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.