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Depression is a medical condition. It's not a phase, or a mood, it's not your fault, and it's not something you can snap out of. It doesn't go away with a change of scenery.

Just like any other mental illness, depression will screw up your decision making. You are not thinking straight because you're sick, and you won't make good decisions in this state.

Small problems look like big ones. Big problems look like the end of the world. You might get stir-crazy and hatch all kinds of half-baked escape fantasies. They might seem like good ideas.

When you know this is how you're feeling, don't let yourself make decisions. Go see a doctor instead.

I'm not a doctor. Only a doctor can diagnose depression and recommend meds.

The prevailing theory says depression results from an 'imbalance' in several brain chemicals, the two most important of which are called dopamine and serotonin. You can Wikipedia more detail on them.

Depression meds try to 'rebalance' these chemicals. Also, there are experimental drugs (like Ketamine) that are thought to get results by acting on a different, unknown third mechanism in the brain.

But whatever your pharmaceutical line of attack might be, your meds are 'only one part of this complete breakfast' as the ads say. You need a comprehensive approach. This guide can help you out.

First, place yourself in a historical perspective. Until recently, depression was thought of as an aspect of character. One would say that someone was 'melancholy' like they used to say about Lincoln.

We now know that Lincoln presumably just had some different serotonin, yeah?

When I heard that personality is supposedly the result of nothing more than an individualized mix of brain chemicals like these, I rebelled against the idea at first.

I like to imagine that my own personal serotonin molecule is tricked out with some decals and a sweet paint job of a starry night sky. How would you pimp your serotonin if you could?

Next, you gotta fight the sadness. The sadness is a symptom of the depression, just like a runny nose is a symptom of a cold.

Tylenol and a decongestant don't cure colds, but they fix that runny nose. Even if you can't fix your brain, you can attack the sadness with extreme prejudice.

Do something life-affirming every day.

Have a dirty conversation with your gay friend. Take a drive. Get a sunburn. Watch some porn. Text an old friend just to say you love 'em. Meet somebody online & have international phone sex via text.

Unless you're too fat or you have bad knees, the number one best thing you can do is go for a run.

There's a reason that they run so much in the army, and it's not fitness. It's because pounding down the road is the best way for a bottled up violent kid to clear his head and find a level. It works.

Don't drink when you're sad. Drink when you're happy.

People say things like 'cheer up' or 'think positive' because they are scared to empathize. It's hard to listen to someone's problems when you know you can't help. Most don't want to do it.

Compassion is rare because it's hard!

You need to get philosophical about this.

You're not going to change your feelings with an act of will. But you can learn to own your sadness. Some people cover scars. Others wear them like new clothes.

Loss is a part of life. You were born alone and you're gonna die alone. There are literally trillions of people, living and dead, who have lived through loss.

Things Fall Apart. It's not just a good book, it's a lesson about entropy. The whole universe functions by the principle of easy come, easy go.

In space, every atom races away from every other at top speed, losing heat and life slowly as they flee into the black, winking out like fireflies out there millions of miles from the sight of man.

Buddhists say that desire causes suffering. Living a full life requires tears. There's no way to weasel out of it.

So you see, your sadness is far from being unnatural. You're on a well-trodden path.

You need faith.

There's gonna be an end to everything bad, everything sorrowful, everything unjust. It will all pass.

God blesses those who suffer.

All the darkness in you can and will be turned into light on the last day. You will be healed, period. That's the point of the Resurrection. All you have to do is run the race until you're called.

You don't have to be Christian to feel this hope. The Koran says something like 'Allah never gives a man more than he can handle.' Maybe my Muslim readers can help me remember which Sura that is?

Hope is key. You might not know how, but...

... you will get better. No worries, star!

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