Content Warning: Mentions of self-harm and death by suicide
Originally when I thought about doing photo journals for this trip, I imagined them going quite differently. I imagined a journal for each place I visited accompanied by some lines of poetry and my best photos. Instead, I’m doing this.
Prior to arriving in Inverness, Scotland, I received news that my friend committed suicide. I couldn’t imagine carrying on with my travels. All I could think about was going home and going to school where I could mourn and be with the people who understood my pain and what I was going through.
The last time I went through a series of losses (in high school), it ended up jumpstarting my struggles with my own mental illnesses. I knew that there was no way I could possibly go through that pain and emotional incapability again, especially when I have come so far in my healing journey. But whenever a death by suicide comes up (regardless if it’s someone close to me), it always sends me into dark spaces thinking about my own experiences and emotions.
In this particular loss, I felt helpless and as though I didn’t do enough for Al. I knew it wasn’t my fault—and couldn’t possibly be—because I did what I could for them. But these thoughts still entered my brain in waves flooding my thoughts. Dealing with loss at home is hard enough but it was even harder being with people who didn’t quite understand what I was going through because they weren’t experiencing the same thing.
My photo journals from the other parts of my trip may come later, but for now, Inverness is the most important place from my trip. It was not only the most gorgeous place I’ve ever been (and will ever go, I’m sure) but also held some of the most important revelations following the death of a friend and my need to carry on. I don’t think my words alone can express my gratuity for, love for, and experiences in this place so I’m pairing my photos in attempt to share my full experience.
This piece is entirely dedicated to Al Davey. I miss you dearly, Al, but no matter how much I write, nothing can do you justice.
Part One: Inverness in Mourning
While riding the train for 8 hours through the United Kingdom, I had a lot of time to really reflect and mourn. I went through waves of sadness, then waves of relief until sadness washed over me again. Until I looked out my window listening to Spotify suggested songs and saw these beautiful views. I looked up just to see the evening light over this beautiful, untouched part of the world. And in this moment a song titled, Wild World by Johnny Stimpson came on. I’d never heard the song prior to this moment but it was like a dagger through my heart. With the opening lyrics, “Everybody’s got a heart that’s bleeding/Sometimes it’s bliss, sometimes it’s pain/Everybody’s got a hurt that’s healing/It’s you and I in in the same place/Everybody’s got a loved one dying/And all of us are gonna go someday,” something clicked. I felt peace along with the realization that I needed to keep going, that I couldn’t stop.
With this renewed sense of clarity in my travels, I began to see in color again. I watched the sun set over Inverness and felt so much love for my ability to be in such a spectacular place. (Even if the timing was completely off, was there any really a good time for anything?)
Part 2: Inverness in Light
Exploring Inverness held the most beauty I’ve ever encountered. I was completely renewed and ready to explore local shops and find some even better photo-worthy treasures.
I had wanted this tattoo since the start of my 3 weeks abroad but I didn’t go through with it until I found Inver Ink in Inverness. After my realization of why I needed to keep going along with my lack of breath while surrounded by such beauty, I knew this is where I needed to get my tattoo. This tattoo means more than me just going and traveling. It’s my connection to my life and living and purpose. To add an extra sentimental touch, I had my tattoo artist style the “O” just as the Earth was sketched out on the album cover of Wild World.
Our second morning in Inverness, we walked 35 minutes to find this beach. We walked across a giant bridge just to spiral downward onto a rocky beach. The view from the bridge took my breath away. I was ahead of my travel mates and noticed tears stinging my eyes. I took a deep breath and put my camera down. This was the moment that I realized the meaning of life. My own exploration and going on this journey (along with others) is the reason I am here. It is the reason that I have not taken my own life and have lived through as much struggle and pain as I have. I also realized that Al wouldn’t want me to stop living because they are no longer here. In this moment, I realized that my mourning process was drastically accelerated than my other friends back home experiencing the same loss. I was having breathtaking experiences and seeing jaw-dropping sights that my words, photos, and feelings can’t even explain. I realized that while this pain from losing a friend won’t just disappear, I’ve mourned before (and will mourn again) but I know now that not only can I handle it, but I can empower myself to continue living.
There was a sign that used to say “PRIVATE NO ACCESS” but the “PRIVATE NO” was spray painted over with black paint. We continued onto the beach. My friends explored while I walked ahead. I found a place to sit. Although this wasn’t a sandy place to swim, it was the most grounding experience. I forced myself to put my camera away because I knew that no photos I would take could capture everything I was feeling and experiencing. I knew that this moment along with moments from the day before were things I never wanted to forget. This helped me solidify the love for my tattoo because I couldn’t forget this trip or this place.
Part 3: Inverness in Heart
We continued our adventure on the Loch Ness tour where we took a boat down Loch Ness to the Urquhart Castle and explored. I continually found myself being grounding in the sights and overwhelmed with positive emotion.
Inverness provided me with so much but most importantly; after years of struggling with my own mental illnesses and symptoms including self-harm and suicidal thoughts, I found a reason to live that was bigger than any of my emotions. After the suicide of a friend, I was alive. And for the first time, I genuinely wanted to be. I finally felt free. The kind of free that, previously, I had wondered if only death could provide. Before, I was tied to my past, the pain, the negative things that I thought formed me. So now, here I am. I am alive. I am here. But above all, I want to be.
Original Article Link: https://www.theodysseyonline.com/inverness