Just Because It’s Invisible Doesn’t Mean It Doesn’t Exist

I’ve spoken publicly about my problems with addiction many times. I do it because I enjoy it and because I know that there’s a stigma to break around it.

I know that I don’t look like an “addict,” whatever the connotation of that term is. I know that the more I talk about what I’ve gone through, there’s a likelihood that I’ll change one person’s mind about hopefully how they treat and feel about people with substance abuse issues, even if it’s only one person.

I’ve experienced my fair share of prejudice around it, which I came to expect because I know that not everyone is educated about it. I’ve been referred to as the “dregs of society,” a junkie, and lumped into a category that feels unfair and minimalistic, but I open my mouth because those things need to change.

The arena of mental health is a newer one for me. Although you can classify addiction under that general heading, the mental health I’m referring to in this post is the broader mood disorder category which holds depression and anxiety under its umbrella.

My mood disorder issues went diagnosed for a long time, so a more recent diagnosis allowed me to finally own what was going on and allow me to feel comfortable speaking about what I had gone through.

It may be because I understand the importance of mental health and those who have to deal with issues stemming from it, but I tended to minimize it when people would speak about the stigma. Naively, I downplayed the importance of it as I hadn’t really heard anyone’s personal account with it and I had never experienced it.

Until last week.

I was aggressively spoken to on the elevator as I took Donut back upstairs from a walk. The entire conversation isn’t important, but as I told the other resident that she was an emotional support animal, she disgustedly said “for you?? You don’t look like you need that” and proceeded to call me a liar in several different ways.

Here’s the thing. If you’ve read any of my previous posts about my first dog Pinky and more recently when we brought home Donut, you know that dogs offer incredible emotional support to me. As I’ve mentioned previously, I believe that Pinky was one of the few things that kept me alive during my days of using.

The thing that bothered me the most was that very first comment. I felt minimized and marginalized. I didn’t understand how anyone could say something like that to another person without ever speaking to them before. It was baffling and as soon as I got back inside my door I spent the next 20 minutes crying without knowing quite why I was so distraught. The entire weekend my chest would feel tight as the elevator doors opened because I wasn’t sure if I would run into her again.

The point of this post is not to elicit comments about another person’s behavior. It’s done with and I’m processing it the best way I know how — through writing. The point of this is always what the point of my posts are — to educate and figure out what lessons can be learned to make for a better tomorrow.

I shared about this incident on Instagram, so if you saw it there this may already be old news to you, but what I didn’t share was how many comments I received telling me about similar experiences. It was amazing to hear so many people struggle with mistreatment because of something that can’t be seen.

It’s hard. We judge. Our judgements are based on our life experiences and just as I have to stop and remind myself to not judge others, I also have to remind myself that others may not have had the same experiences as me.

That doesn’t mean that we get a free pass for treating another person as less than. We all need to do our part to educate ourselves about what we don’t know, something I made sure to emphasize when I wrote the post about things to know about addiction.

You never know how your words or actions will affect another person, so please try and treat others the way you want to be treated. I know some days can be more difficult than others, but I believe the world will be a much better place if we try.

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13 Comments

  1. Caroline
    July 24, 2017 / 7:41 am

    Wow some people just don’t think before they speak. I loved this post and your view towards the whole situation – I think the first lesson I learned in school was “treat others the way you want to be treated” and the phrase still sticks with me today. I’m sorry you had to go through that experience! Hope you have a great Monday 🙂

  2. July 24, 2017 / 7:49 am

    Ugh, I’m sorry that happened to you. Thank you though for continuing to be so open and strong about everything by sharing it all here. Having your perspective for the last year has been really helpful to me as I’ve tried to process my cousin’s death and everything surrounding her life in the days/months/weeks before she died. (It was a year last week, and I finally wrote about it on my blog). Anyway. Thank you, Erin. Your voice matters. Hopefully this person, and others who need it most, will hear it.
    Erin recently posted…The 2017 San Francisco Marathon (#TSFM2017): pre-race banterMy Profile

  3. Mark
    July 24, 2017 / 8:22 am

    That’s an awful experience and an unpleasant reminder that there are people in this world that just hate for no reason. It’s sad and unfortunate that people consistently judge based on the surface and have no idea or bother to care about someone on the inside or what they’ve gone through in life. I don’t look like an “addict” either or someone who still struggles at times with alcohol but doesn’t mean it’s not true. And you’re right, the more it’s talked about the more people will realize that what a person looks like on the outside is not necessarily an indicator of who they are on the inside. Thank you for sharing 🙂

  4. July 24, 2017 / 8:57 am

    It’s so easy to be superficial, and I’m so thankful daily for reminders that God doesn’t look on the outside but He examines my heart. i have to remember that as I’m too often tempted to make judgments of a person by what I see on the outside, but this was a good reminder to remember that there is sooo much more beneath the surface.

  5. July 24, 2017 / 11:09 am

    I don’t understand why people do or say the things they do these days. It’s as if everyone has forgotten how to appreciate one another. Technology certainly has not helped, but messages like this are important reminders.
    Megan @ Skinny Fitalicious recently posted…Cherry Quinoa Smoothie {GF, Low Cal}My Profile

  6. July 24, 2017 / 2:33 pm

    Wow that’s incredibly rude! I had a lot of experiences of people opening their mouth and making really judgemental comments while I was pregnant and it was really hard. Thank you for sharing this post–as someone with anxiety I can definitely relate.
    Heather @ Polyglot Jot recently posted…Currently: July 2017My Profile

  7. July 24, 2017 / 2:35 pm

    Thank you for sharing your perspective and reminding us all to be more patient, loving and kind. You can’t tell much about a person’s life simply by looking at them.
    Kaitlyn @ Powered by Sass recently posted…Mo’ Veggies, No ProblemsMy Profile

  8. July 25, 2017 / 8:17 am

    I already shared my frustration on Instagram but again I’m sorry you had to deal with the rudeness!

    I think sharing your experience is a positive way to deal with it and hopefully give somebody a second thought if they have a similar encounter.

    Another thing about this attitude is that it discourages folks with “hidden” or “high functioning” mental illness from seeking help because, well, like she said, “you don’t LOOK like you need help.”

  9. July 26, 2017 / 2:17 pm

    Unfortunate this is the world we live in. I have gotten similar reactions from people and it hurts in a way that is so hard to explain. Thank you for sharing, because in sharing our stories we are able to let others know they are not alone.

  10. July 28, 2017 / 12:30 pm

    I think you’re such an inspiration for owning your past and using it to fuel your inner fire and drive to help others. There will always be people who will try to knock you down for seemingly no reason but to feel a little better themselves. It sucks and makes no sense; why would she do that? Maybe she just had a super crappy day. Maybe her boyfriend just dumped her, or she just got fired. No that doesn’t excuse her, but it sometimes helps to think of it this way when we’re trying to let it roll off us. Her comment has nothing to do with you and everything to do with her. Keep doing you, girl, and Donut is lucky to have you as a dog mom. <3

  11. July 28, 2017 / 5:08 pm

    It’s really unfortunate how some deal with their own insecurities by taking it out on others…sigh. Sorry you had to deal with that but thanks for writing this incredibly honest post.

  12. August 3, 2017 / 7:13 am

    Wow, hats off to you, you spoked what you think without caring for others, I liked your way of thinking and your views. Thanks for posting and always hope for the best. “Treat others the way you want to be treated” its one of my favourite line which still I am applying in my life with positive thoughts. Thanks alot.

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