This article is part of Restart – ADHD Starter Kit: A Guide for Adults with ADHD (to be launched soon)
One useful exercise that ADHDers can consider doing is writing an open letter to all their loved ones — about what it means for them to have ADHD.
- This can help the loved ones of ADHDers understand the ADHDer better and clear up any misunderstandings.
- For ADHDers, thinking through how they can convey their experience of living with ADHD to their loved ones can give them a new perspective of themselves and the relationships in their lives.
- It can also help them figure out how they would like to engage with those in their lives about ADHD.
If you are an ADHDer interested in writing such an open letter, are some points you can consider putting into it:
- What is ADHD
- What living with ADHD feels like for you
- How you feel about your ADHD diagnosis
- How you would like to address some of the concerns that your friends and family may have about your ADHD
- How would you like your friends and family to support you in taking charge of your ADHD.
You can also find below a sample of an open letter
To my dear family and friends,
I have learned something new about myself recently. I would like to share it with you: I have Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, otherwise known as ADHD. I may not fit your perception of what someone with ADHD is like. Still, I would like to ask for your attention and patience as I share with you what I have learned thus far about ADHD.
ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder. This means that my brain is wired differently from that of other people. Specifically, the executive functions of my brain are weaker than that of others. These parts of the brain influence a person’s ability to manage themselves.
You can think of having an ADHD brain like a car with weak brakes, an accelerator that is inconsistent and a loose steering wheel.
- The “brakes” of my brain makes it harder for me to stop myself from acting on my impulses, or to pause any thoughts or emotional spirals I may have.
- The inconsistent “accelerator” of my brain means that sometimes I can ramp up the attention I want to pay to something and sometimes I can’t. I am able to pay “too much” attention while other times I can’t pay attention at all, which often is not something I am in control of, regardless of how important I know it is to me and those around me.
- The loose “steering wheel” of my brain means that sometimes I can’t control where my attention is directed.
You can just imagine how wild a ride life has been for me!
Now that I have told you that I have ADHD, you may worry that:
I think that I have ADHD but I don’t.
I have been diagnosed with ADHD by a mental health professional
I might use ADHD as an excuse for not continuing to strive to be the best version of myself
My ADHD diagnosis helps me pinpoint the root causes behind some of my struggles and motivates me to seek resources that are proven to help with ADHD.
Accepting that I have ADHD might make me “label” and limit myself
I was already giving myself limiting labels, like “lazy”, “stupid”, “slow” or “naughty”. Now that I know I have ADHD, I can recognize when some of the poor decisions I make are the result of my ADHD symptoms. I am me because of my ADHD, but I am also so much more than my ADHD. Knowledge of me having ADHD gives me power to use tried-and-tested ADHD strategies, letting me improve instead of limiting me.
I am sharing with you that I have ADHD because:
- I trust you to take the time to accept and understand me, instead of using this against me.
- I want to be honest with you, so you continue to know more about me over the years instead of less.
- Above all, I am telling you this because I truly want you to continue to be an important person in my life, through its highs and lows.
The truth is that it is also hard for me to fully accept what having ADHD means. There is the crushing realization of how my undiagnosed and unsupported ADHD has destroyed my self-esteem over the years and hurt my relationships or how it has negatively impacted my worldview, making me feel hopeless and useless.
My thoughts spiral in frustration: “If only this was identified earlier…” “Why did I have to struggle so much alone for so long?” “If only I was supported when I was younger, things would be so different…” “I could have been so much more successful…I could have been thriving instead of struggling to get by daily.”
I also worry a lot about what it must have been like to be you: to have not known that I have ADHD. I might have taken some actions and behaviors which I now recognize as ADHD traits to reflect how much I care about you.
Maybe when I got easily distracted or was fidgeting during a conversation with you to stay focused, you thought that I was growing impatient with you or that I didn’t care about what you had to say. Or when I forgot about or showed up late for my appointments, you felt that I didn’t value you or your time.
I am so sorry if my actions ever made you feel this way. Now, I am trying to give you this long overdue explanation. My efforts to become a better person is not just for me, but so I can do right by you too.
Despite feeling the grief of what I could have been, I also feel hopeful that I can now strive towards taking charge of my ADHD. If you would like to help me, I would appreciate your help in doing the following:
Learn more about ADHD
This may help you put my difficulties into perspective. Knowing what exactly ADHD entails will also mean that we will know when I should be more forgiving of myself, and when I need to hold myself to a higher standard.
Collaborate with me in forming my Strategy to Manage ADHD
There are many highly effective treatments for ADHD. However, ADHD comes with a difficulty in planning and following through with my plans, so I would appreciate any support you could offer in this area. Examples include reminding me of things, talking through big tasks with me and breaking them down into smaller manageable tasks, and holding me accountable. I do know, however, that I need to take charge of myself and not count on everyone around me to help me without putting in my own best efforts.
Listen with an Open Heart and Mind
Your patience in listening to me tell you about what it feels like to have ADHD will mean a lot to me. Your empathy — in believing me even if my experiences do not match yours or stereotypical ADHD portrayals in media — will also help me rediscover my faith in myself and the world.
I would also like to emphasize that sometimes it is not all bad to have ADHD. In fact, there are bright moments where I can even lean into and love those parts of myself that are intimately tied up with ADHD. I like to think that my wandering mind means that I am able to draw unexpected connections and come up with fresh ideas that delight you.
My neurological difference means I may notice things that you don’t, things that make you appreciate the world all the more. My impulsiveness means that I can inject a little spontaneity into any social gathering. I am also making new friends in support groups who have ADHD — who can joke about and exchange similar experiences with me.
So don’t worry about me having ADHD too much either. I’m still me, your friend/family member. I now have a name for why I struggle at times and seem different. I understand myself a little more now. And hopefully you know me a little better now too.