Deluge - A Soap Opera
Episode 3
by Richard Neal
Previously in Deluge – A Soap Opera
Episode 1, set on 9-10 November 2011
Episode 2, set on 22-26 February 2012
pgsm posted 26 February 2012, 11.32pm                                   post 43
In: Berlin, Joined: 1 May 2005                                                       +28 
Don’t really want to go into much detail now but today was the end, after more harassment of a strange and scary manner on Friday, and more calls to the SP Dienst etc. Woke up this morning to banging on my door, but this time it was a neighbour raising the alarm. I looked up to see flames leaping from her kitchen, it was already an inferno. She immolated herself, as far as I can see. 
The heating system in her apartment broke open (or was broken open, we don’t know) and my flat, along with the dozen or so others in the stairwell, is now uninhabitable through water damage. I have another flat temporarily in the same building and have rescued my clothes and laptop. Will be back on here in coming days seeking advice re insurance situation, I imagine. And I’ll tell about the lead up to it when things, and I, have calmed down a bit. 
pgsm posted 26 February 2012, 11.33pm                                   post 44
In: Berlin, Joined: 1 May 2005                                                              
No-one else was hurt, I should add. It could have been far worse. 
Kewell posted 26 February 2012, 11.43pm                                 post 45
In: NRW, Joined: 2009                                                                   +5 
Oh Scheisse! I hope your things are just wet, not damaged and I hope you will be ok.
pgsm posted 26 February 2012, 11.48pm                                  post 46 
In: Berlin, Joined: 1 May 2005                                                         +3 
I’ve lost artwork, some big stuff, made by my own hand. Some precious books – I had my cookbooks in the kitchen and on the shelf above was a bag of sugar, so they’re covered in syrup with the water gusshing over all that. Some shoes and clothes, perhaps. That’s the main things. Gonna take months to clear up, I guess.
elle posted 26 February 2012, 11.53pm                                      post 47
In: Milwaukee                                                                                +6 
I’m so glad no one else got hurt and I feel deeply sorry for this woman who should have been taken into care to prevent her from harming herself. I cannot imagine how you must feel right now, pgsm, and I hope you have some good friends near you to give you some support. 
Kewell posted 26 February 2012, 11.55pm                                 post 48
In: NRW, Joined: 2009                                                                   +4 
That sucks. I hope you have friends who’ll chear you up and who can lend you a hand.
pgsm posted 26 February 2012, 11.59pm                                   post 49
In: Berlin, Joined: 1 May 2005                                                         +1 
Thanks guys. Yes, I have some good people nearby.
william tyndale posted 27 February 2012, 12:33am                    post 50
Joined: February 2012                                                                   -39 
pgsm: If you don’t wanna involve the cops, you could have a RC priest (I’m Anglican, so I would go with the Anglican pursuasion) or even one of the Lutheran pastors if he’s up to it, come and bless your apartment. Anoint the house with holy water and oil and leave a cross somewhere visible (like on the front door). I’m not really kidding either.
Namaskar posted 27 February 2012, 1.24am                              post 51
In: Mittenwald                                                                                    
In the news….
Hareld posted 27 February, 2.07am                                           post 52
In: Berlin                                                                                       +7 
Respect to the OP, who seems to be very tolerant, kind and understanding. 
Plenty of sympathy is always on hand for those with bodily impairments or illnesses, but, as people don’t understand it, there is often much less of it when the problem lies in the mind, which may happen to any of us at any time. I might get negged for this, but honestly, I see way more people blabbering to themselves in Germany than anywhere else I’ve been. 
Touch wood, I’m ok (though one great-uncle with obivous but undiagnosed issues had moments of total genius, remembering the details and signs in full from car trips made decades before when he’d only been a passenger. Freaky stuff we just don’t get). How come Germany has so many people in such a state out and about?
elle posted 27 February 2012, 2.56am                                       post 53
In: Milwaukee                                                                                    
Maybe Hareld, but I just feel so sad to think that the authorities were informed and still this woman ended up dying a horrible death while putting the lives of her neighbours at risk.
Nobulljohnny posted 27 February 2012, 3:17am                        post 54
In: Frankfurt                                                                                      
Shame, sorry to hear all that. I really saw something destructive brewing from your first post. But as long as you are ok and no one injured, there is always a bright side, only you can find your bright side to this. I wish you the very best and keep your super positive and tolerant attitude. You sound like you would have a lot of good friends and family. Everything will be fine for you. I have that positive feeling that it will. Good luck and chin up. As far as I’m concerned……….You Rock!!!
MonsterMünchen posted 27 February 2012, 3.22am                  post 55
In: Schwabing, Munich                                                                  +12 
Sadly, psychiatry in Germany is not very advanced. Sure, the specialists themselves are not too horrible, and the modern meds are there, but there is still a generally negative view of therapy and GPs are slow to refer for proper specialist psychiatric treatment. The insurance companies’ stance doesn’t help. They view  counselling as a sign of very possible future problems, meaning that many people will put off getting help at early stages when it would be most useful and instead wait until it’s too late. The medical profession also doesn’t seem to want to tackle mental problems as quickly. I’ve seen cases where general doctors just prescribe valium instead of recommending therapy. It is a real problem.
As Betaman said on another thread: 
“There are indeed some circumstances where EVERY private German insurance refuses cover, one being having had any psychotherapy in the previous five years”
william tyndale posted 27 February 2012, 3:33am                     post 56
Joined: February 2012                                                                    -4 
Oh no, Hareld, you have to go to the SF Bay Area. The mental patients and druggies are homeless and live out on the UC Berkeley Campus, in parks, bridge underpasses. It’s a bad scene. As for NYC…
Aimee Mac posted 27 February, 3.40am                                    post 57
In: HH, Joined: 2001                                                                           
@WT: Holy water in the freshly flooded flat? How very appropriate. 
Chopper posted 27 February 7.12am                                         post 58
In:                                                                                               +9 
@Tyndale: WTF? The cops are already involved – have you actually read the thread? Just how is an exorcism supposed to help poor pgsm? I had to re-read the whole thread to make sure I hadn’t missed something about demonic possession…
Aimee Mac posted 27 February, 10.00am                                   post 59
In: HH, Joined: 2001                                                                           
Our Mr Tyndale sounds like he might be a relative of the lost nughbour, such is his zeal. Lucky that Germany is completely free of the superstitions that plague his homeland. Oh, hang on…
TVMboys posted 27 February, 10.32am                                     post 60
In: Bernau                                                                                     +4 
Wow, that must have been a horrible, frightening experience for you! At least nobody else was hurt, the situation is over now and you have nothing to reproach yourself with. You did all you could and showed a lot of patience and understanding towards her. All the best!
Ermintrude posted 27 February 3.15pm                                    post 61
In: NRW                                                                                       +3 
Wow, pgsm – it is hard to believe how it escalated. What a sad story. You did everything you could, and I’m glad you’re ok – but what a horrible situation all around. Look after yourself, and please keep us updated as to how you’re doing.


Tuco posted 27 February 2012, 4:27pm                                    post 62
In: Friedrichshain, Berlin                                                                +4 
@Chopper: “Ihad to re-read the whole thread to make sure I hadn’t missed something about demonic possession…”
You did (link):
“Die Bibel indicates that (what we consider) psychos were demon possessed…”
Might just be a theory of mine but Germany’s problematic past (’33-’45 and ’45-’90) could explain why they are so reluctant to section anyone unless the danger to others is very real and present, evenif they actually need it.
 posted 27 February 2012, 5.02pm                              post 63
Joined: 2000                                                                                 -25 
Seems like your nutty neighbor problem has fixed itself, tragic as it was.. 
The rest of the issues are only temporary and will be fixed in short order. 
Nutty Neighbor no longer a problem. Thread closed..  ;-)
tomtom posted 27 February 2012, 5.05pm                                post 64
In: Bremen                                                                                         
Tuco, talking about criteria for having someone sectioned, you’re dead right. I was on the Mental Health Review Tribunal in the UK and 
remember an old lady who was convinced whe was the Queen and that Mrs Windsor was an imposter. Dotty and harmless, but she did get sectioned when she tried to smash a window of Buckingham palace.
Kewell posted 27 February 2012, 7:13pm                                   post 65
In: NRW, Joined: 2009                                                                  +10 
Tuco is right, but this doesn’t just affect Germany. Mental health law has been reformed in all civilised countries. 
While people with problems probably have existed as long as human society, the history of how they were treated and integrated into society is a very inconsistant and interesting one. In times where no medication was availiable, people probably didn’t grow old enough to develop Dementia or Alzheimers, and families or villages took care of their “village idiots”. Others were killed, imprisoned or left to starve. 
Up until the fifties people with mental health problems didn’t have the same rights as “normal” people. What was normal and what was crazy was pretty much up to the community, the neighbours or the family who wanted to get rid of the black sheep. Unwed mothers, disobeying wifes, people with tourette syndrom, schizophrenics.. they were locked up and lost their right to object. Once locked up often meant a lifetime in a bedlam with rather dubious methods of treatment. This changed between the fifties and the sixties and people were granted equal rights to lead a life like everybody else. 
Which makes it difficult. Being crazy is not a crime, so the police can’t arrest them for it. Help has to be wanted and accepted. If they don’t want treatment, and if they are not a danger to themselves or others, nobody has the right to force them. People with Tourette syndrom for example might be annoying as hell but they are perfectly able to manage their own lifes, thus no reason to lock them up. A bipolar person can live independently with the right medication, but they can’t be forced to take them. It’s incredibly difficult if the authorities have no diagnosis, if the person in question doesn’t answer the door if a psychiatric service offers help. They can’t be forced. It’s sad that things have to escalate before the authorities can determine a “danger to themselves and to others”, but this is the case in most countries, as tomtom said. But given the history, it’s an improvement.
Rooibosh posted 27 February 2012, 8.29pm                               post 66
In: Freiburg                                                                                   +2 
Scientific proof that the mentally ill are violent is still lacking. According to this, they are much more the victim than the perpetrator. 
Kewell posted 27 February 2012, 8:33pm                                   post 67
In: NRW, Joined: 2009                                                                  +10 
Depends. Paranoid schizophrenics are far more likely to be violent than some with an average eating disorder. 
Mrs Peel posted 27 February 2012, 8.44pm                                post 68
In: Cologne                                                                                   +8 
But there never was a diagnosis here. Terribly upsetting and rather shocking.
If you want to get out of town for a break, there is a sofa bed with your name on it in Cologne. Take care. 
pgsm posted 27 February 2012, 9.32pm                                     post 69
In: Berlin, Joined: 1 May 2005                                                       +20 
I’m too shocked right now to get into too much of a post-mortem, and though I appreciate Kewell’s words, and see that they are true, I cannot help wondering at the decision last Thursday morning that she presented no danger to herself or others, and was allowed to leave hospital. I do have a feeling, pure prejudice perhaps, that tells me that her condition then would have merited sectioning in other locations. But perhaps it only tells us about the inexactitude of mental medical health science. And that’s leaving out the fact that the police and ambulance were also called on Friday evening and couldn’t do anything. It’s more indicative of system failure than anything else, and generalisations don’t help. 
Maybe you feel it more when it’s your neighbour that’s done such a thing, though. It did seem avoidable to me, on the one hand, but on the other she always did strike me as totally without compromise, and somehow anti-life. 
I decided some time ago I would stick it out and stand my ground, and it only really hits me now what a risky decision that was, even though I did have quite some foreboding (though certainly not for this, exactly).
I’d like to stick up for a couple of people that have got negged on this thread, mtma and SabreWulf especially. When you go through this, you feel a gamut of things, and a lot of ways of looking at it are equally true whilst seeming contradictory. What they wrote certainly summed up rather succinctly how I felt at certain times. 
Thanks to everyone for their thoughts, and Mrs Peel, that’s a very nice offer. 
Kewell posted 27 February 2012, 10:13pm                                 post 70
In: NRW, Joined: 2009                                                                 +10 
It’s like someone getting off in a trial due to lack of evidence then going on to do the same thing again. No-one can blame you if you’re really pissed off. And shocked and sad at the same time. You did what you could, and that was more than most people would do.
Chopper posted 27 February 10.22pm                                       post 71
pgsm, seems like you really have treated this whole thing with common sense and kindness.
Do you have any news of your neighbour, hopefully she is on the mend and getting the treatment to help her.
good luck with everything, hope everything goes well with the insurance.
saatchiandsaatchi posted 27 February 2012, 10.45pm                post 72
In: Ostfriesland                                                                                  
Er, Chopper, pgsm mentioned “she immolated herself”. That’s suicide by burning yourself, I do believe. 
Chopper posted 27 February 10.51pm                                       post 73
Oh no, how sad. (missed that detail first time round)
pgsm posted 27 February 2012, 11.02pm                                   post 74
In: Berlin, Joined: 1 May 2005                                                              
I should just clarify: I don’t really know what she did. What I wrote was written with a fair bit of emotion, and is my interpretation/hunch, though those words don’t seem adequate. It could technically have been an accident, I guess.
Mariner Bill posted 28 February 2012, 2:36am                          post 75
In: Warsaw, Joined 2000                                                                 -2
Really sorry it turned out like that, pgsm. I have one thing to say and maybe you don’t want to hear it right now, but here goes. All this kindness, compassion, tolerance and niceness that everyone here is so (accurately) extolling – is it perhaps possible that the one way to have avoided the whole thing would have been to show a little less of all those things? They’re all fine things in themselves, but sometimes enough is enough, but maybe you let that moment slide by way back. 
posted 28 February 2012, 4.44am                                     post 76
In: Berlin                                                                                           
I’ve just read this from the start. How tragic that it was SusanA whose predictions came so very true, and as for the OP’s hope that she would outlast her neighbour, well, there’s irony for you. Not many of us here have shown themselves sensitive to the deep pain of the mentally ill. The OP herself did so, as did Rooibosh and one other (I gave them a greenie but would have to go all the way back to the start to find them again).
OP I hope that you don’t carry a burden with you from any of this. You know, of the should I / could I have done more type. Absolutely not. 
You were sensitive, you were tolerant and you did as much as you could by informing the authorties and the landlord. I am glad that you are safe. 
And also: why does everyone jump down William Tyndale’s throat here? His advice is well-meant, it’s only his personal beliefs. We’re all mature enough that we can take it or leave it when people offer their help.
Hangingchad posted 28 February 2012, 5:35am                       post 77
Joined: 2011                                                                                 +9 
Only a few of us sensitive? Are you out of your mind? Virtually no-one was insensitive to the nieghbour or their obvious issues. Plenty of people gave the OP advice to help her and info for her situation. The OP did what she could but there were limits to what the system could do in time. 
As for Mr Tyndale, if you really see substituting a true view of the mentally ill with an assertion of their demonic possession, and thus that the OP should then get the God squad in, rather than look to the real world, as all “well-meaning” advice, you should maybe think on that some more. 
Maybe the priest could just put out the fire, and sort out the plumbing, too. 
pgsm posted 28 February 2012, 9:35am                                    post 78
In: Berlin, Joined: 1 May 2005                                                             
Lully, thanks for the kind words. But “the OP herself” - I am a guy, by the way. I’m flattered you thought otherwise, take it as a compliment!
bubbles posted 28 February 2012, 9.53am                                 post 79
In: Schleswig-Holstein                                                                          
Terrible turn of events. I’m really sorry to hear of your ordeal. A frustrating situation all around.
I know someone who has a combination of schizophrenia/psychosis, but manages to live on his own. However, he checked himself into a day clinic for 6 weeks as an inpatient, which is a service offered by our local hospital. He met his girlfriend there because of her eating disorder issues. Not having a “traditional” relationship, they are a support to one another, enjoying many of the same interests such as going to classical piano concerts, museums, and art shows together. Having each other is in a form therapy itself. It is sad how, because of the system, how many miss out on necessary treatment. I don’t know. Perhaps awareness, “alternative” options, such as the above. 
Nachtmusik posted 28 February 2012, 3.00pm                          post 80
In: Bogenhausen                                                                            +9 

OP, I’m so sorry you were in this situation and that you’re still suffering. I’m also sad that the medical system failed your neighbour. Although there are safeguards designed to prevent people who are a danger to themselves or to others from leaving medical care, the truth is that the duty psychiatrist isn’t always on top of their game and can make errors of judgement

In some cases the patient is able to present a cohesive enough picture that there’s no evidence of any problem, and sometimes the cues are missed. Unlike a doctor who deals with the physical, there isn’t always time to revise a diagnosis with a patient who is suicidal. Your neighbour was in (at least) twice, but slipping through the net is, unfortunately, not so hard, and below the crazed exterior may nonetheless have been an intelligence that could operate in the situation. 
I hope your neighbour finds peace.
Leezer posted 28 February 2012, 5.55pm                                  post 81
In: Munich                                                                                   +3 
Must echo what Nachtmusik said about your neighbour finding peace. 
I’ve been following this for a while, but was never really sure what to say, what advice to give. You’ve been showing so much compassion and empathy for her (that’s probably why I thought you were female, oops), you have been the best and most understanding neighbour you could have. 
Hopefully things will go back to normal for you soon and you can settle again. I wish you all the best!
Magnum posted 28 February 2012, 6.01pm                              post 82
In: Marburg                                                                                      
All joking aside, blessing with holy water has been known to work. 
Hangingchad posted 28 February 2012, 6:36pm                       post 83
Joined: 2011                                                                                +7 
Sorry, but no way. An exorcism is not gonna help someone mentally ill.
Lully posted 29 February 2012, 12.59am                                   post 84
In: Berlin                                                                                           
@pgsm: Er, colour me embarrassed!!! You know looking back I really can’t pin down why I assumed you were a girl however thank you for treating my error so gracefully!
pgsm posted 29 February 2012, 2:25am                                    post 85
In: Berlin, Joined: 1 May 2005                                                        +5 
This does remind me of a story, otherwise thoroughly unconnected: 
I did use to have really long hair, at that time in a long ponytail. I was in the Crown Posada in Newcastle, a beautiful pub under the railway bridges, sitting at the bar with my scouse friend. I had my back to the entrance. A bunch of Geordies walked in and the biggest and burliest of them, obviously keen to show he was the most alpha of males amongst the group, barged to the bar right behind me. 
Being the chivalrous type, he put his arm round my shoulder and said, presumably with a wink to his mates, “Howay, hennie,” which translates from Geordie into English as “How are you, darling?”
The look on his face when I turned and he realised his mistake was pretty priceless. He was mortified, and also very gratified I wasn’t offended. He was expecting a fight, I think. I found it hilarious.
Hangingchad posted 29 February 2012, 3.24am                        post 86
Joined: 2011                                                                                 +7 
Honestly, I assumed pgsm was a girl for some reason as well. :oops:
pgsm posted 29 February 2012, 7:25pm                                    post 87
In: Berlin, Joined: 1 May 2005                                                       +18 
pgsm on 22.Feb.2012, 5:38pm, said (Link):
“They handcuffed her, and took her away to a psychiatrist. Given what happened last time, I expect she will be home tomorrow at the latest”
Regular readers will know that she was indeed allowed home the next morning.
I’m a little angry this second. 
I’ve just learned that when the above happened last Wednesday, the police had seen that she had left her cooker hob on full blast, all four rings, and they considered it noteworthy to tell the doctors in the hospital where she was taken. They didn’t tell us. And, more to the point, that fact, combined with her previous history and general demeanour, was still not considered enough for the doctors to deem her to present a danger to herself or others the next morning. 
I don’t know. I can understand the system has its limits up to a point, but I have to look at that and really, really wonder. How many signs do you need? No doubt I’m hypersensitive and don’t have a clear perspective yet, but still.
Otherwise I’m doing a little better today. I’m certainly in some kind of shock, but can function to some extent, and five friends showed up this afternoon to get all the stuff from the old flat to the new, and people are cooking me dinner tonight, and last night too. It helps a lot. I notice that working is way more of an effort than it should be but I’m freelance and just can’t afford to take too much time off, though I have lessened my workload a fair bit this week.
Kewell posted 29 February 2012, 7.51pm                                   post 88
In: NRW, Joined: 2009                                                                   +1 
They fucked up. Should have consequences for them. Eat lots of chocolate and get some rest. You have every reason to be in a kind of shock.
Nachtmusik posted 29 February 2012, 8.00pm                          post 89
In: Bogenhausen                                                                           +4 
That’s a serious error of judgement. If the assessment was the following morning, then the chances are that there was a shift change, and fresh eyes were doing the assessment. It may be that a fair amount of the testimony of the officers who brought her in was not documented or not given sufficient weight because the duty psych from the night before didn’t write it all down for whatever reason (those people are overloaded dreadfully, which isn’t an excuse or even really a mitigating circumstance, just a sad fact). Maybe s/he thought there’d be some discussion over it, time for a proper handover of the caseload in the morning, and then there wasn’t. Maybe your neighbour managed to pull herself together and present a coherent face to the assessing psych. 
Maybe none of this is true and she simply slipped past someone who is probably still training, is almost definitely overworked and under-rested and who if they are any good at their jobs will remember this one time for the rest of their career. I hope so; no one deserves to die like that.
elle posted 29 February 2012, 9.34pm                                      post 90
In: Milwaukee                                                                              +8 
Pgsm, maybe you should get some kind of counseling.
This whole story has affected you for so long, and with the amount of personal attacks and an ending which could have easily been physically harmful for you, it must be very hard to process. Just because it is over it doesn’t mean you will feel better instantly. You will probably need much more time to deal with these traumatizing events. All the best!
Magnum posted 1 March 2012, 3.01pm                                    post 91
In: Marburg                                                                                       

Hangingchad, there appears to be a significant placebo effect. Not to say that the theology of it is legitimate, but the placebo effect is undeniably real.
If you don’t believe me, perhaps you will believe the Lancet. I think it’s generally considered a reliable source regarding things medical. My link
Babel posted 1 March 2012, 4.56pm                                         post 92
In: Charlottenburg                                                                               
There is certainly a placebo effect for many things, in fact it is so strong that great lengths have to be gone to to avoid the effect in medical trials. However, that does not mean that throwing holy water about and praying over people is any kind of substitute for professional help.
Im sorry, but this tragic event of someone topping themselves due to mental illness is exactly why real professionals should be involved. 
I understand that in this case the pros also dropped the ball. That is unforgivable, but it doesnt mean we should turn our backs on those who can prevent this tragedy from being repeated.
pgsm posted 20 March 2012, 7:25pm                                       post 93
In: Berlin, Joined: 1 May 2005                                                      +27 
Just thought I’d check back in. No big news. I’m still in my temporary flat. Life doesn’t yet feel normal, it will take a little time. I’m busy with work, which is a good distraction, ultimately. I haven’t yet decided on long-term moves, like whether to move back in to the flat or not – I always thought that if I outlasted her (though, believe me, such an ending is not what I was wishing for), I’d finally have a nice, beautiful flat. Now that may still be true but part of me thinks I might just make a fresh start somewhere else. Actually, this temporary flat, whilst not as light and bright and quiet as the other one, is huge and very practical, and I have nice neighbours, which of course is rather important to me. We’ll see. 
I wanted to fill in one or two things, essentially for the sake of completing the story, though by that I don’t mean the fire itself so much as the build up, in part to explain why I’m sure she killed herself. I said at the time I didn’t want to go into details, but here are some of them now. She tipped the rubbish against my door, cursed and kicked me on the Wednesday (see [episode] 2), got home from hospital on the Thursday. 
On Friday morning, at 8am I left for work, and when I opened my flat door to leave there was a ripped off corner of a cardboard box, orange. It had scrawled on it, in heavily pressed thick pencil, three words: “Danke in liebe.” I was too stressed and busy to give it too much thought. 
I had some teaching in the morning, and an exhibition to hang in the afternoon. Good distraction, I think now. After a hectic afternoon in the gallery space, I popped home for a change and shower. I had been in the door for about a minute or two when this incredibly hard banging started against my door. She must have been waiting for me. It sounded like she would break in, like she had a hammer, and that the wood would crack, but it didn’t. It stopped after a minute or two. I could hear her scratching around outside and honestly, the thought of her setting light to my door did occur to me, just for a second. Then I heard footsteps go upstairs, then silence. I waited for five minutes. Nothing. So I gingerly, and actually rather foolishly, opened the door. They weren’t her footsteps. She was waiting for me, sat on the bottom step by my door. She looked awful and smelt worse, of urine, and was drunk. 
“S-” I said (not gonna put her name on here).
“Hast du was zum trinken?”
“Nein, habe ich nicht.” 
She repeated her request for a drink a couple of times. I then just said:
“S-, what do you want from me?”
“Oh, something sweet, something to eat. I’ve drunk so much.”
“I don’t have anything,” I repeated.
She then reached up with her arms and put them out towards me. She stood up and took a step towards me, still with her arms reached out, as if to embrace. 
“Ich danke dir, ich danke dir,” she said, and made to step across my threshold. 
I just said, “you’re not coming in,” and closed the door in her face. She went upstairs. 
I called the cops, though didn’t ask them to come, just arranged to report it. I called the Berlin crisis service (Berliner Krisendienst) as it was too late to call the Social Psychiatric Service, and after listening to my story, they just said, word for word, “we can do nothing.” Another neighbour did call the police and paramedic to come, though, and they arrived after 15mins or so. 
They did force her to open up, and spoke to her, but decided no crime had been committed, and there was nothing they could do. Afterwards, they had a long discussion with us in the stairwell about how we should deal with it (call them every time etc., even say that we heard her say she might kill herself, they advised us, as that was the way to guarantee a response. Obviously this was too late at this point), and in the middle of it, she walked through it all, free. That was the last time I saw her.

And, not so incidentally, when I opened my door again, after she really had gone upstairs, I found a cigarette lighter leaning against my door. I showed it to the police, but what looks like a sign quite clearly after the event is not so easy to read beforehand. 
I reported it online, and remember writing quite clearly in the miscellaneous comments that I simply felt threatened and in danger, and then went out to my exhibition opening, where I got rather drunk to try and steady my nerves. Had an unbelievable hangover the next day, which was perhaps a little luck, as it meant I went nowhere and so didn’t run into her for another scene, as she was hanging around on the stairs above my flat in the afternoon, I heard later. 
It was 9am on the Sunday morning. I was still soundly asleep, using earplugs that night to make sure I slept through her banging. But then there was banging on my door at 9am, really loud, woke me up instantly. 

Of course, I thought it was her. I clearly remember thinking, “oh no, it’s gonna be trouble,” and would rather have stayed asleep. I got up, and put on some trousers instantly. Before I got to the door, though, I looked up and saw into the courtyard. There was smoke and some ash circling around, and when I looked at her kitchen window, it was just a wall of flame, the glass already gone, and it was instantly clear to me that it was already completely out of control up there, a total inferno, and if she was in there, and I thought she would be, she was already dead or dying. The banging on my door was not her, but another neighbour, raising the alarm. I grabbed just my laptop and an expensive camera of a friend, and also saw that water was coming down the pipes into the kitchen and bathroom already, and again it was instantly clear that a lot more would follow it. I moved some work papers, and of course now regret not moving more things to the back of the flat, but at the time, you just get the hell out. 
The police and fire were there in four minutes and I just went into the flat opposite mine, on my landing, and me and my neighbour just sat there, waiting for them to finish, watching the smoke and the things being thrown down. I could see through her door spy hole into my hallway and see and hear the deluge of water washing through. 
It felt like, and feels like now as I write it, like a pure horror story. Almost cliched, though that is, I think, a measure of the distance at which my mind and spirit is still holding the event. It still doesn’t seem quite real to me. 
Well, what I experienced is certainly real, but I haven’t yet really comprehended what she did. 
It probably doesn’t pay to speculate into the goings on of a mind so troubled, but I can’t help but think now of the way in which she said her goodbye to me, for that is what I think she did on that Friday. But also, considering how out of whack she was, but also how she’d focussed on me that week, and over the previous years at times, I do consider myself even luckier to have survived that story than I would have done otherwise. 

I heard from another neighbour in the house that she once had a female friend or lover. They were both painters from the East and had found life after the Wall fell very tough-going. Her friend killed herself 3 or so years ago. Apparently, at the time she said to another neighbour something like one day she would bring down her world and all those around it as well. So it was foretold, and could have been different. Small mercies. 

I am going to follow up the advice of elle, I believe it was, and seek the ear of a professional to talk this thing through with.

I didn’t want to put any of my photos in the public domain, but there are a couple of shots on the Berlin Fire Service website.

I do hope life starts to feel a little more normal again soon. I’m sure it will, but never quite 100%, I guess.