In the past, the only time my demons have been silenced at all is when we have been in Scotland. There’s something about the pace of life in the towns, the lack of people and the massive open spaces of mountains that just makes me feel calm and able to breathe. To say I had been looking forward to this latest break would be a massive understatement. I didn’t stop to think that the demons would pack their suitcases and come on holiday too.
As a family, our “normal” life isn’t the average 9-5 working day with evenings spent either in front of the tv or out with friends. Caring for our youngest is a 24/7 job, no rest, no day off or lie in, no chance to “throw a sickie”. Hospital and therapy appointments are regular but not as often as they used to be. We have to make sure she has daily physio, music therapy, vision therapy, and as we choose not to send her to school, we have to provide written evidence that we are “educating” her.
So a holiday for us isn’t so much about leaving a tiresome job behind, or having a break from routine and relaxing in the heat by a pool somewhere. All that my baby girl needs on a daily basis at home, she requires wherever she is, to keep her comfortable, not in pain and happy. My Husband and I still have to get up all hours to look after her, there is no “duvet day”. The only thing that really changes is the lack of school run for my eldest – and I can’t tell you how much I absolutely love having her with us all the time, I hate having to send her back to the school. For us, a holiday is an attempt to make happy memories away from home as a family of four. Our youngest is not medically safe to fly, she cannot control her own temperature so we cannot safely take her anywhere too hot or too cold and realistically trying to explain her medical problems in an emergency to anyone who doesn’t speak English would be impossible. This leaves us with the UK to explore, and after travelling all over, Scotland has become the place where our hearts are. If we were able to find suitable housing in Scotland, we would move in an instant, even our eldest has talked of living in the mountains when she is older she loves it so much. All the photos I include in my blogs are ones we’ve taken in Scotland, happy times to counter balance the negative of the depression I’m writing about.
As we prepared for our break, I found myself feeling a little positive for the first time in many months, remembering how relaxed I had felt before, standing in the sparseness of the mountains, gave me hope that maybe nature could relieve my depression just enough to allow me feel able to cope again. With bags packed and alarms set for the 8 hour journey ahead, I was unable to sleep the night before we left with anticipation of the light being at the end of the tunnel. I was like a kid going to Disney, watching the clock tick over every hour waiting eagerly for when I could wake my Husband and tell him that this was the day everything would start to get better.
We always stay in the same accommodation in Scotland, it’s self-catering so we’re basically left alone by the owner, but at the same time we know there’s someone nearby if we have a medical emergency with our little one. The second we got to the border – where our eldest always insists on stopping for a photo underneath the “Welcome to Scotland” sign – I hoped that the coming days would see the end of the suicidal thoughts and the real me would start to come through again. How I longed to laugh and mean it, smile and not have to force it. This holiday was going to be the cure I needed to get back to being the Mother, Wife, Daughter, Sister, Friend that everyone who has stuck by me deserves to know again, someone who isn’t needy or a burden but someone they can have fun with, talk to, share stuff with and most of all, especially in my Husband’s case, not worry about.
Everyone has a place where they feel safe, and mine is a Loch about half hour away from where we stay. I can’t explain why I feel calm there, but it’s peaceful and beautiful and sitting by the water’s edge just allows me to clear my head. The day after we arrived, it was our first trip out. It was as beautiful as I remembered, and I had waited almost six months since our last visit to be able to see it. I think it was then that I realised that lifting the darkness wasn’t going to be an instant thing. I did feel better sitting there, breathing in the fresh air and watching the clouds drift over the mountains, revealing snow on the highest tops, but I didn’t get that immediate peace I was hoping for.
We spent a few days going out and about, doing different activities that we wouldn’t be able to do back home, experiencing things that hopefully our youngest benefitted from, and our eldest will remember. It was still an effort for me though, the smile wasn’t 100% genuine, getting out of bed was a struggle and whilst I would have been more than happy to stay in our accommodation, I had to fight the darkness to make sure I joined in the trips.
There’s a road that drives right through the Highland mountains, past Glencoe and on to Fort William. It is, for me, the most stunning scenery, very few houses, just huge mountains and barren landscape and when there is no one else on the road with you, it’s the best feeling. Whenever we come up to Scotland, I look forward to driving that road, again the lack of people and the space around us makes me feel better, so I was hoping on the day we decided to make that trip, that the depression switch in my head would click off when I saw the Highlands again. As we set off with the music up loud and the rain holding off, I felt genuinely optimistic.
The journey was of course gorgeous, the road was fairly quiet and there were moments when it felt like our little family were the only people in the world. We stopped as we usually do at various scenic spots, and then carried onto a day in Fort William. On the trip back, we pulled up at a particularly beautiful viewing spot, completely surrounded by mountains everywhere we looked and sat there for a while. It was then that it hit me hard. That even in the most wonderful of places, the quietest and calmest of surroundings, the place where in the past my heart has sung with happiness, that my demons were still screaming at me. It took every single part of me not to sit there and let the tears fall at the unfairness of it all, and I knew then also that if the mountains weren’t enough to relieve the pressure of my darkness, then I was in real trouble.
As I write this, I’m sitting in our beautiful accommodation, looking out of the window at the glorious sunset over the start of the Highlands in the distance and thinking about what I’m going to do when go home in a couple of days. I really do not want to see the GP and start pills that make me feel numb and sleepy amongst all sorts of other nasty side effects.
See that’s the thing about having to live with depression, it doesn’t care where you are or who you’re with, what plans you’ve made or even if you’re on holiday. It never ever allows you a day off from fighting, it’s with you always because it’s inside your own mind and it destroys your life in ways you never dreamed possible.
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