49: Letters from Home

49: Letters from Home

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks to My Mom

Letters from Home

When life gives you a hundred reasons to cry, show life that you have a thousand reasons to smile.

~Author Unknown

Just over a year ago, I went through one of the most challenging experiences of my life. After exhausting the mental-health care that we could find in Canada, we were left with one last option. I had to go into residential care in the States, thousands of miles from home.

My mom had been there with me through the past four years of struggles and darkness, and never a day went by without her supporting me. She accompanied me to the States, and three plane rides later it was time to say goodbye. With tears in our eyes, we parted, not knowing when I would be released or when I would see her again.

I felt more alone than I had ever felt in my whole life. But after a few days, the letters started to arrive. As I opened my first piece of mail, I felt the desperation fade away. Even though I was far away, my mom reached across the distance to take my hand and walk with me along the path to getting better. She wrote to me every day.

The letters were funny, cajoling, and most importantly a reminder that I was not forgotten. Although working full-time and running a household, she would get up two hours early each morning and make sure that my letter was written before she did anything else in her day. Even though she was exhausting herself, she made sure that I had the strength to face another day in treatment.

The other residents would often look at my mom’s eight-page letters and shake their heads in wonder. “How does your mom make time to write all of that?” they would ask.

On Wednesdays, she would write me stories. When I was a little girl and could not sleep, she would make up stories about my pets and the adventures they had under a pink and purple sky. I had not thought about those stories since I was little, but now every week there would be a new installment. In one of the stories, a character was wandering around a marsh and… well, I will let my mom explain it:

There were the usual bull rushes, and water, grasses and land. That was “normal” but what was not normal was the fact that everything was well off kilter. No, the plants weren’t wearing kilts, thank goodness for that would be really weird, no it seemed that the people, the frogs, the insects the birds they were all wearing kilts! Talk about weird. Charlotte felt that she had landed in the Scotland of the swamp world. It was weird to see tartan everywhere; and how the heck did the insects make such tiny kilt pins?

The stories went on like this, bringing tears to my eyes because I was laughing so hard. During free time I would pull out her letters and let the flame of determination grow. I knew what she was doing. She was giving me a reason to laugh, and in doing so she gave me a reason to fight my illness and get better. She was throwing me a lifeline, and it was my responsibility to take hold and pull myself out of the quicksand of the last four years. Every day another letter arrived, each one preventing me from being sucked back into the swirling vortex of my mind.

I started working harder with my therapist, and paying more attention in the groups. Before I knew it, I was making leaps and bounds away from my illness. I quickly reached each new level, and I was given more freedom at the facility. I could call home more often, and my mom and I would laugh at whatever she had written in my latest letter.

Finally, it was the day that I thought would never come. There was a knock on the door and my family stepped in, my mom in the lead. The next twenty minutes were filled with screaming and laughing, crying and hugging.

In total I was at the treatment facility for ten weeks less a day. The average stay is around six months. I was released with flying colours and have not had a relapse since. And it was all due to my mom’s perseverance and her determination to never go a day without writing me. Even though she was far away, her letters from home reassured me that she was walking beside me every step of the way.

~Rachel Loewen

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