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How Handwritten Letters Helped Me Through Residential Treatment

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When I was 17 years old, I boarded a plane for Illinois. For all 900 miles, I sat thinking about the fact that I didn’t know when I would return home. After years of struggling with anxiety, depression, self-harm and suicidal ideation, my parents decided it was best for me to get help at a residential treatment center for an indefinite period of time.

The first morning in rehab, I woke up to a nurse throwing a gown onto my bed at 5:00 a.m. I was confused, scared and exhausted. My four roommates slowly got out of bed and started undressing. I imitated their actions while still in a daze.

The bright light blinded me as I walked out to a line formed outside the nursing station. We all had our vitals taken, weight checked and our bodies examined for any scratches, cuts or bruises. I never thought that while my friends were preparing for senior prom, I would be standing naked in front of a nurse.

The first few days were lonely. I wasn’t allowed to use the telephone to contact my friends or parents during my first week. In the afternoon of my fourth day in rehab, one of the staff members called out my name and handed me six envelopes. After opening the mail in front of the staff member to ensure contraband wasn’t mailed, I quickly headed for my room to read my letters.

I can’t explain the joy, comfort and peace I felt when reading through my letters. Mail time soon became a precious and sacred part of my day. The fact that people would take the time to write me a letter shocked me. I didn’t think that anyone cared about me. A simple handwritten letter helped me feel valued, loved and important.

While it has been six years since I sat in rehab crying tears of joy over the handwritten letters sent to me, I distinctly remember the impact that those letters had on my recovery process. I still look forward to checking my mail every day.

I found out about Letters Against Depression about a year ago and I instantly knew that I had found an organization dear to my heart. I want to help people realize that they are important, valued and not alone. Letters Against Depression spreads hope through snail mail, and I know from personal experience how powerful snail mail is!

Unsplash via @fanhungry

Originally published: October 19, 2018
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