Shadow Work: A Letter to Yourself

Find some time to take a step back from your normal routine and do a deep reflection. Think back to a difficulty you faced in the past, and write a letter addressed to that version of yourself. Write your letter with love and empathy. Share the advice you needed to hear. The content of your letter should be unique to your experience. Start with one sentence and see whwere your heart flows.

Writing a letter to your past self is therapeutic and will help you gain closure, clarity, and inner peace. Your inner child is still inside you, waiting to be heard and nurtured. You may even find that this letter may resonate with you in the future.

Dearest Past Katy,

You might be surprised to hear this (or maybe not, you were all over the place), but you’re almost 40. Still a few years off, but you are almost there. Not gonna lie, the adult version of us is surprised about this, but knowing you, you probably thought you would live to be as old as grandma and grandpa. Life got a little complicated getting to this point, but it ended up working out all things considered.

I’ll be honest with you, I barely remember you. I have held on to so little things about you because the more I tried to hold on to the child version of myself, the more I was punished, shunned, cast aside and told (paraphrasing) that I was a stupid girl who would never amount to anything. It has taken great effort to try to go back in time and remember the person I used to be, the person you are now. Even thinking for long periods of times draws many blanks trying to remember you. And I’ll admit, I feel great guilt and shame about this. I have lost sight of the person I used to be, you.

The perks of having an online diary such as this is that I am just a few clicks away from this past version of myself. The disadvantages are that my brain developed and cannot stop cringing at things that I would never do or say in the current times. So, hard truth time: there are certain versions of you that I don’t like and was relieved to finally shed from. And yet, you expected other people to be okay with your toxic traits. With that said, I forgive you for the things you don’t know yet and you will the learn the hard way what will happen if you do not course correct (you didn’t for a long time).

I often oscillate back and forth between “you should have known better” and “you didn’t know any better because your home life was a mess”. If I were to have any conversation with you (probably best done with the teen version of myself, the child version was oblivious), it would be about this. On one hand, maybe you could have learned from the examples of the more mature people beyond their years. But on the other hand, maybe they were also imperfect people who might have also lead you down an entirely different path that wasn’t genuine for you. And to an extent, I do think you often didn’t know any better. Your (Our) parents can be very stubborn, stuck up, egotistical, and stoic, and that was what you had to learn from day in and out. There weren’t many other great influences around you, other than other kids.

I’m realizing about this point that maybe this letter is not starting out being very kind. Maybe I’m looking through too critical a lens. A lot of it might be projection from my current life because I hit rock bottom and had to scrape and crawl back to a more stable place. I feel like some of it could have been avoided, had you learned many of the lessons I have sooner. But, we are both stubborn, some things don’t change. And I guess if I had to do it all again, maybe with the exception of a few minor changes here and there, I would. Not at all because it was pleasant, but moreso how it ended up. Whatever would have lead me to my current life, I would do again and again.

But I will say…a lot of who you used to be, the good things, the vibrant and vivacious and creative and shamelessly outgoing part of you, I desperately wish sometimes that I could feel that again. I wish that life and society and normie social conventions didn’t beat that out of us. I wish you could have thrived despite pushback on all the good things that made you unique and special. But…life taught me that you either conform or face extreme isolation, and so slowly over time, I lost sight of you. I felt I had to let go of you to move forward and try to get ahead somehow. I sold out and for that, I am sorry. You deserved more respect than that. Worst of all, losing sight of you didn’t even prevent the worst things that happened thereafter. So I lost sight of you and lost everything dear to me. Wasn’t even worth it.

I would give anything to feel close to the person I used to be again. To spend a day in the life of you for a while. Not even with my current brain. A lot of times people wish to go back in time but equipped with the things they know now. I’d love to just…live life the way you did again, exactly how you lived it. Maybe it would help me remember and get back in touch with who I was before life got in the way. So, the good news is, there was nothing wrong with your inner spirit.

You always meant well and loved deeply (others might disagree, but you did, don’t doubt that you loved people). In your teens, when you started dating, I know it was easy to go from one to another…it wasn’t because you didn’t love people, you did. You just got used to the magic of the start of relationships and didn’t know what to do once they either got more serious or they stagnated. It was very easy for people to stand and judge it on the outside, that you were a wh*re or sl*t (didn’t even sleep with anyone til college). The reality of it, as I’ve reflected a lot in adulthood, was that you were starved for connection. You wanted to feel loved in relationships because you felt you needed the outside validation in order to feel whole. I feel bad now for the hurt I caused people by relationship jumping constantly, but at the time, you were just doing what you needed to do to stay emotionally stable. To make up for the black hole that was your home life. But don’t ever doubt that you didn’t actually love those people, because I still remember many of those relationships fondly.

If you ever wondered if we still ramble and ramble on in adulthood – yes. I’m happy that you were lucky enough to get an ADHD diagnosis as a child. It was definitely part of the puzzle, but not the finished product. Some test results have shown that there was likely an autism aspect to it as well. It might have explained a lot of difficult things that you weren’t able to understand about yourself or the world around you. Our parents also made you think that ADHD itself wasn’t actually disabling (ADHD is an ADA recognized disability, put the spaces together it won’t let me do a link with a free diary: https : // www . disabilityresource . org/47-adhd-and-the-protection-under-the-ada), but it was! You needed accommodations in school, but at home your parents expected you to be normal and have perfect grades. They expected the accommodations to somehow make everything better. The reality is that you probably needed even more accommodations that you actually got. And if nothing else, understanding from your parents that a learning disability (which was likely the autism, not the ADHD) is…..wait for it….disabling. The amount of times they made you feel bad for less than desirable grades was truly uncalled for. They could have just as easily been more supportive and been more kind when you got behind academically. Millennials and Gen Zs are (for the most part) unlearning those shame tactics that our Boomer and Gen X parents used so heavily. It’s a very different world now than it was back then, that’s for sure.

The moral of the story is, one thing I do remember about you is that you very much liked living in the moment. And sometimes, spending all day in a classroom and then going home and being expected to apply myself even more…felt restrictive. So I remember you often shut off when you wanted to play that game, or read that book, or watch that cartoon/movie, or sing that song, or go explore the creek, or rollerblade, or call that friend. What your parents didn’t realize is that those things were actually helping you regulate yourself. They were important to you, and not that school wasn’t, but school just took up so much of your time and bandwidth, and you wanted to sometimes do something that actually made you happy. But, your parents are kind of a killjoy (still are, some habits die hard) and felt like a lot of the things that made you happy were too much of a distraction from becoming a capitalistic bootlicking lemming (you’ll learn later, trust me). The hard truth is, your parents never understood you, cared about the things that made you you, and often tried their hardest to mold you into something you were never going to be. The happy ending there is that you are living the life you want to, doing a job that doesn’t suck the soul out of you, not making a lot of money, but happily spending time doing all the things you love.

One of the things that set you free was finally coming to terms with the full scope of what it meant to be AuDHD and that some of your neurodivergence stemmed from trauma. You went into everything blind for a long time before understanding you had trauma. You were never to blame for that trauma. You are to blame for some of the actions that stemmed from having trauma, but we are always going to forgive the things that happened before you knew what was actually happening. Right now, you’re just living life the way you know how to, and I love that for you, I do. I just wish that of all the knowledge I know now, that I could have gotten that part through to you, so that maybe you could have avoided many situations that you got into because you were that desperate to get out of your parents household. We could have saved a lot of pain and hurt by acknowledging the elephant in the room sooner.

I know I probably need to wrap this up before I write another 20 paragraphs of just an adult stream of consciousness to an AuDHD child who has the attention span of a fruit fly (no judgment though, only love 🤗), so this is how I will wrap up everything. This letter actually helped me get back in touch with you, someone I thought I had forgotten all about but actually remember the parts that counted. The part of you that I cherish and hold so dearly into adulthood. I am sorry for the ways that your parents failed you, sorry for the way that the world failed you, but I admire your ability, through all the hard times, that you kept carrying on. That you never gave up. That, even if you let society shape you into what you thought they wanted, you found your way back to you. You are a strong, resilient, little cookie. And I hope that we continue the journey together to find peace and healing in tremendously devastating and heartbreaking times.

With love,

Future Katy