Thereafter, let your gut instincts take over at the consultation. If you don't feel comfortable, it's perfectly fine to seek out another professional. I've done this when I sought out treatment as a patient--and as a therapist, I encourage second opin-ions if the match isn't there. Finding a "good fit" in therapy is more important than in any other kind of professional relationship you'll have in your life. Though science has made great gains in understanding depression, there is much that medicine cannot do. In this section, you will learn about the limitations of prescription medication, safety issues coming off medication, and how to obtain medication if you cannot afford it. Some medications work, while others don't. It's a well-known fact in professional circles that prescription medicine improves only a certain percentage of depressed individuals. This information, though, is kept out of the mainstream by the pharmaceutical companies. Only about 40 percent of children and adults with depression see a reduction of their symptoms with medication. Why does this happen? Thus far in your journey toward healing depression for life, you've focused on the past--by facing toxic emotions and thought patterns that have kept you trapped, by owning up to old mistakes and forgiving people who have failed you in one way or another, and by examining how your own choices have helped create your experience of life. You've also given significant thought to the present. You've considered vital issues such as current addictions, sleep habits, diet, and unhelpful behavioral patterns that have dominated your daily life. Together we've examined the various treatment options available to you today in your quest to be free of depression for good. Now, if you've truly invested the will and the work necessary to take charge of your healing, the moment has come for you to reap the full reward. It's time to think about the future. It's once again safe to think bigger and aim higher than you did when simply "getting by." The days, weeks, and years ahead are firmly in your control. I'm happy to tell you it's no fantasy! You haven't fought this hard and come this far just to plod through a mediocre life.

An extraordinary future is now yours for the taking. You're free--not just from depression but free to succeed, to grow, to have adventures, to meet new people, to learn new things, to experience new reasons to love life. In other words, you are just like everyone else--empowered to have your life the way you want it. Here's how. It's remarkable how often people have trouble finishing the simple sentence "I want . ." I don't mean lofty, beauty pageant answers like "world peace" or vengeful ones such as "I want my sister to suffer for her cruelty!" I'm talking about the ability to express our basic needs and desires. Somehow the process of growing up teaches most of us to think of what we want out of life as secondary to . well, just about everything and everyone else. Sure, there's a time to work hard and sacrifice short-term satisfaction for our goals. But when that becomes all there is to living, problems arise. Desire is the fuel that powers achievement. Without it, there's a hard limit to what you will even try. To test yourself for a lost connection to your desires, take out a piece of paper and write, "I want." Now make a list of all the ways you might answer the question. The only rule is you can't write something that's for someone else. Each item must reflect something you want for yourself. The desires can be practical ("I want a car that starts every time I turn the key") or more extravagant ("I want the beachside vacation I've dreamed of for years"). Don't overthink your desires--let them flow. Don't stop until you've listed at least twenty. Now consider: Does this exercise make you uncomfortable? Do you find yourself thinking you don't deserve the things you've placed on the list?

Is there a part of you that scoffs, Yeah right, like that's ever going to happen? Do you worry what others would think if you suddenly indulged yourself by pursuing something on the list? Does your memory replay for you all the bad things that happened the last time you dared to say, "I want . If you answered yes to any of these questions, then it's likely depression has stolen your desires from you--and it's time to take them back. Begin by looking again at your list. How many of the items express things that you once loved but stopped doing for one reason or another? Drawing? Sailing? Cooking? Cross-country motorcycle riding? Writing a novel that is now half finished and gathering dust in the closet? Working at a job that gave you great satisfaction but little money? Reclaiming your desires is really about remembering what you love. When you were a kid, nobody could stop you from doing cartwheels on the lawn, searching for arrowheads in the vacant lot down the street, reading comic books by the dozen, jumping off the high diving board once you learned you could--because you loved it. Contrary to what you may believe, that kind of carefree passion is not just for kids. What a bleak world that would be! Fortunately, that's not the world as it really is. The easiest way to open any conversation is to find common ground and elaborate on it. It's why so many people go straight to the weather or current events - it's a shared experience. Everyone has an opinion on the weather or a recent park opening in your city.

But, these examples alone don't work as well when you want to learn more about someone. You need something else to switch to quickly if you want to keep a conversation going in a natural way. One tool that can help immensely is humor, which we've already discussed quite a bit. If you're a funny person, people won't care what you talk about. Your observations will be amusing enough to keep them engaged in the conversation until the end. Still, I recommend you find something more immediate and accessible to discuss than the weather or the news. If you're in a bar, you can talk about the music being played or the ball game on TV. If you're in a work conference, you can discuss the most recent speaker or the quality of the food they're feeding you. These are shared experiences and can often open up further interests on both sides. Conversation is like a football game. There are dozens of potential plays and any one of them can break down at any moment. The best way to prepare for what will happen is to know as many of the plays as possible and watch tape of your opponents. The better prepared you are, the more seamlessly you can react to what happens. In our case, that means going through potential scenarios in conversation. When someone offers criticism there are a ton of ways to respond. The easiest way is to take it in stride and move on. However, in some cases, you may decide you need more details or specifically that you would like to get tips on how to improve yourself in the future. Criticism in general can be handled in a lot of different ways - how you use it will depend largely on the situation and your usual response to these types of things, but remember, more often than not, criticism is a gift, not something to be upset about. Often, in a conversation, someone will ask you for something. It might be a piece of information, a favor, or something else that will require you to actively engage them and offer something beyond a simple response.

I like to play this one in one of a couple ways. First, you shouldn't just give someone everything they ask of you. It creates a situation where you can be easily manipulated. However, you want to remain nice and likable so you need to be able to give it to them in the end, just through a trade of information. Of course, this method of deference doesn't always work. People sometimes don't understand what they want out of the conversation any more than you do and you'll need to answer their questions to stay involved, but trust me - the more you can control the flow of information, the better it will flow. Nothing can ruin a perfectly good conversation faster than an ideological difference on something highly opinionated like politics or religion. Sometimes, this can be avoided by just never mentioning the topic, but you can't control what someone else says, so if suddenly they say something you completely disagree with, you'll need to take a step to either staunch the damage or move away from the conversation altogether. Hold Yourself Accountable: Despite the best-laid plans, it can feel easy to simply change your mind. Craig can say he wants to go for a walk in his neighborhood, but when 6 p.m. arrives he may think of other things he can and should be doing that feel easier. He needs a way to hold himself accountable, which will increase his commitment and the chance exercising will happen. One accountability strategy is to socially commit to following through on his exercise plan. For example, if Craig is emailing a friend or talking to a work colleague about his evening, he can tell them he has a 6:30 p.m. exercise class. It might seem minor, but the act of saying or writing it--even if he knows they're not going to ask about the class tomorrow--helps him feel like he really wants to be the kind of person who follows through. In other words, fit exercise in where, when, and however you can. Also, exercise can be spread across your day for five minutes here, ten minutes there. Try searching "five-minute workout" on YouTube or go to the New York Times article titled "Really, Really Short Workouts" for inspiration on brief, high-intensity workouts.4 Set Minimum and Maximum Goals: Craig gets overwhelmed when he sets exercise goals high because he feels too intimidated to even begin a session. With a reasonable minimum goal, like riding the stationary bike for ten minutes, anything after that is icing on the cake (or, um, olive oil on the salad).