Entries in Scotland (1)


Skye’s the limit (With a little help from my friends)

Two years ago, I wasn't in the best of moods.

I don’t mean I stubbed my toe walking to the kitchen then found the fridge door had been left open all night. I mean I was depressed. I didn’t get an expert to tell me and I didn’t spend too long reading the NHS website; I just knew, and it was horrible.

Honestly, I wouldn’t choose to inflict on my worst enemy that darkness, that lack of self-worth and near-zero desire to see beyond the cerebral smog I felt enveloped by. But what I will do is say these two hugely cliched and overused phrases - things get better and time is a healer.

Transitioning back to my old self took way longer than I thought it would, because contrary to what I’d hoped (and many believe) you don’t just wake up one day and feel better. It’s a slower and much more subtle process than that. Even just a few months ago it came as a shock when a friend’s sibling told me with pity that I’m quieter than I used to be, and looking at photos from 18 months ago I know that behind the smile, I’m really not happy. Not myself.

But while becoming my old self again has taken ages, it took just a few days and a short holiday to notice how much better I now am. 

As anyone who follows me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram will know (and are probably sick of by now), I went to the Isle of Skye last week with half a dozen friends. We drove up, stayed in a cottage we’d found on Air BnB, and - despite much of Skye being shut for winter - had a bloody good time. 

We went out on walks, trekked over snow-covered hillsides, visited the Talisker whiskey distillery, drank well and ate even better. We went exploring and took cliched group photos with a selfie stick. We - seven English people - found it funny to visit a pub with a big Vote Yes sign in the window, (across from the distillery by the way, it was lovely and does smashing burgers). We cooked and ate together, we read books by a log fire and we played drinking games until we couldn’t stand up.

It may sound like pensioners’ paradise - vodka and Ring of Fire aside - but I couldn’t have been happier. Phone signal was nonexistent, so Facebook, Twitter and email were restricted to a couple of hours in the kitchen, the only room where the slow W-Fi would work, and music and conversation always trumped television and silence.

On that small island, 650 miles from home and in a place where the nights are inky black, days are completely silent, and sheep herding is basically part of your daily commute, I felt happier than I have for ages.

For the first time in two years I didn’t once think about what caused the depression, and not once did I worry about a family member whose haphazard life never ceases to put me on edge - in fact, I wasn’t really thinking that much at all.

I was living in the here and now, whether that was planning which pub or castle to visit next, discussing plans for dinner, remembering a hugely inappropriate Cards Against Humanity answer from the night before, or chasing the sun across some of the most amazing landscapes I’ve ever seen to watch it set.

We knew there would be two mammoth journeys on our trip to Skye - 14 hours there and 12 back, with 3am starts, if you're curious - but for me the final evening marked the end of another, longer journey.

Two years ago, for a few months I didn’t care much for how each day was going to end, or if another one followed it. Now, we’d barely been back in London for a day before the next holiday was being planned, and I’ve another in July already booked.

If anyone reading this feels depressed, or could simply do with a helping hand, then turn to your friends. They’ll forgive, they’ll listen, they'll distract you when you need it, and they’ll still be there when you’re back to your best. 

You might never forget what caused you to feel that way, but as sure as day follows night, a switch will eventually flick, and when it does you’ll realise just how far you’ve come.

(A heavily cliched photograph follows...)