The Boy Between: A Gripping Story About Depression

There is a scourge that does not discriminate, regardless of gender, race, nationality, or sexuality. It often finds its way to victims through social media. And it does not watch a clock–it hits some people during the prime of life.

Depression tightens its grip on Josh Hartley when he goes away to England’s Southhampton University. He watches fellow students have the time of their lives, but for him, university life heightens the loneliness and despair he has experienced for years.

In The Boy Between: A Mother and Son’s Journey From a World Gone Grey, English novelist Amanda Prowse describes her struggle to lift her son from the depths of depression. She gains new hope as he heads off to university.

In alternating chapters, mother and son describe the journey. Josh’s narrative is especially powerful as he buries his shame under the covers of his bed. How do you come clean that you are not perfect? That you failed in college? Or, he asks himself, is it easier to check yourself out? For Josh, the book was a way to open the mental health conversation, especially for boys and men, with a message. He encourages males to say “I cry,” or “I suffer” and admit, “I need help.”

He is thankful he has a loving family to support him, but he and his mother now know those who have depression must lead their fight to get better. He pleads that other sufferers hang in there. “You are not alone.”

This is a book for the mentally ill, but also for those who want to understand an illness that affects so many. It holds a message of hope. It offers education through a story that relates the pitfalls of ignorance, like when someone tells a suffering youth to “Man up.”

As a sufferer of anxiety and depression as long as I can remember, I have found solace and much more on the long-distance trails of Europe. Like Josh, I told my story in a book (Camino Sunrise: Walking With My Shadows), which was cathartic for me. I am most touched when readers write that my story helped them with their own struggles. Like Josh writes, we are all in this together.

The Pacific Crest Trail Provides Too

David Smart, aka Stayin’ Alive

Just as long-distance trekking grew on David Smart, his book, The Trail Provides: A Boy’s Memoir of Thru-Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, grew on me, page by page.

At 24, David was dissatisfied with his digital marketing job. He had plenty of money, parties, and women, but he felt that his life lacked purpose. His 26-year-old college buddy Bradley had an answer: Walk the Pacific Crest Trail with me.

Bradley, who brings intensity to life and to the trail, influences his younger friend right from their start on the USA-Mexico border. He walks barefoot, and David follows, despite great pain and suffering. But David, who eventually gets an apt trail name, Stayin’ Alive, develops confidence and his own trail identity.

David Smart lets readers into his experience with honesty and entertaining, easy-to-read narrative. He begins as an ordinary 20-something and grows immeasurably. As someone who has walked five long-distance trails in Europe, I admire people like David who trek 2,600 miles over six months, all the way to Canada.

Pilgrims who walk the Camino de Santiago in Spain like to say, “The Camino will provide” when the going gets tough. For David Smart, the Pacific Crest Trail will provide for the rest of his life.