Emotions & Shame

“Dear 10-Year-Old Me, Just Be You.”

If you could go back in time and deliver one message to your younger self (about ADHD or life in general), what would it be? We posed the question to ADDitude readers, whose responses ranged from laugh-out-loud funny to practical and empowering.

A young boy wearing flying goggles has a rocket strapped to his back as he is ready to fly to new imaginary places. Image taken in Utah, USA.
A young boy wearing flying goggles has a rocket strapped to his back as he is ready to fly to new imaginary places. Image taken in Utah, USA.

Be honest: Have you ever dreamed of inventing a time-travel machine explicitly to go back and undo particularly cringe-worthy or heart-breaking events of your past? You’d never forget your brother’s beloved Pokémon cards at sleepaway camp, spill marinara on your prom dress, or impulsively spread a rumor about your childhood BFF.

Memories are, sometimes, a cruel reminder that our ADHD brains work differently. Intellectually, we know that our misguided words, actions, or reactions weren’t due to a character flaw but brain chemistry. But, at the time, it sure felt a lot like failure, which perhaps contributed to a lifetime supply of shame.

If you could go back in time and deliver one message to your 10-year-old self (about ADHD or life in general), what would it be? We posed the question to ADDitude readers, whose responses ranged from laugh-out-loud funny to practical and empowering.

What sage advice would you give your younger self? Share your messages in the Comments section below.

A Letter to My Younger ADHD Self

“You are supposed to be a curious explorer, and your mind is opening up to the world. It can be overwhelming. It’s okay if you shut down sometimes and need to rest your brain. It’s okay if you can’t decide what to do and need to sit in a tree and watch the birds. Or the clouds. Or the spring buds emerging from the branches. You are brilliant, a ferocious worker, passionate about many things, and capable of doing anything you set your mind to. You will do your best when you push aside the expectations of everyone else and do what you want to do.”— Eleanor, Utah

[Free Download: Unraveling the Mysteries of Your ADHD Brain]

“It’s okay to get Cs once in a while.” — Anonymous

“You have ADHD. You’re not stupid, and you’re not lazy, but you’re going to need extra help sometimes, and that’s okay. You might need medicine and that’s okay, too.” — Anonymous

“Your world is not quite as you see it, but you will learn how to navigate it and see so much beauty along the way. Don’t be afraid to join. You don’t need to pretend. Just be you. Remember to be kind, compassionate, sincere, and brave.” — Susan, Maine

“Try not to panic when your frustration, confusion, and fear kicks in. When your hormones rage, and it seems no one understands your pain, please don’t numb the pain with drugs and alcohol. Be patient and compassionate with yourself, and try to be kind to the grown-ups who care but don’t know how to help. You have a steady, wise voice within, which will guide you to the help you need.” — Jeri, Pennsylvania

Admit your mistakes, but never let them define your self-worth and value on this planet. Okay?” — Darren, Alaska

[“Has ADHD Warped Your Sense of Self? It’s Time to Reclaim Your Story — and Power.”]

“For every 10 things that seem easy for others but nearly impossible for you, there are another 90 things that you are amazing at that hardly anyone can do. Focus on your strengths. Find ways to fill in the gaps for those other things. You got this!” — Anonymous

“Your parents don’t know how or why you struggle. You are autistic, and you have other interesting differences. Do your research — it will turn out all right. You will learn to love your life and to love yourself.” — Anonymous

“Dear sweet little me, let go of that memory of how they looked at you in 4th grade when you accidentally dumped your and your partner’s science experiment down the sink without thinking and yelled the ‘F’ word. You are not weird or stupid. You are loved. You are brilliant. You are human. Love, grown-up me.”— Anonymous

“Comparing yourself to others isn’t helpful because if you are a mango, no matter how hard you try, you will never be a passionfruit. Find what makes your heart smile. Be kind to yourself and others. Get some sunshine, exercise, and face-to face-time with others. Remember you are beautiful, and you are growing and changing.” — Shaunna, Australia

“Take one thing at a time. Don’t worry about what people think. Try to sit in front of the class, where there are fewer distractions.” — Anonymous

“Remember to give others the time to speak during conversations. You must be patient and wait for them to finish before interrupting with the next big thing on your mind. Be respectful and listen so you can offer genuine feedback. Don’t dominate the discussion.” — Stacey, Michigan

“You aren’t a troublemaker. You are lively, bright, thoughtful, funny, and exceptionally curious about the world. Someday those qualities will bring you and others joy.” — Rosemary, Maryland

“Celebrate your athleticism, endless energy, weirdness, fearlessness, sense of humor, and lust for new knowledge and creativity. These are gifts, and you will have great careers because of them (Say, “yes!” to the wildland firefighting job). You will graduate from an Ivy League school, but it will be much later in life, so be patient. Your trauma and ADHD will feed off of each other. So get therapy as soon as you are able. You’re going to be fine. P.S. You don’t need to ‘grow up.’” — Anonymous

“You’re the coolest, Katherine. Your unique brain is your superpower. Let’s learn to work with it.” — Katherine

Advice to My Younger Self: Next Steps


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