tenant may have tried to intimidate you because (I do apologise for stereotyping here, but it has also happened to me before) you are female, and may be of a smaller built than him. What have the police done when you first alerted them to that tenant? Have you been able to tell the police the whole story up until now?
Gia, I hope my words won't unnecessarily alarm you further (sorry), but I would consider moving out to a place that you can play your piano freely, and that you are not increasingly feeling fearful.
HanaAugust 12, 2017 at 6:17 pm #163666
<p>Dear Hana,</p></p><p><p>When the police came last time, they said it seemed the man was delusional. They said they were going to have him go to the hospital for a mental health assessment. This I do not know whether happened or not, as after checking in with me, they went to see him and I did not know what the outcome of that meeting was or what he said to them.What triggered my fear of not being believed, or worse, that I was the problem, was that the man seemed charming and “normal”, a “very very nice man” (my resident manager’s words. A woman). I tried to get her to see the discrepancy between his outward behaviour and what he does in the dark of the night (so to speak), but my anxiety these days stem from wondering how successful he is a manipulator (or his mental health conditions that affect his Hyde/Jekyll behaviour). I am grateful that you reassured me that I was at least not naive/wrong to seek him out the first instance. Yes, I did get the impression that what’s his outward is incongruent with what’s inside (he had just banged angrily at the wall out of frustration. And in person, 5 minutes later, he was all good manners and charm, being socially adept, asking the right questions and initiating pleasant exchanges such as our work. All the while there was a tension and animosity simmering under the surface of the slickness).</p></p><p><p>I am on pleasant but not familiar terms with the burly man and his family who live next door. The last time I crossed path with me had to be more than half a year ago. At Christmas in 2016, when he threw snow and uttered a threat, they were the first people I tried to seek out to check in with. They were home but ignored my knocks. I understood people’s concerns for their own safety with regard to unexpected knocks on their door.</p></p><p><p>Hana, you are right. I do believe the tenant would probably not have been as aggressive in his texts and their messages were I a man or with a man the first time I saw him. I am also small. Neither do I look particularly menacing or destructive.</p></p><p><p>I told the police most everything, apart from perhaps bits and pieces that I neglected to mention. I was candid with them, though in June, the officer in charge frightened me to tears as she appeared to accuse me of being in the wrong (the way she asked me, in a patronising tone that was totally uncalled for, “so, what’s going on?” when she had heard the details of my call to the station on her way here).</p></p><p><p>After the police incident, my resident manager (who has always insisted that he was a “very very nice man” “going out in the morning in his little bow tie on his bike” and other endearing manners of talking about him) has continued to be nonchalant. She *chatted* with him about the police visits. This time, she even relegated a message from him. He told her to tell me (no doubt the police would have asked him to stop harassing me by contacting me. That’s what they said what he was no longer supposed to be doing.) that “I won.” I found that greatly disturbing, explaining my gradual buildup of fear of the man’s depth of the delusion. I didn’t want anything to do with him; I wanted it to be the end of it. Once more he projected his beliefs/delusions onto me: that I engaged him in a “war” by “making the noises worse” after he complained, but somehow, in his eye now, “I’ve won” and “he’s lost”.</p></p><p><p>A number of friends and family have gently suggested that I moved away, and I am grateful that you attempted to do so gently with me. Thank you, Hana. Laziness and affordability are the reasons I have put off considering moving…</p></p>August 12, 2017 at 6:24 pm #163668
<p>(N.B. I am sorry for the html codes making it hard to read. I tried different ways to get rid of them until I wasn't allowed to make any more edits.)</p>August 12, 2017 at 6:25 pm #163670
We all want to be believed but its more important from those who count. This Downstairs Neighbor dosesn't count. You've expressed to him the noise isn't from you and thats all you can do. If you think the Man is unstable and may due harm to you if given the chance, you need to block off all communication. His disbelief in your words/actions doesn't nullify your truth. Actually you've went above and beyond to keep your noise levels down and the Man has no clue about that. And even with all that adjustment you've made, you are still being accused of something you are not doing. Is this what's really bothering you? Being accused with hostility.
Can you clarify or give an example/context of when you were fearful with others? Is your mindset around trust issues?August 12, 2017 at 7:23 pm #163672
Thank you for your reply. Don’t worry about the html codes. I think you have done everything that you could in the situation as civilly as possible. And it’s not a case of ‘winning or losing’, as per that tenant’s beliefs. I’m sorry to hear that the people that you sought some assistance from have been rather ‘dismissive’ to your concerns.
As a health professional currently training in mental health, I’ve learnt that in some mental health conditions there can be incongruence in behaviour sometimes, especially when the man is faced with a person of an ‘authoritative’ nature (i.e. your landlord, the police). And yes, it is hard when you are dealing with someone who has a Hyde and Jekyll personality. <– The best advice I’ve read dealing with people like that is mainly avoidance. Yes, they can be charming, but eventually the cracks will show in their behavior. Trust your instincts – they rarely would be wrong. If I were in your situation, I would have that fear as well.
If you do bump into your next door neighbor you could strike up a conversation and ask them if the man downstairs had tried anything threatening. Also let them know that you were the one who knocked on their door during Xmas 2016 (they may not have wanted ‘unwanted’ visitors during their celebration, or maybe they really hadn’t heard your knocks). See how their reaction is like – if they are equally dismissive, then it would seem like you won’t have much support in the apartment building (i.e. would be a good idea to move to a place where you have caring neighbours, or better security). If they appear apologetic and would be concerned, then you have a chance of continuously staying in the place (if you wish to do so).
If there’s one thing that personally irks me when it’s related to authority figures that can be dismissive is that when something goes south in a really bad way, then there’s the regret, and words like, “We should have done this, and that.” There’s a phrase called “Sorry, no cure” (if you’re familiar with it?). I would rather prevent situations, than try to resolve the aftermath.
Moving to a new place is a big decision which can be exhausting. Especially if you have signed a yearly contract with the landlord and have to pay the full accommodation costs until the end of the contract even if you decided to break the contract (which is the norm where I live). I’ve been in situations where I’ve had to suddenly shift out of the place I was living in (and one of the situations was when the owner turned violent towards a family member). If you have friends and family close by, I would consider staying with them until you find a new place elsewhere (e.g. bunking in at a friend’s place and paying half rent).
HAugust 12, 2017 at 8:56 pm #163682
I think I figured out how to write without the html codes showing.
I am grateful for your listening (figuratively, as compared to hearing). Your advice is thorough and that gave me a lot of peace. For instance, you suggested that I speak to the burly man if I met him, and you gave me suggestions for different possible outcomes for said conversations. You would make a wonderful mental health care worker.
Thank you, Hana.
GiaAugust 13, 2017 at 3:27 am #163714
Thank you for your kind words, Gia 🙂August 13, 2017 at 9:24 am #163758
Your story reminds me of my last experience living in an apartment building a few years ago. It was okay until “the neighbor from hell” as I refer to her moved in to an apartment downstairs. She is the one who made noises such as vacuuming at 3 AM. She was up all night washing dishes etc., while sleeping perhaps in the mornings through noon or so. When confronted she was nice and charming but continued the noise during the nights. Later she complained that my noises during the day were interrupting her sleep!
At one point, it was clear to me that there was only one way for me to survive the experience, that is, not to have a car accident or another accident because of lack of sleep and aggravation, and that was to move out. I moved out before being ready to move out so to survive. And so I did.
It didn't matter that I was in the right and she was in the wrong- my lack of sleep and distress was hurting me and was not going to be resolved unless I moved out. So I did.