‘At my very lowest I had somehow found myself many miles from my own land’ – how Outlander helped Holly’s recovery

A post from one of our very first ever Community Correspondents, Holly McCormack. This piece was originally published on Holly’s own blog in December 2018.

I’d fallen into an unknown world and sitting in a room very much at the wrong end of the country. I couldn’t be more Scottish yet I found myself out of my land confined to a building that I would need to quickly find safe, comfortable and homely. The day before I had been sat amongst my own kin trying to justify my continued space at the table. Truthfully I sat there trying to believe that it was merited but already visualising the individual steps I needed to take before making clear I just wasn’t hungry anymore.

There was no desire for food, to talk to friends, keep up a pretence with my family that I was still worthy of their love, to engage with peers, look after myself, believe that I had any worth and in honesty to spend another day consumed in my own skin. Truly, as I took a journey into my own unknown I didn’t want there to be any more chapters. At that moment and after a very trying year of continually hunting for that desire, the flame had finally fizzled out altogether and I was no longer there.

It was the police then later mental health services that looked for me and over time encouraged me to try and find myself again. There was no secret love walking around in circles trying their best to locate me. This was a journey that would need to come from me and the only person looking hard for where I’d gone was my former self. That was someone that I used to know.

At my very lowest I had somehow found myself many miles from my own land. In my head I was living in a time that was not current to my situation. The truth is I was found roaming around Eastbourne in England. Later that day, I was sectioned under the mental health act. I was lost, amongst strangers, confused, sad, missing a happier place and crucially out of my land.

Hospital is never a particularly easy experience yet it can truly save you. Sometimes you may have no inclination as to how that may be or come about. There is no magic potions for the healers of our time that will resolve my inner demons. It is going to take a lot more than that. For four weeks I was trapped in a hospital with family back in Scotland, another world away. I found some salvation in making good friends down there and also having the support of one of my best friends who stayed in a nearby town. I had lost all interest in living and found it difficult to engage and pretend that I felt I had any future.

I’ve experienced mental health problems since I was a teenager and diagnosed with borderline personality disorder at the age of nineteen. In just a few days I will be thirty-three. In that time, I have given my all to be true to myself but a turbulent 2014 really hit me hard and I’ve found it hard to find an even keel since.

What happened then? My best friend took her own life. I graduated from university albeit with a first class honours degree in journalism but lost the sense of community that university brought. My driving license was revoked due to mental illness and a job I had really set my sights on was given to someone else. There was other things too but the final nail came after the Scottish Independence referendum and the Scottish on the whole had voted to keep the powers of be – out of my land.

Whatever your personal view on politics here – it is not relevant. It was a crushing blow to my hopes and dreams and I felt robbed of a progressive future. It just flamed the fire of my diminishing sense of self and left me wondering what the point of anything was.

Four years on and detained far from my land there was a small flicker of hope that I didn’t realise at the time would then become a saving grace. A nurse on the ward told me how much she loved Scotland. I don’t think it was a secret to anyone who spoke to me how much I loved Scotland too and how patriotic I am. This nurse in particular worked on the nightshift. One night she said she was hoping to travel back up to the highlands as she loved it up there. It turns out she had fallen in love with my land from watching Outlander. I had never seen Outlander and stood taking my nightly medication whilst this nurse tried to explain to me what the programme was about without providing too many spoilers. Immediately, I just thought I need to see this someday and was given the information on where to find it.

After four long weeks I was transported back to my land to a local hospital. Throughout this admission I stayed for another four weeks approximately before finally heading back home. I was certainly not cured but slightly more comfortable with myself but a deep-rooted problem was I had lost passion for all my favourite things. I hadn’t written in a long time (until now) and my main passions like football and tennis felt like unwelcome distractions.

At home, I switched on the television and proceeded to watch Outlander. I had to start at the beginning and I was immediately enthralled. The sense in my body that had remained vacant for months exploded when the opening credits rolled into full swing. I just felt a burst of pride looking at my land and hearing the sweet tones of the Skye Boat Song sung so sweetly, that in a way it melted some of the ice around my heart and I could feel something again.

I watched in awe. I cried. I laughed. I felt for Claire lost and trying to make the best out of a bad situation. That’s how I had felt when I had been in Eastbourne. I felt for those wanting to connect with her but being prevented by invisible barriers. My heart pounded for Claire and Jamie when they united with fear at first but bonded to become true parts of each other.

With every episode I watched the obsession grew. I watched all three series and some parts again and again. I was lucky that I only had to wait a few weeks for current season four to come out and now every week I am left feeling blown away and relishing every episode.

It may sound a little out of this world but truly the nurse introducing me to Outlander proved more medicinal to me than many things and I thank her from the bottom of my heart. At times I wish I had found this community sooner but I am here now and back in my land.

Last week Sam Heughan tweeted to support a charity who support post-natal depression and I replied briefly about my recent experience and was shown so much love and understanding. Others shared with me also how Outlander has saved and seen them through bleak times. I felt it was important to fully share my experience here.

I still struggle and don’t know what or when my final journey will be. This year though I feel like I’ve battled valiantly at both Preston Pans and Culloden and go on unsure with what is going to happen next. I am happy to savour the time now and with a new sense of community and amongst friends. Thanks for helping me find my way back to the present day and living each day far more content and deep inside my own land.

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