It's important to understand what depression is. We're not talking about the sad feeling you have for a day, a week, or even a month. We're talking about clinical depression - the kind that just won't go away no matter how positive you try to be. Many have it and don't recognize it for what it is. They simply think they are a flawed person of no value, and that their life was never meant to be happy. This illness afflicts both men and women.

If this is you, you need to know that this isn't the kind of funk you can pull out of by yourself. Like a cancer growing in the body, this type of depression (also called MDD - major depressive disorder) needs medical and emotional help. Like any other illness, it's nothing to be ashamed of. In plain and simple terms, it's a terrible sickness that is ruining your life, and must be addressed — not hidden from those who can help you.

Here are a few steps you can take to start healing:

1. Recognize the symptoms

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, symptoms of depression may include the following:

  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions

  • Fatigue and decreased energy

  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness and/or helplessness

  • Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism

  • Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping

  • Irritability, restlessness

  • Loss of interest in activities or hobbies that were once pleasurable, including sex

  • Overeating or loss of appetite

  • Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease, even with treatment

  • Persistent sad, anxious or "empty" feelings

  • Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts

If you have five or more of these symptoms, you most likely have MDD.

2. Talk to your loved ones

You may be trying to hide your symptoms from those you love by faking being happy, but inside you're deeply sad and afraid. Your spouse, first of all, needs to know what you're experiencing. Have a frank talk with him or her. A spouse needs to know the depth of what you're feeling in order to help you.

Jennifer (not her real name), who was afflicted with MDD, told about finally talking to her husband concerning her illness. She said, "It wasn't easy to tell him, for fear that he would either laugh or confirm my doubts about my worth. Instead, he was understanding and felt bad that I'd struggled so much."

Talking to a close friend is also advisable. This needs to be someone you can trust; someone you know loves and cares about you. Jennifer also opened up to her closest friend. This friend understood the symptoms of depression and encouraged her to learn all she could about it, which led Jennifer to seek professional help.

If you are the spouse or friend, don't think a simple positive attitude statement can cheer up your suffering mate or friend. That will only make it worse. Understanding is what is needed.

3. Make an appointment with a well-respected therapist

When you call for an appointment, be sure to ask if this person is experienced in helping those with clinical depression or MDD. This theripist will usually know a psychiatrist or other medical doctor qualified to prescribe the medication you may need. Because MDD is usually caused by a chemical imbalance, getting those chemicals back in balance through medication can make all the difference.

Having a therapist, along with a medical doctor, will provide the best possible outcome. To help you find the best therapist for you, "Psychology Today" offers help here.

4. Do not be ashamed of your illness

Shame has the power to prevent you from seeking the help you need. If you will keep in mind that this illness is nothing to be ashamed of, you can confidently seek the help you need. Keep in mind that if this were diabetes or some other serious illness, you would never hesitate to seek medical help. This is every bit as important to your mental and physical well-being.

5. Pray for divine help in your journey to recovery

You are God's child. He loves you and will comfort you in your journey to overcome your depression. He wants you to be happy. Through your prayers and faith, He will guide you to the help you need. He has promised, "For I the Lord thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee" (Isaiah 41:13).

You can overcome your depression and live a genuinely happy life. These five steps may be the answer you have been seeking to lead you to a full recovery. Life is too good to miss out on. May you find joy in your journey.

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