Sometimes life throws so many things at you at once your feel like you are overwhelmed and sad. What to do? Everyone wants to give you advice. The church suggests you pray on it. The temple offers meditation. Alcohol and beer ads want you to believe if only you were more buff you would be happy. Food beckons, and then you gain weight. Drugs can only work for so long, then you come down. Is there an answer? Why do some people appear happy despite unsavory circumstances? The average person in Nigeria is happier than the average American. Why would that be? The average Nigerian doesn't have high definition TV or a 401k.

Let's look at some of the popular suggestions to a mild depression: my Christian fundamentalist friends would "give it up to God." Imagine throwing your cares and worries over your shoulder. Be done with it. Lugging them around any further is a slap in the face to Jesus, who died for your sins, and is, after all, your Personal Savior. It's all very good advice. But what if. . . it doesn't work? What if five seconds after hands have been laid on you, you still feel very detached and sad? What if there isn't any personal message? Peer pressure keeps a lot of people from admitting there was no cure. They smile and come down from the alter wondering if they are too sinful to be saved. Some of them stop coming to church. It doesn't feel very nice to have to lie in church. But depression does seem to be the last disease that churches won't tolerate. Even an alcoholic can be forgiven seven times seventy seven times. So you go underground about it. You speak in tongues in your closet. You withdrawn from the volunteer groups. It isn't any fun to admit you don't feel blessed.

On to suggestion number two: what about meditation? Would that cure depression? Once again, it's not a bad idea if it works for you. It would be healthy to quiet the mind. It would be good for the physical body as well. But what if. . . it doesn't work? What if your mind refuses to be quiet. What if you sit there worrying and ruminating and the whole thing becomes an exercise in seeing what is wrong in your life? It might be even worse than not meditating.

Perhaps suggestion three might be better: have a beer. There is a direct correlation between therapy and depression. The longer the therapy lasts, the less effective it seems to be. What can be deduced from this expression? It would seem mild depression, which effects just about everyone at one time in their life, can be treated with mild intervention, but severe or clinical depression cannot. Or at least does not respond well to talk therapy. There is a whole host of drugs available now for treating depression. These drugs are often prescribed to people suffering from the intermittent sadness associated with the loss of a loved one or the loss of employment. There's no doubt the drugs numb the feelings. Some people argue that isn't healthy or even normal to numb out a person feeling reasonable sadness over a reasonable loss. Therein is the question: what's wrong with feeling sad? Why has it become so demonized? Why must we jump to solutions? See ourselves as "broken" hearted?

When did it become "wrong" to feel sad? What would happen if we did nothing? How about making friends with depression? Feel how you feel and see how fleeting or enduring the feeling may be. Get to noticing the trigger points and accept them. If reading deep novels or seeing a heavy movie puts you in a funk there's nothing wrong with avoiding such activities. Or go the opposite direction with it. Spend an afternoon alone with the ten top tear jerkers of all time and let it all hang out. Either way, you put yourself back in the driver's seat. You are making decisions about your life and not letting the depression make decisions for you.

What if you feel so sad you don't even want to get out of bed? If you are lucky enough to have paid sick days you may well call in. So what's the problem? If you spend all day in bed resting and pampering yourself probably nothing. The body needs a break every now and again. But if you spend all day berating yourself and putting yourself down, adding guilt to your depression, you are missing the boat. And many people do. If there's one thing I've noticed about clinical depression is that it does a number on your ability to judge. Making bad decisions adds to the hopeless and overwhelmed feeling quite completely. I learned to be cognizant of this effect. I chose not to make major decisions when I am suffering from a bout. Withdrawing from the world can be very beneficial if your social group demonized depression. If they call it a sin or a weakness or encourage you to "pull yourself up by your bootstraps," you don't need their company.

But socializing with loving supportive friends can be heartening. If they have a project or an event it's even better. After all who wants to come over and talk about being depressed? That's like feeding the beast. Escaping depression is what happens when you are pursuing something else. It rarely seems to happen when you are hell bent on curing yourself.

Having a hobby that is under your control and brings you joy is one avenue of recovery. For example if you like jogging or running, exercise has been shown to increase serotonin which can give you some relief. Even if you are not an exercise nut, other hobbies that are creative such as quilting or cooking give you goals and achievements you can feel good about. Music is a hobby both creative and sometimes social, which can be really helpful. At any rate, self esteem is built by making choices that you feel good about, rarely from other people patting you on the back. Even if you do feel better when people pat you on the back, you set yourself up to be vulnerable to needed external stimulus, which is not under your control.