“Owning our story and loving ourselves through the process is the bravest thing we’ll ever do.”
– Brené Brown
Hello, my name is Brittany Wellington, born and raised in Southern California. I’m a daughter, middle sibling, auntie to two boys, and much more. I believe helping others has always been my calling; I may not know in what way, I just know I need to help people. After much reluctance, even to this day, I went to nursing school and became a licensed registered nurse. Becoming a nurse has been the most challenging but eye-opening thing I’ve ever done.
The journey to follow was not an easy one. I realized that the hospital setting was not for me and that I’d be battling anxiety and depression. Everyday was a constant battle with myself and my faith. I’d plead with God to reveal what I was supposed to be doing. I felt like a failure and was constantly comparing myself to others around me. I was my worst enemy and was broken, lost, anxious, and depressed.
What does depression look like? Absolutely nothing! There is no “look” or telltale sign. A depressed person can look like anything they want to. A “normal” person with a smile on their face. A person who is quiet, introverted, extroverted, happy, sad, energetic, angry, or any other characteristics that make up a human being’s psychology. Little did I know I’d be at the very edge of a depressive episode that changed my life as I know it.
I lost my mid-late twenties to anxiety and depression. During my major episodes, depression consumed my ability to leave the house. I struggled performing the most basic self-care acts, which kept me from starting my career. I cut everyone off socially because depression literally consumes every ounce of energy, “life” from your body, soul, and mind. Along with the isolation, came the intense feelings of being a burden and increased fear of pretty much everything. I struggled talking with family, friends, therapists, even medical professionals, it was heartbreaking.
Depending on the severity of depression, there are no physical signs. Depression is felt and controlled from the inside. There have been multiple times I’ve read or heard about depression being related to sadness and that simply isn’t it. For me, and many others, living with depression is more emptiness than sadness; or how I describe it as being completely “emotionless”. It’s also described as a dark hole of nothingness, which is one of the most accurate ways to explain it.
The following details may be graphic and disturbing, I have no intention of upsetting anyone or bringing up harmful or difficult thoughts, so please continue to read with caution thank you.
The peak of my depression was the darkest time of my life, negative and suicidal thoughts, isolation, memory loss, etc. I’m going to do my best to share as much as I can remember, so here goes. The first time I had experienced any form of severe anxiety or panic attack was during my first nursing job. I was orienting on a Medical-Surgical hospital floor. It started off as what I thought was nervousness, new job jitters, being a new grad, and feeling incompetent. But it turned out to be something much deeper than that. It was the fall of 2016. I had already been bouncing around from doctors and therapists. It was a very difficult experience searching for a treatment plan for my newly diagnosed depression and anxiety.
This was all unbearable for me to handle and required the help of my parents. At the time, my parents were also trying to cope with the fact I had a mental diagnosis. So I could only imagine how difficult it was for them as well. I began to find myself slowly falling deeper into myself and my negative thoughts. I could feel my body begin to shut down. It started off with daily panic attacks which prevented me from continuing to work. Now jobless, and feeling like a failure, I remember crying a lot and couldn’t get up from the bed. There were days, even weeks that would go by where I wouldn’t shower, brush my teeth, even use the restroom. Gross, I know! But there’s something about major depression that begins to shut both your mental and physical systems down.
Sleeping ended up being 12-20 hours a day with no appetite, no drive, or no desire to live. I remember dropping down to 90lbs from my usual 135lbs. I don’t recall ever being that weight in my life, but I was basically skin and bones. My scrubs, jeans, even my undergarments didn’t fit me. Looking in the mirror I didn’t even recognize myself, but the weirdest thing is, none of it mattered to me, I was numb to it all. After noticing the shocking decrease in my weight, my parents would rotate ‘shifts’ to sit with me as I ate. That was my only goal for the day to eat something, and even that task was taxing. Leaving the house for an appointment or just to go for a drive was a huge ordeal.
Anytime I needed to get out of bed I’d cry, “please don’t make me go, mom, please!” for about 15 minutes. Afterward, she literally had to undress me and put me in the shower, like I was a toddler. I remember not even knowing what to do, how to wash, what my hygiene routine was…nothing. All memory of what I had done for years was gone. After my shower, she would dress me, then walk me to her car.That’s if I didn’t get back in the bed first, which became another 15-30 minutes of negotiation and convincing talk. As soon as I would see the car or feel the air outside I would instantly have a panic attack. After that episode was over I’d be so numb and exhausted that the car ride would put me to sleep.
Now, this had gone on for a couple of months. I was only getting worse, even with medication and therapy. ‘I was too far gone’, how my mother said that I’d respond to any kind of intervention. The depression was so severe, that it didn’t matter what anyone said, I was shut down both mentally and physically. Nothing but negative thoughts ruminating in my head that eventually turned into suicidal thoughts. The suicidal thoughts were so severe, I remember scrolling for hours on my phone for ways to end my life. The negative thoughts were so constant and consistent, like clockwork. Every time I closed my eyes I was picturing myself running in front of a car, or jumping off a building. I never said anything to anyone because at first it only felt like nightmares. When I woke up, I wouldn’t think about it until I fell asleep again.
Also, I never had the energy to get out of bed let alone act on any of those thoughts. It wasn’t brought up until I started taking stronger antidepressants and seeing a therapist pretty regularly. Since it takes weeks for treatments to make a breakthrough, my negative thoughts stayed with me. They followed me everywhere and consumed me to the point that nothing even mattered. I just wanted the thoughts to end, the bad feelings to end, life to end.
After what felt like an eternity of being consumed by negative, dark thoughts. I considered doing anything to make them go away. It’s what I wanted, or at least thought I wanted. So on the eve of Thanksgiving, I went downstairs and grabbed a knife. (Not a steak knife either if you were wondering).I went into my bathroom and sat down; the knife in my left hand and phone in my right. As I sat there pleading to God, to anyone, “please just make the thoughts go away”.
I held the knife to my chest and pressed it towards my heart, not feeling any pain. Something made me pause. Not knowing at the time, was it my spirit? Was it guilt or faith in something bigger than myself? Was it some hope that things would get better? Maybe it was love that is greater than anything that you and I could imagine? To this day I still don’t know but something made me stop and text my mom. At this time I was 85 miles away from me at work. She said I wrote, “I’m sorry. But I can’t do this” and the next thing I knew my dad was breaking down the bathroom door. He pulled me up, grabbed the knife from me, and yelled: “Don’t you ever do that again you hear me!!!” I could hear both the fear and the anger in his voice.
Fortunately, he was home during this time. Usually, I get so emotional when I upset someone I love. I felt nothing, I was numb. All I could do was stand there as he called my mom to update her on everything that just happened. Next thing I remember we were on our way to the emergency room where I was being assessed for self-harm. Thankfully I wasn’t put on a 72- hour hold. However, out of fear and concern for my well-being and life, I was taken to a Mental Health Inpatient Facility. I was assessed by another Psychiatrist who recommended I go to a 24-hour crisis center. This is where I, a few homeless people, and another patient were monitored until cleared by the facility psychiatrist. It was cold and quiet as we slept on old leather recliners. I wasn’t released until the following afternoon, Thanksgiving Day.
It’s been over three years and I wish I could tell you that was the last time I considered suicide. Or that I hadn’t been in and out of major depressive episodes and that my life is back on track. I wish I could tell you I know exactly what caused my depression and medications to make it go away. Or that I’m seeing a therapist and following a strict treatment protocol that has me feeling back to my old self. I wish I could tell you positive thinking is the answer and people will understand exactly what you’re going through. But, I can’t.
What I can tell you is that anxiety and depression don’t define me but it’s a part of me. It has definitely changed me, but it made me realize that I’ve been neglecting my mental health. I wasn’t taking care of myself, so anxiety and depression took over. Also, I didn’t recognize the signs or opened up to anyone about how I was feeling. I didn’t realize how equally important mental health is to physical health and ways to cope that worked for me.
I said all that to say, everyone’s story is different. Everyone’s experience is and will be different and there is no quick fix, or no easy way out. There will be a lot of trial and error, and plenty of self-doubts. But equally important, a lot of hope, compassion, and support if you really need it and want it. I’m doing a lot better than I was a few years ago. I still struggle every day, and I’m still going through my trial and error phase, but I still hold on to faith, hope, and love. Oh, and I can’t forget my psychiatrist. Haha!
Please continue to support those family, friends, etc…who may have a mental illness, even if they don’t seek it. If you’d like to continue following my journey, and/or be part of a supportive community to manage and help raise awareness for mental health. Explore The M Word or subscribe to be added to my email list, where I’ll reach out to you personally.
Thanks for reading and I can’t wait to hear from you all!