Scotland – travelling with depression

Travelling should be exciting. The anticipation of embarking on a journey should give you that warm fuzzy feeling in your stomach. Most of the times, I get it. I make lists of places I want to visit, restaurants I want to eat at, and secret spots for photography.

tree against pink sky in Scotland
Photography became my solace as I sought reasons to stay awake and alert

Sometimes, it’s not so easy. I know what you are thinking. If I don’t want to travel, then why do I? And that’s a perfectly valid question. The thing is, sometimes the answer is more complicated.

Stream in Glencoe, Scotland
The streams flowed with power and strength, breaking the silence of the countryside.

Just a little over a year ago, I went to Scotland with my then boyfriend. We’d plan a 10-day road trip starting in Edinburgh, taking us all the way to the West coast up to the Isle of Mull and back to the capital. We’d found the perfect romantic bothy in the heart of a forest. We’d rented a car and found a ton of audiobooks. I wanted to research, plan and get excited. Except, this time, I couldn’t.

edinburgh castle in Scotland
Edinburgh has one of the most beautiful twilights I’ve ever experienced.

In November 2017, my life couldn’t go better. I had a great job, good friends, and I was in love. But I felt stuck in a pit of darkness. I was numb to emotion and overly stressed. I was exhausted – putting one foot in front of the other was an accomplishment in itself. I felt unsafe, insecure and afraid. That’s when we went to Scotland.

Even when I was tired and could only think of the drive back, the different turns in the road took my breath away.

I should have loved it – and I’ve only kept the fond memories – but I know I didn’t enjoy it as I would today. We climbed Arthur’s Peak in Edinburgh and I was clumsy and terrified of falling. I felt abandoned by my partner. I couldn’t process everything that was happening around me and only craved the duvet of our AirBnB.

Autumn foliage in Glencoe, Scotland
We completed one of our first hikes in Glencoe, as the rain and cold beat down on us mercilessly. The autumn foliage made it worth it.

Once we started driving it didn’t get better. I was the sole driver and my first time driving a car in the UK. Each leg was long, 4-6 hours, with little breaks to avoid being trapped in the middle of the night.

Steps to the sacred stone in Glencoe
We climbed our way up to a Pagan sacred stone in Glencoe

I became desperate. I felt responsible for my partner as I was the one encouraging to take couple-trips. I didn’t want to risk his life by driving poorly. I didn’t want to ruin his trip by being unavailable or unhappy. Yet, I was so tired. I wish there was a better way I could describe the overwhelming sense of exhaustion that came over me. But I was… so so so so tired.

Fishing boat in Inveraray
The peace and quiet of the villages inspired me to relax and focus on my camera

I know that now you’re waiting for the twist in the story. How we might have had a chat and cured my depression. How I got a grip and realised my privilege. That’s not what we’re here for.

The trip is not just a black hole in my memory. I have fond memories of Scotland. The locals we met were friendly, helpful and warm. The way the mist rolled down the mountains haunts me to this day, and in a way, it feels as if I didn’t recognise home. My dreams keep taking me back to Glencoe, to the Isle of Mull and to Inveraray. I can hear the rivers and streams and feel the cold wind in my face.

Tower on Inveraray Hill
The top of Inveraray Hill offered breathtaking views and a spot to relax and take in the wilderness
Castle in Inveraray, Scotland
The walk around Inveraray Castle and up the hill took us to the depth of the forest and onto the edge of the loch.

Travelling with depression, and making it with good memories, taught me that I could do it. 10 months later I was driving in New Zealand by myself, sleepy from the long journey. I should have been scared as night started to fall, but I knew I could do it. Because I’d done it before. Scotland gave me my strength back.

I will remember Scotland fondly, and how I found my strength when I thought I didn’t have any.

Happy (belated) Burns Night, everyone.

2 thoughts on “Scotland – travelling with depression

  1. Awesome photos! Thanks for sharing!


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