Different hills.

There is seldom what most would consider a good reason for feeling this way. Depression is a burden that builds up over time, each minuscule weight that gets added to the load is undetectable to the undiscerning. These tiny burdens can be anything: an offhand remark, an emotionally indecipherable email or text, or a nagging worry. But eventually, the load reaches a tipping point.

I've always felt that my depression was unjustifiable. I haven't earned the right to be depressed. I haven't had it bad enough. That self-perceived flaw is the most depressing aspect of all. I have friends and acquaintances who experienced real childhood trauma, or who fought in wars and are contending with PTSD. I feel like my depression cheapens or lessens theirs. 

I have a good life. I had a good childhood. I am successful. On paper, my little, white, American, middle-class life and upbringing are desirable. My position is enviable to 99 percent of the world's population.

I see, acknowledge, and accept these facts with the cool logic of a dispassionate observer. And yet, my windows remain fogged over with the familiar gray haze of depression. It's an obstructed view that I've contended with since I was 8 years old. The first time I was old enough to understand the words of Side B of "Abbey Road," when I heard The Beatles sing in unison, "Boy, you're gonna carry that weight," I knew exactly what they were talking about on a bone-marrow level.

Outside of my immediate circle of friends, I've never spoken or written about my depression, mostly because to this day, I am ashamed of it. No amount of awareness campaigns or chain Facebook statuses will change that. 

I think it's common for human beings to think that their struggles and hardships are unique. But with 7 billion of us talking chimpanzees walking around this rock hurtling through space, the odds of uniqueness are not in our favor. We have more in common than we care to admit.

That means there are others out there like me. I am writing this for them, for those who carry the same weight, who are stultified by the same potent cocktail of guilt, shame, and, oh yeah, that omnipresent depression.

You, slogging up that hill with that heavy ruck. I'm out there slogging with you. Odds are, there are others. We're all just slogging up different hills.

 

Six years ago today, the overhaul began.

Facebook showed me a face this morning that I barely recognized. It was a self-portrait, taken in a hospital bed, while doctor-prescribed morphine set my brain alight, and my appendix continued its slow melt into a puddle, flooding my bloodstream with potent bacteria. I looked like a half-ghost, one foot in the world of the living, the other in the world of the dead.

For most of our existence, barring providence, appendicitis was a sentence to a slow and painful death. I wasn't afraid of dying then. I had enough baseline medical knowledge to know that I'd walk out of the hospital, just as I walked in. What I didn't know is that I wouldn't walk out the same person.

The person in the picture was living on borrowed time. He had done most everything important wrong for the past four years. He had ignored what was essential. He had distracted himself with equal parts blind ambition and self-destruction. He was ignoring the billowing, black smoke pouring out of the engine and the oil change that was 10,000 miles overdue. It took the failure of an organ the size of his pinky for the entire system to start breaking down.

Most important, it took that failure for the overhaul to begin.