No send letters are an amazing way to get your thoughts down on paper. If you’re like me and you’re too scared of upsetting people (some would say co-dependent) to actually tell them what you think, writing to them can be a good outlet.
The concept of the no-send letter was introduced to me by a great therapist when I was an inpatient at the Priory. When I first started talking about my brother abusing me and my family’s inept response, he tried to get me to talk to an empty chair, imagining various people were sitting there. It just felt silly. I couldn’t even start.
So he suggested I write to them. If you’re not planning to send the letter, you can say exactly what you need to. The idea is to write it as it comes into your head, no self-censorship and no edits. In hospital, the suggestion was to write the letter and then seal it in an envelope straight away. That meant the next time I looked at them it would be when I read it aloud in group therapy.
I started by writing to my brother. About how angry I was and the awful impact his actions have had on me over the years. I dutifully sealed it away, and took it with me to group the next day. I could feel it with me, like a weapon I was ready to fire when I got the confidence. I was terrified of reading it, but at the same time I was excited. It was exhilarating to finally be able to say those words out loud, in a safe space with a group of people generously listening.
I did find the courage, and I couldn’t believe how powerful it was to read it. I was shaking and could hardly catch my breath. But the feedback I got from my peers helped validate the things I had been feeling for so long. For all those years, I’d felt like I was exaggerating, or overdramatising how I felt. The experience was incredibly liberating. And it was the first big step I took towards changing my life for the better.
I’m thinking of putting together a book of no send letters. I’ve written a few that I’m planning to publish here. I would love to hear from anyone who has shared theirs, or would be willing to share them with me. I had the privilege of hearing a few when I was in hospital and they were amazing every time. They were cutting and raw and so very real. They tell a story that many people just aren’t able to express by any other medium.
Image used from Creative Commons, by kind permission of Liz West