My Brain Journey Story

Written By Ann Mattingly-Lowe

So, I have anxiety, depression, and ADHD.

I think I’ve always had it.

I can remember times as a little girl that I would be so “nervous and worried about everything” that I felt like my heart was going to come out of my chest.  Once, when I was supposed to give a speech, I woke up with such a bad stomach ache, I couldn’t go to school. (Yes, there are more neurotransmitters in our gut than in our brain.)

It’s no wonder, really. Not only did I likely inherent crappy genes…I experienced what we now know are ACE’s (Adverse Childhood Experiences.) No, I wasn’t abused… There were just a lot of “stressors.”

My mom was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis when I was 3 years old and also had hydrocephalus – water on the brain. My dad lived with PTSD from WWII (he was a Tanker in the Army and was awarded three Purple Hearts and multiple Bronze Stars) … but it’s really the invisible wounds that were the deepest. So…life was worrying about which one of them would land in the hospital next. Mom, for her MS or neuro-surgery…or Dad having electro-convulsive therapy treatments at the VA. It wasn’t anybody’s fault…but dang…it wasn’t easy worrying about mom falling or dad flipping out … or if one of them was going to end up in a long-term-care facility. Fortunately for me, I knew that I was loved very much and was taught how to be resilient; so my resilience score is sky high. ACE’s are linked to chronic health issues as an adult. (If you’re interested in learning more, see our Mental Health Resources page for a link to take an ACE/Resilience test.)

So…back to ADHD. I can remember blurting things out (impulsivity control issues) as a kid and still now – that have caused misunderstandings and hurt feelings.

I used to hate my brain.  I knew I was “different.” You know, a non-conformer, marching to the beat of my own drummer.  That’s tough as a kid…especially in Parochial School, where it felt like I didn’t fit in.

My third-grade teacher made me sit in the corner the entire semester because I talked too much.  All I could remember was asking somebody next to me a question I didn’t understand about an assignment. Yeh, she really “taught me a lesson” about humiliation and self-loathing. Good job, teech!

They didn’t know what ADHD was back then…so I just got bad marks in “Christian Conduct.”  By the time I was diagnosed as an adult, the doctor said that I had been living with it for so long, and since I managed to get excellent grades, have excelled in my career, and been an overall over-achiever … that I had it “under control.”  But that’s part of the problem.  I have to control EVERYTHING.  I make lists, double-check, ask questions, make sure my ducks are in a row…play things over and over in my mind…trying to help my spinning brain to slow down and focus.

Sometimes anxiety has made me afraid to do anything…literally paralyzed me and made me unable to ask for help.

Sometimes I feel like my senses are on extra-sensory overload.  Every little sound, touch, or light makes me jumpy.  Everything annoys me.  Really, I’m just annoyed with myself.

Sometimes day-to-day life is just overwhelming. Having conversations, being truly present, doing household cleaning, laundry, cooking, getting out of bed…all of it is too much.  (I know…Winner, Winner Chicken Dinner..)

Sometimes I can’t handle reading or watching the news …  especially lately.  I can’t handle the politics of life … it seems like people have become so mean and hateful and I feel like I’m going to crack. One mis-step or differing opinion and people will crucify you.  What happened to “Agreeing to Disagree”?

Sometimes my mind is racing and I can’t sleep.  When I can’t sleep, things don’t usually go too well.

Sometimes, I feel like a fraud, because I have this smiling face but, deep-down, I’m miserable.  If people really knew me, I mean REALLY knew me; would they still like me?

Sometimes I feel completely alone in a room full of people.  I really hate crowds.  I literally feel like I can’t breathe.

Sometimes I’m the life of the party, full of stories and laughs.  Sometimes it’s nervous energy…but not always.

Sometimes anxiety makes me on edge, short with and impatient with my family.  That’s my least favorite part about it.  The guilt is overwhelming.  Because I’m so grateful for my family and the handful of friends who know these things about me … and still love me and accept me … and put up with me.

It comes in waves… there are times when I feel inexplicably calm and peaceful.  I’m grateful for those moments.  I do know that these things are good for me:  restful sleep; exercise; having the freedom to talk about it; medicine; prayer; feeling grateful; having a supportive husband; learning; advocating; and helping others. Oh … and having a sense of humor definitely helps!  True story.

And you know what?!

I will never judge someone battling mental health issues.  I will never wonder why my friend is acting different or why she can’t pick up the phone or get together.  I will never criticize her for being scared of something that seems normal to me.

Anxiety and depression are a drag.  Honestly…they really are… But I believe that the more that we talk about it; the more it helps.

Gradually, I’ve learned to appreciate my brain…its’ different nuances, the different way it looks at the world and interprets information, its’ uniqueness.   I hope that you can learn to appreciate yours, too…and love yourself.

And I want you to know … THAT YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

Check out more about The Inner Glow Initiative under the About page @ for a safe place to learn and to get information about Mental Health Resources.

Thanks so much for your support!  Keep on Glowing!!!