Writing a letter during Lyme Awareness Month can make a bigger difference than you think.
When you have Lyme disease, the whole experience is emotional. The physical pain of it all, grieving the loss of your old life, resenting doctors, friends, the situation…
That is why we think you should think about writing a letter if you have Lyme. There is tons of psychological research behind why letter writing is beneficial to your mental and emotional health. You can process emotions you were not previously aware of, find and give forgiveness, and allow yourself to let go of any emotions that could be keeping you from progressing.
There are two kinds of letters we will discuss here:
- Transactional: A transactional letter addresses a certain situation with a specific message in mind that answers a prompt. Think of a transaction, in which there is a literal exchange between two people. For example, you write a letter granting forgiveness to your mother. These letters can be sent to the recipient (but don’t have to be) and can address positive or negative experiences.
- Therapeutic: A therapeutic letter is written to help process your emotions and help you understand the feelings you may not have addressed or realized yet. Because of this, they are not intended to send. In this way, you’ll be able to express how you really feel without worrying about the consequences of the recipient’s emotional response to the letter.
Let’s take a closer look at both of these letter types.
Let’s address the transactional letter first. If you’re looking to gain perspective or address something specific, this is the letter you should write.
It is more than just writing down how you feel. It is about constructing a message and actually thinking about what it would be like for them to receive this message. This helps you write differently. Your thoughts and words become real, and you start to think outside of yourself and how you might be feeling. As you write and read over your letter, your perspective may begin to change, and that is when the real changing can begin for you.
When you have Lyme, you don’t need to listen to everybody when they say to have a more positive perspective if you don’t want to. However, we think that a more positive perspective could really help you feel better, and that is what matters.
Try to really convey how you are feeling. Sometimes putting your feelings into words in a way that somebody else would understand can be challenging. It forces you to dig deep and admit these feelings to yourself. You might not realize how you’re feeling. Or maybe you know how you’re feeling but it isn’t real to you. A step above that? Maybe you know how you feel and you’ve let yourself feel them, but this is just another cathartic experience for you.
You can choose to write a letter to yourself or you can write one to somebody who has played a big part in your experience such as an authority figure, loved one, etc.
With Lyme, we imagine you may want to write a letter to your past self, a doctor you wish would have diagnosed you earlier, or a friend who has shown their true colors through your fight against Lyme disease.
Something to remember is that it’s more than expressive writing. You have to consciously think about how you are writing to another person and this may influence your thoughts and words.
Here are some prompts that may help you being your transactional letter:
If you’re writing to your past self:
- What would you have done differently?
- What advice would you give yourself?
- What do you wish you had known?
- What words of comfort would you give yourself?
If you’re writing to somebody else:
- How do you feel about them?
- Why do you feel this way about them?
- What do you think they were thinking?
- Why do you think they acted a certain way? Was it a past experience?
- What are you specifically grateful or upset about and why do you continue to feel that way?
- How did you feel about them at the time of your experience with them and how do you feel now? Are you asking for forgiveness or granting forgiveness?
Should You Send Your Transactional Letter
This is up to you. In some ways, not sending it might be better. After all, this is an exercise for your mental health and well-being, but it might have consequences you cannot predict. It could end up hurting the person you send it to. In other ways, it may be empowering to let someone know how you truly feel and may leave room for positive change.
If your letter is one of gratitude and love, it may be a positive experience to let your guard down and show appreciation to those who have traveled on your Lyme journey with you.
Therapeutic Letters for Lyme sufferers
You may arguably point out that transactional letters are also therapeutic in nature. The end goal of both of them is to take a step back from the trauma, change perspective, and heal. The biggest difference we see in them is 1) the way in which you go about writing it and 2) the intention of your letter.
If you aren’t ready to talk about your feelings with a therapist or friend, or if you are just in need of some venting, this letter may be the kind you should write. In fact, if you aren’t sure about what experience you would address in a transactional letter, this may be the first step. You may not realize how upset or hurt (or how blessed and gracious) you feel about something until you let it out onto paper.
Begin by just writing what comes to your mind and how you’re feeling.
Here are some tips for writing your letter:
- Address Lyme. Don’t just refer to it as being sick.
- Ask questions along the way.
- Don’t worry about being rational. Address the feelings that you have even if you don’t think you should be feeling that way.
Regardless of what letter(s) you decided to write, when you’re done writing the letter, read over it. Did you realize you felt this way? Highlight phrases or subjects you may have repeated throughout the letter. Take some time to process it all and decide what you want to do with what you have felt and learned.
If you decide to give your transactional letter to the recipient, prepare for that. Think about how you will present and what kind of expectations you have.
If you decide to get rid of the letter, we suggest burning it—and watching it burn. As you watch, it can be a symbolic and emotional experience as you let go of those feelings. It also ensures that your letter will never be read by anyone else, and that can certainly give you some peace of mind.
Still not sure if you’re ready to write your own letter? Check out some of the #LymeLetters on Instagram @LymeNow to see real Lymies and their experiences writing letters.