While preparing for her approaching freedom, Chelsea Manning penned an open letter in The Guardian to those “who kept her alive”—specifically to her fellow inmates she built powerful connections to while in jail.
In the letter, Manning describes how her inmates helped her survive, having gone through multiple suicide attempts, extended time in solitary confinement, a hunger strike and various issues associated with her transition. Thanks to her fellow inmates, she writes, Manning was able to live long enough for Obama to commute her sentence last month.
"When I was afraid, you taught me how to keep going," Manning said. "When I was lost, you showed me the way. When I was numb, you taught me how to feel. When I was angry, you taught me how to chill out. When I was hateful, you taught me how to be compassionate. When I was distant, you taught me how to be close. When I was selfish, you taught me how to share. Sometimes, it took me a while to learn many things. Other times, I would forget, and you would remind me. We were friends in a way few will ever understand. There was no room to be superficial. Instead, we bared it all. We could hide from our families and from the world outside, but we could never hide from each other."
The letter implores those going through a similar experience to find a sense of community and network of friends to care for, and in turn, receive the support everyone deserves.
"From where I am now, I still think of all of you," she writes. "When I leave this place in May, I will still think of all of you. And to anyone who finds themselves feeling alone behind bars, know that there is a network of us who are thinking of you. You will never be forgotten."
You can read Chelsea Manning's full letter, here.