Dear Abby I’m happy now, but people took me more seriously when I wasn’t

Now sober and 28, former substance abuser says people mistake her positive demeanor for naivete.

SHARE Dear Abby I’m happy now, but people took me more seriously when I wasn’t

DEAR ABBY: I wrote to you 12 years ago as a suicidal teenager. I’m thankful to be writing now from a very different place. I’m 28, happily married, with one child.

I was born into a hyperconservative cult and home-schooled until I was kicked out at 18. I then fell into a predictable pattern of abusive relationships and substance abuse. I have been sober for six years now, and have been in various kinds of therapy longer than that. I now self-counsel daily with journaling, meditation and exercise — and regularly return to therapy when my old patterns resurface.

My gripe: I’m now a happy, energetic person, so much so that I am routinely mistaken for a teenager and summarily dismissed. Everyone — employers, friends, even family members who “conveniently” missed out on my troubled years — does this. It never happened when I was miserable, hiding behind makeup and uncomfortable clothing, barely able to function. How can I again command the respect I did as an angsty teen, but without the angst?

I’m an awesome mother and a loving wife, not to mention a healthy person because I’ve worked hard FOR YEARS to get this way. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished, and I’m tired of my personal satisfaction being misconstrued as naivete, or worse, vanity. Advice? — CAME THROUGH THE OTHER SIDE

DEAR CAME THROUGH: You have every right to be proud of what you have accomplished. Do you act the same way at work as you do when hanging out with friends or family? You may need to adjust your behavior according to the situation. If you have trouble doing this, some sessions with your therapist might make the process easier.

DEAR ABBY: I am angry at the lack of praise given to respiratory therapists who are on the front lines of coronavirus patient care. Everything is doctor, nurse. By all means they deserve praise, but who do you think is also a vital part in fighting this RESPIRATORY virus? We manage those ventilators many hotspots are in desperate need of. We give those breathing treatments that help to calm the airways as this virus takes a toll on the lungs.

All health care workers, as well as individuals who work in hospitals and are considered essential, should receive this praise. We come to work each day uncertain whether we will be exposed or contract the virus. Yes, it’s a trying time for everyone, but I want the world to be aware of these unsung heroes. — TAKING A DEEP BREATH

DEAR TAKING: So do I, which is why I am printing your letter. All of the courageous men and women who put their well-being at risk in service to their patients and their community are heroes as far as I am concerned. I, as well as my readers, pray for your safety and success in this battle against this novel virus.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

To receive a collection of Abby’s most memorable — and most frequently requested — poems and essays, send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $8 (U.S. funds), to: Dear Abby — Keepers Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. Shipping and handling are included in the price.

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