It can be a touch, a sound, a sight, a taste, and a smell, in particular, is very powerful. What follows will illustrate some powerful examples through word and experience. Experience of my own. I sometimes relate this event on the speaking circuit, while reading it ensure your tongue is behind your teeth and you wiggle your toes as you are about to learn something starting with: That's why you need some guided self-diagnosis. Answering questions about yourself--the right questions--can help you take a step back from the situation, to get honest with yourself, and to start thinking about your options. If you're saying, "I'm okay," but you're saying that because you've compromised, then you need to know that. Let's make a deal before we even start. As we move forward, you absolutely must deal with nothing but hard, objective fact. As you address the question of you, I'm challenging you, starting now, to stop dealing in opinions or assumptions, and start dealing in facts. That means no untested assumptions. I guess what I'm telling you is that you cannot just automatically trust that you have been, or are currently being, objective about you. Just because you have believed something for a long time or have convinced yourself that you just "are" a certain way doesn't even almost make it true. You have to be willing to challenge virtually every single thing you have ever believed about yourself. For example, if you have for a long time felt that you were inferior or a second-class citizen, where is the proof? If you had to argue your second-classed-ness in a court of law, could you do it? Is it fact, or is it just some opinion you have carried for a long time? Let's agree to use the "Joe Friday approach," from the old show Dragnet: "Just the facts, ma'am, just the facts." The practice of self-acceptance is core to healing from perfectly hidden depression. It's time to reflect once more with your journal in hand. When you hear the word "self-acceptance," what does it mean to you? What are you telling yourself that implies?

Write "If I accept myself, then ." Fill in the blank with what you predict might happen, both welcome and unwelcome things. A welcome consequence might be: If I accept myself, then I won't feel so pressured all the time. But there could also be an accompanying fear: If I accept myself, then what happens if I don't push myself and I disappoint? Please journal or make a list about what you believe the gains of self-acceptance could be, as well as its feared losses. The process of losing weight is difficult, but the challenges of staying overweight are often even tougher. Aside from the obvious health consequences involved with carrying around too much weight (an increased risk for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, some cancers, depression, and more), you also must deal with the social effects: being stared at or teased, feeling isolated from others, having to miss out on experiences because you're not in good enough shape, and dealing with shame. Shame is such a powerful emotion, one that arises when we're disappointed about who we are, how we look, or our basic nature. Regret or guilt, on the other hand, is a feeling that results from a certain action or mistake we may have made. Shame related to our body or self can affect every area of our lives, from how we eat to how we interact with the world. For instance, many people who feel overwhelmed, out of control, and ashamed by their weight, their behavior, or their inability to slim down avoid social situations for fear that they may be "found out" as the flawed person they believe they are. They're afraid of rejection or derogatory comments from others. They don't want anyone to see how much weight they've gained or how fat they are or even when they eat. So they continue to withdraw. They don't go to their friend's baby shower or meet coworkers for dinner. They skip their high school reunion or family vacation. They steer clear of the gym. They isolate themselves because it feels safe. But this only perpetuates the problem. When you avoid going out with others, you may instead engage in addictive behaviors to numb your feelings of shame and lonliness. The relief gained through overeating is only temporary, and the subsequent feelings of remorse compound the deep feelings of shame within.

The solution is to face your fears head-on by pushing yourself to engage with others socially. You'll benefit enormously from the fitness instructor's encouragement at the gym, the camaraderie of walking the neighborhood with friends, and the great time sharing stories with coworkers at an after-work get-together. The simple fact is that we cannot heal when we hide from ourselves or from others. If these types of interactions sound too difficult to you at first, start by taking baby steps. Join a support group for people who are dealing with the same struggles as you. Can perfectly hidden depression and classic depression coexist? Remember, perfectionism can be part of many mental illnesses. Its presence doesn't point necessarily to perfectly hidden depression. But if you've been living the life of PHD, your own fatigue level, loneliness, and despair can deteriorate, over time or with enough stress, into clinical depression. You can run completely out of steam. That may occur through some external trigger, such as losing your job, or some force causing you to feel terribly exposed and as if you've failed. Or it can be caused by an internal trigger--maybe your child has reached the age you were when your own sexual abuse began, or your own self-destructive thoughts have begun to seep into your everyday existence. Your depression, successfully hidden until now, can become impossible to contain. Like Brittany and Tony, you too can realize that you've got to find another way of living. You're on that path now. Now that may sound easy, but you need to recognize that when it comes to dealing with yourself, all of your momentum may be the other way: it may have been years since you dealt only in facts. Remember, a lie unchallenged becomes the truth. You've either been told, or told yourself, some of this crap for so long you just automatically believe it. That would never happen if you required yourself to deal with only the facts. For example, nobody could ever convince you that you're a thief, because factually, you know better.

You know, as a matter of indisputable, objective fact, that you do not steal stuff, period, end of discussion. You can simply and unequivocally reject that accusation because you have the data, and whatever someone else might "think" doesn't change it one whit. As a result, it's a piece of information that never gets a foothold in your self-concept. Being "I'm a thief" will never become a part of your personal truth. In Neuro-Linguistic Programming terms, there are a whole lot of presuppositions taking place. Images, feelings, and sounds were created in their mind around their own beliefs of what they heard. The intention was not to make someone feel bad; it was to truly understand what events in their life had been difficult. I was speaking words that were the truth. It happened, and I live with it. Bad things happen in life. I made a choice: I swam away to let them drown. Simply put, your emotions and physiology are interchangeable. Smiles cause a state of happiness, and the reverse is true in that happiness creates smiles. I invite you to investigate many forms and uses of this fact; here are some to start you off: Extending from mindful breathing, we may journey to explore a myriad of ways to feel our sparkle. We can notice our sparkle glistening when we are inspired, relaxed and at peace; when we live our lives with passion and purpose; and when we care for ourselves, each other and our earth deeply. Our eyes twinkle with excitement and pleasure when we allow ourselves to be our true selves unapologetically; to be playful, creative, expressive and unique. A great way to feel our sparkles twinkling brightly is by noticing moments in which we feel happy. This exercise is a simple but profound technique for flagging and celebrating such special moments. Another way to feel our sparkle is by immersing ourselves in nature. Since the dawn of time human beings have been given the simple prescription to drink from nature's cup when in need of healing energy.

Going into the wilderness will always be an elixir for health and happiness; a way of restoring and reviving us. We are part of nature, so coming home to nature always means coming home to ourselves. After years of being put down--by others and yourself--you simply come to accept these criticisms as truth: You're too fat to do anything. You'll never lose weight. No one will ever love you as long as you look like that. Whether these words came from a parent while you were growing up, a spouse, or even yourself, the result is the same: You feel boxed in or controlled by an outdated or distorted image of yourself. The truth is, no one ever changes or improves if she accepts these beliefs. Obtaining a healthy body image requires letting yourself feel vulnerable. But the payoff is huge--a major life transformation can take place. In order to develop a different relationship with your body, you need to leave behind excess baggage and/or outdated versions of yourself. You must be courageous and take a big leap to let go of the old and make way for the new--to finally see your body as an important source of information (about hunger, satiety, when you need to rest or slow down) and of pleasure and love. Just as it's important to periodically clean your closet of clothes that no longer fit, you must also get rid of negative thoughts and images of your body that leave you depressed and unmotivated. Change can be downright uncomfortable at times, but don't forget how painful it is to be locked into a negative body image, how it limits your motivation, your confidence in relationships with others, and possibly your career. You may be holding yourself back at work or you may be missing out on the opportunity to let others love you and become close to you because you are forever judging and being critical of your body. Your worries may not be rational, however. In fact, the people in your inner circle may welcome your openness and the changes it brings. Breathe. Allow yourself to feel as you write. You're doing so well--this isn't easy work! In perfectly hidden depression, the fear of being found out is immense.