These days my life is almost mainstream. I have an apartment. I have a friend or two, some cats, some hobbies. I'm single but dating. In good weather I ride my bicycle. I play with my computer in good weather and bad. There is little about me now to suggest that I've had anything but an ordinary, uneventful life with only the usual upsets and heartaches.
Appearances can deceive. Throughout my life I've been deeply troubled. I've had long periods of unemployment, social isolation, alcoholic drinking with all the unsavory symptoms, homelessness, confinements to locked wards in State mental institutions, and more. I've had crippling bouts of blackest depression when I attempted suicide; and worse bouts, when I nearly starved because I couldn't move and there was no one to feed me.
This has left scars. The scars from slashed wrists, from cutting, from the many accidental injuries I sustained, don't trouble me. The painful scars are invisible. They'll always be there. Maybe they'll always hurt.
Because they can't see my scars, people don't know about my past. They discuss homelessness, mental illness, and substance abuse in my presence. They seem to think a person's problems are their fault - homelessness because they're lazy, drugs or alcohol because they're morally corrupt, hospitalizations because they're crazy. This is where I lose it.
That's me you're talking about. You can't see it, but that's me huddled in the doorway, covering myself with newspaper, trying to keep warm. That's me, passed out in a bar, in a park, vomiting in an alley, being hauled off once again to sleep it off in the drunk tank. That's me with the dazed look, rocking back and forth from the effects of medication. That's me, stunned from shock treatments, forgetting who I am. That's me, trapped in abuse without the means to escape. That's me you're talking about.
You say, "You're not like them. You're one of us." That's self-deception. A bad break, an ill-timed blow, and anyone can fall from grace. It can be impossible to get back up. But for a few breaks, I'd still be out there or dead. But for good fortune, you could have been on the street.
I don't suggest that we're mere playthings of fate, that our lives are wholly beyond our control; but life isn't as secure and stable as we'd like to think. It takes little to derail us.
Consider well before speaking lightly of the misfortunes of others. That's me you're talking about.