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Author: Seth Adam Smith

Seth Adam Smith is a best-selling, award-winning author and blogger whose writings have been translated into over thirty languages and featured on Huffington Post, Good Morning America, Fox News, CNN, the Today Show, and many other news outlets around the world. A survivor of a suicide attempt in 2006, Seth is an advocate for resources and understanding concerning depression and suicide prevention and regularly writes about these topics in his books and on his blog. He recently finished "Rip Van Winkle and the Pumpkin Lantern," and is currently working on a series of historical novels set in Colonial America.
Reasons to Stay Alive | Suicide Prevention

Reasons to Stay Alive | Suicide Prevention

There are reasons to stay alive. If you feel depressed or suicidal, please know that there are many, many, many reasons to stay alive.

Depression is a debilitating, devastating illness. Depression can overwhelm your mind with feelings of sadness and make you feel like there is no hope. Please understand that these feelings are symptoms of depression. There is always hope. Life is filled with hope. Life has many wonderful things in store for you!

Below are fifty reasons to stay alive. I could write more—much more—but, for the sake of time, let’s start with 50. As someone who has struggled with chronic depression, I can tell you that these things have happened for me and I believe they can happen for you.

After my list is a beautiful, short video. If you do nothing else, please take the time to watch the video.

50 Reasons to Stay Alive

Why should I go on living? Because I want to . . .

  1. experience healing.
  2. re-read my favorite books.
  3. see the leaves change color every autumn.
  4. hear new, beautiful music.
  5. laugh until it hurts (but in a good way).
  6. spend time with family and friends.
  7. love like I’ve never loved before.
  8. go on adventures.
  9. meet new people.
  10. see crescent moons, half moons, and mind-blowing super moons!
  11. make inside jokes.
  12. find the cool side of the pillow.
  13. be a part of something amazing.
  14. eat more pie (Amish-made pie is the best).
  15. fight my inner demons and become stronger.
  16. dream and work to make those dreams a reality.
  17. play with puppies.
  18. spend a lazy day on the beach or at a cabin.
  19. binge-watch an amazing show.
  20. hike and conquer a mountain or the Grand Canyon.
  21. eat more dessert!
  22. see more Christmas lights.
  23. travel the world.
  24. watch the sunrise and sunset.
  25. take a Sunday nap, or sleep in just a little bit longer.
  26. have hot, freshly-made apple cider.
  27. listen to the wind and the rain.
  28. find money in my pockets.
  29. sit by a warm fire.
  30. go to weddings, parties, and graduations.
  31. watch the rushing waters of a river.
  32. see more awesome movie trailers.
  33. make a positive impact in someone’s life.
  34. get a bonus paycheck.
  35. walk through a quiet forest.
  36. smell fresh-baked cookies (and then eat them, of course).
  37. watch it snow.
  38. make a difference in the world.
  39. discover new books.
  40. eat amazing food.
  41. listen to the rumble of thunder.
  42. go on walks.
  43. jump into pools.
  44. work on talents and hobbies.
  45. stare up at the stars.
  46. watch the Northern Lights.
  47. experience holidays to their fullest.
  48. hear the heartbeat of my unborn child.
  49. hold my child for the first time.
  50. be surprised by the goodness of life.

There are many, many more reasons to stay alive. Life has so much to offer you.

What Causes Depression?

What Causes Depression?

It’s no secret that depression causes feelings of guilt, worthlessness, lethargy, and hopelessness, but what causes depression? If we understand the causes of depression then we are more likely to be able to find a solution to defeat it.

What Causes Depression?

It is difficult to boil depression down to one root cause, but there are numerous factors, or stressors, that could lead a person to experience depression. For some, traumatic or distressing life events—such as grief, loss, illness, monotony, divorce, financial troubles, or moving—can generate feelings of depression. Depression can be a chronic illness and there is some debate as to whether or not depression is genetic.

In the interview below, I spoke with Carrie Wrigley, a therapist with years of experience working with clients who struggle with various forms of depression. I asked her if depression was a genetic condition and she offered some powerful insight:

 Alternatively, I was intrigued by M. Scott Peck’s belief that depression is sometimes the result of what we experience as we are giving up our “old self.” In The Road Less Traveled, he wrote:

“Since mentally healthy human beings must grow, and since giving up or loss of the old self is an integral part of the process of mental and spiritual growth, depression is a normal and basically healthy phenomenon. It becomes abnormal or unhealthy only when something interferes with the giving-up process, with the result that the depression is prolonged and cannot be resolved by completion of the process.”

 Fascinating thought! Part of growing up means letting go of the old and accepting the new. The times when I have been the most depressed have been the times when I have tried to hold on to the past—but the past cannot be held. As a result of my inability to recapture what is lost, I become depressed.

 Solutions for Depression

While it’s difficult to determine one root cause of depression, there are numerous ways of treating depression and lessoning the severity of its symptoms. First and foremost, if your battle with depression is persistent and severe, it is imperative that you seek professional, medical help. Depression is an illness and it is nothing to be ashamed of. Treat depression as you would treat a broken bone. You wouldn’t hide a broken bone from a doctor, you would take it to a doctor so that he could mend it.

Please click here to read 9 Ways to Fight Depression (and Win!)

9 Ways to Fight Depression (and Win!)

9 Ways to Fight Depression (and Win!)

Want to know how to fight depression? As someone who regularly struggles with chronic depression, I’ve learned how very difficult it can be to move forward. Over the years, I’ve developed a number of ways that help me actively fight my own depression. Listed below are nine of those techniques. If you are struggling with depression, I hope that these techniques can help you move forward in life.

9 Ways to Fight Depression

#1 Believe You Can Fight Your Depression

In order to fight depression you must first believe that you can fight it. This step is so crucial that it’s literally half of the battle. You have to let go of the idea that it’s hopeless, stop thinking “I can’t do this,” or “I’m stuck.” You cannot fight anything if you’ve already accepted defeat.

In fact, I can’t even give you advice if you already believe nothing can help. It’s as author James A. Owen says: “If you really want to do something, no one can stop you – but if you really don’t want to do something, no one can help you.”

That being said, I will repeat the fact that I have chronic depression. It would be easy for me to say that I am a victim of my circumstances, but I refuse to do that. I did it for a few years, and those were the most miserable years of my life, precisely because I believed that everything was hopeless. I have since learned that, while I can’t always choose what happens to me, I can always choose how I react.

I choose to actively fight my depression.

Right now, I want you to decide to fight your depression. As soon as you decide that—and believe that you can do it—I promise that you will find the strength to do so.

Prevent Suicide

#2 Speak With a Trusted Friend (or Two or Three)

When you have depression, your instinct usually is to hide your thoughts and feelings from everyone else. Depression thrives in darkness and isolation. The best way to fight depression is to shine the light on it, and communicate how you’re feeling. I know it seems absolutely terrifying to open up to someone about your depression– especially when it comes to sharing some of your dark and morbid thoughts—but it is vital to have a mental mirror. You need another person to know what’s going on inside of your head.

Find someone whom you trust, someone who is understanding, and share your thoughts and feelings with them. When you do so, you’ll be surprised to find out how many others have gone through similar struggles. I promise that, though depression thrives in secrecy, it shrinks with the force and strength of empathy.

#3 Seek Professional Help

If your depression is persistent and debilitating, I strongly encourage you to seek professional help. A lot of people are embarrassed to seek help for something that feels like an internal struggle. But if your depression is threatening your work and relationships, there is no shame in seeking help.

Think of your struggle like a broken bone. You wouldn’t hide your broken bone from those who could help, but would rush to a hospital to get the proper treatment. Psychologists and counselors are trained to handle all kinds of things. They have profound wisdom and experience working with mental health issues. You have nothing to be ashamed of but everything to gain in working with them.

You would do well to use every resource available to you, including those who have been trained to help

#4 Look for Humor

It’s no secret that depression kills joy. When you’re in the thick of depression, it seems almost impossible that life will ever be cheerful again. But there are ways to find joy in the journey—even when it’s dark.

When things get especially difficult for me, I do my best to seek out things that are humorous (reruns of funny sitcoms, hilarious YouTube videos, and ridiculous internet memes).

Despite what you might be tempted to think, there’s a lot of humor to be found in everyday life—even within depression. I think Allie Brosch of Hyperbole and a Half does a awesome job at illustrating the depth of depression, while also pointing out the humor. Check out Adventures in Depression, and Depression Part 2 (fair warning, she uses some colorful language).

Shortly after my suicide attempt, my brother Sean and I watched Better Off Dead, a quirky comedy about a guy who unsuccessfully tries to kill himself multiple times. Believe it or not, the movie actually helped me find the humor in my own situation.

Truly, laughter can be a real game-changer.

#5 Get Lots and Lots of Sunshine!

There’s a scene in Sword in the Stone where Merlin tells the witch, Mad Madam Mim, that in order to feel better she needs “lots and lots of sunshine!” Her response? “I hate horrible, wholesome sunshine!”

Mad Madam Mim is like depression; depression hates sunshine! Researchers have discovered that sunlight (which contains Vitamin D) boosts serotonin levels. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps regulates sleep, memory, and—here’s the kicker—mood! Healthy levels of serotonin mean a healthier, happier you!

Do you realize what this means?! Every day, the sun is literally offering us free happiness to help us fight depression! Wholesome sunshine, indeed!

#6 Boost Your Moods

Whenever I’m feeling low, I tend to gravitate toward things that will drag me down even lower—sad music, depressing television shows, or real-life drama. Since my suicide attempt, I’ve realized that I simply can’t afford to feed my sadness. Instead, I try to boost my mood and feed the positive side of my nature.

As much as possible, I try to listen to upbeat music, watch comedies, participate in constructive activities, and stay in the sunlight. While it doesn’t always work right away, actively feeding the kind of moods I want to have definitely decreases the chance of another relapse.

Put another way, I try to avoid stepping in manure by staying out of the cow pasture. 🙂

#7 Diet and Exercise

Yup. You heard me. This stuff works! And it makes sense, doesn’t it? Whether you believe in evolution (survival of the fittest) or Creationism (“by the sweat of your brow”), mankind was designed to labor and find fulfillment in work. We simply don’t use our bodies like the generations before us. Being sedentary is quite literally making us depressed.

To quote professor and psychologist, Matthew Whoolery:

“Did you know what the best antidepressant is—for real? Exercise. A study done at Duke University Medical School found that 30 minutes of brisk exercise, three days a week, was as effective as taking an antidepressant. And the relapse rate for the exercisers was just 7%, while the relapse rate for the drug-takers was over 30%.”

Trust me, I know that depression saps the energy out of you. But just try going for a thirty minute walk in the sunlight (and listen to some upbeat music while doing it). A short walk could go a long way to help you fight depression.

Ways to Fight Depression

#8 Serve Others

Time and time again, I have learned that loving service is one of our greatest (yet most neglected) resources for healing. In my book, Your Life Isn’t For You, I wrote that “in lifting another person, we also lift ourselves.”

But I think Gordon B. Hinckley said it best when he said:

“The best antidote I know for worry is work. The best cure for weariness is the challenge of helping someone who is even more tired. One of the great ironies of life is this: He or she who serves almost always benefits more than he or she who is served.”

#9 Understand You Will Always Have to Pull Weeds

This idea is SO important! Please understand that life is about growth, not perfection. If perfection is your aim, you will always be depressed—because none of us is perfect. We all need to work constantly to improve our lives.

Our lives are like gardens, and we have to perpetually care for, cultivate, and weed them. There will never be a time when the weeding is forever done, just as there will never be a time when we are forever exempt from feelings of sadness, loneliness, or despair. These things will always try to resurface in our lives. The trick is to keep weeding. Don’t let those feelings overrun your life (or your garden). When you nurture and care for the fruits and flowers of your life, I promise that you will reap a more abundant life.

I hope these ideas have helped you find the strength and understanding to fight depression. It doesn’t happen overnight, but you CAN do it.

Below is a great video on understanding depression. Keep moving forward!

Look to the Light

Look to the Light

“Does your heart walk forward in the light?” Lehi Sanchez, a Native American, shares the inspirational story of his father, Ezekiel.

How to Prevent Suicide

How to Prevent Suicide

In 2013, the CDC listed suicide as the tenth leading cause of death in the United States. The CDC also reported that “there were 41,149 suicides in 2013 in the United States—113 suicides each day or one every 13 minutes.” Suicide is a national epidemic and we need to know how to prevent suicide.

How can we prevent suicide?

Several years ago, I woke up with a terrible pain in my midsection. I had eaten fish the night before and assumed I had food poisoning. As the day progressed, my pain got worse. That night, I went to bed early, hoping to feel better in the morning. I tossed and turned and couldn’t sleep. At 4 a.m., I drove to my office to get some work done (my way of getting better!). After an early meeting, a coworker noticed I was hurting. She said I looked “green,” and urged me to call my doctor.

I told the doctor I was sure I had food poisoning. He told the nurse to take my blood, and sent me home. By the time I reached the parking lot, I was doubled over in pain. I knew I couldn’t drive. I called my wife, Gaylene. She came to the doctor’s office and immediately took me to the hospital. The emergency room doctor was convinced my pain was caused by kidney stones. He gave me morphine, filled me with dye, strapped me to a table, and took pictures of my insides. After a few hours he was convinced I had passed the stone, and sent me home. I was feeling much better (thanks to the morphine).

Exhausted from the experience, I fell asleep in the guest room. I woke up at round 5 a.m. with the most excruciating pain I have ever felt. This time I had a fever. I lay there in the dark and quietly pleaded for someone to help me. Seconds later, the door opened. It was Gaylene. She woke with a feeling that something was terribly wrong. She grabbed her keys and nearly carried me to the car.

On the way to the hospital, Gaylene tried to comfort me by telling me it was going to be okay. By now, I wasn’t sure I was going to be okay or that anyone could help me. When we reached the hospital, I was screaming with pain. As I flopped back and forth on the emergency room bed, I couldn’t imagine living another moment in my circumstances. Nothing else mattered but relief from my pain–even if it meant dying.

Suddenly, Gaylene caught sight of a family friend walking past the emergency room door. She jumped up and ran after him. “Dr. Brinkerhoff, Dr. Brinkerhoff,” she yelled. “My husband is hurting and needs your help.” She pulled him into the room. He looked at me and said to the nurses, “We need to cut him open, and fast.”

For the first time since I became ill, I felt like someone truly knew the cause of my pain and could help me. His words instantly gave me hope. Several hours later, I opened my eyes to see my beautiful Gaylene sitting by my bed. She explained that my appendix had ruptured and was infected. Without surgery, I would only have lived a few more hours.

Depression and Suicide Prevention

Prevent Suicide

Not unlike my experience with physical pain, emotional pain can bring intense feelings of hopelessness and despair. Often, the cause of emotional pain is misdiagnosed and as a result, remedies only bring temporary relief at best. Untreated emotional pain can grow to be so extraordinary that one may feel the only possible relief is to commit suicide.

Unfortunately, there are far too many young people with this degree of pain—some with only a few hours to live! We need to prevent suicide. To save their lives, they will need an attentive friend—one who sees their pain and carries them to help–as well as a skilled physician who can perform the needed surgery.

Being an Attentive Friend

In our fast-paced world, we can easily become disconnected from people—especially the young people in our lives (who in this Digital Age seldom connect with anyone). Disconnected, we miss important developmental milestones and changes in emotions and behaviors.

There are, however, simple things we can do daily to refresh ourselves to the humanity of the young people around us and prevent suicide. It may be helpful to make a list of young people in your life and then ask, “When was the last time I personally connected with each person?”

Connections are windows in time when two people can openly share thoughts and feelings with one another. If we are connecting regularly, we will be more aware of others’ needs–and most importantly, they will feel that their life matters to someone. One fear is that connecting will take time. It may; however, it may also turn out to be the most rewarding and enjoyable time of all.  It is during these times that we have the most influence to help things go right for others.

When connecting with young people, it is helpful to know the symptoms of emotional pain:

  • Feelings of despair, hopelessness, or worthlessness
  • Easily agitated or quick to anger
  • Sadness or tearfulness
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Loss of interest in things that were once important
  • Changes in eating and sleeping habits
  • Expressions (talk, artwork, emails, music, etc.) of death or suicide
  • Reckless or risky behaviors

It is not uncommon for young people to experience a wide variety of emotions and behaviors; however, dramatic changes in personality, mood, or behavior are often signs of a deeper problem. If the symptoms persist and/or are harmful to self or others, make every attempt to connect. If the young person will connect, ask questions and listen–long enough to discover the source of their pain–then develop a plan together to find help to relieve the pain. The plan should include reconnecting daily, until help can be secured.

An effective resource when seeking help is an educational consultant (see ieca.org). Educational consultants who focus on special needs have made it their profession to do assessments and recommend programs (i.e., wilderness therapy, residential treatment centers, therapeutic boarding schools, etc.) that will be the best fit for each of their clients. Educational consultants visit programs regularly and work in tandem with the family and program therapists (once the child is placed in an appropriate program) to help develop the most effective aftercare plan.

If the young person is unwilling to connect, it’s best to use direct questions like, “Are you thinking of killing yourself/harming yourself?” or “Do you feel depressed?” rather than, “You’re not gonna do something crazy are you?” If no one in the young person’s circle of relationships is able to connect with them, seek the help of a skilled physician.

*Note: If you suspect that a teenager you know is suicidal, take immediate action to prevent suicide! For 24-hour suicide prevention and support in the U.S., call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.

Prevent Suicide

Finding a Skilled Physician

There are many causes of severe emotional pain in young people (i.e., environmental, biological or developmental changes, loss, trauma, poor nutrition, guilt, issues related to sexual experiences or identity, etc.). Because the symptoms are often the same, it is easy to misdiagnose the cause. Each cause will require a different set of skills for effective treatment. If the cause is misdiagnosed or treatments are recommended that are not effective or sufficient (e.g. getting drug therapy without any follow up or from a doctor who does not specialize in that area), the afflicted person is left even more hopeless than before, because they fear the “treatment” has not worked and so they are doomed to suffer.

Begin with an assessment from a board certified and licensed psychologist. Listen carefully to the treatment recommendations. If there are any reservations or concerns regarding the recommendations, it is appropriate to seek a second opinion. If it is recommended that the young person be admitted into a program, an educational consultant can use the assessment made by the psychologist to help find the appropriate placement.

There Is Hope

There is hope. These conditions are treatable. However, do not delay in your efforts to prevent suicide. Young people in their developmental years are usually more responsive than adults to the right kind of care and treatment. Having spent years in the field of behavioral healthcare, I have watched lives be changed every day at the hand of attentive friends and skilled physicians.

This article was written by Michael J. Merchant. Michael is the President of ANASAZI Foundation—a nonprofit and nationally accredited outdoor behavioral healthcare provider for youth, young adults and their families. ANASAZI recently published “The Seven Paths: Changing One’s Way of Walking in the World.” Mike is also the president of the National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs and was the former president of the Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare Council.

How Will God Interview Parents?

How Will God Interview Parents?

How will God interview parents? Will He judge them based on how they raised their children? Or will He judge them based on how many of those children made it back to Him on the straight and narrow path? Nathan Mitchell, the Clinical Director of the ANASAZI Foundation, gives a surprising answer!

How Will God Interview Parents?

Nathan Mitchell, Clinical Director of Anasazi Foundation, gave this answer:

“A lot of times, when I’m talking to parents, I ask them to consider this interview that we all imagine that we’ll have with God at the end of our lives. Because, as a parent, sometimes I fall into that trap of thinking that that interview with God is going to have on that ‘Did your kids all go to Church? Did they stay on the straight and narrow path? Did they not do drugs? Did all, you know, follow that pattern?’ I don’t think He’s going to ask: ‘What did you do with these children that I gave you? How many of them did you bring back?’

“I think the question that He’s going to ask is ‘Did you learn to love them? Because that’s why I put them with you. That’s why I put that person in your life—in a very specific way—so that you could learn to love the way that I love.’

“And to me, that concept changes everything. Then I don’t have to be the one to make sure that this person never does drugs. It’s certainly my hope and I’ll certainly do everything that I can, but if anything becomes more important than my relationship, than my love with that person, then I know I’ve got it upside down. Even if that thing that becomes more important is a righteous thing. If it becomes more important than that connection then I might fail the interview.”

Let us know what you think about this interview in the comments below!

You Are NOT A Burden

You Are NOT A Burden

When someone struggles with depression, they will often feel as though their life is a burden to others. Ganel-Lyn Condie, a speaker and author, lost her sister to suicide in 2014 and the grief is almost overpowering. Ganel-Lyn has often expressed the feeling that she would rather have her sister—with all her imperfections—than to go through life without her.

In the video below, Ganel-Lyn talks about her sister’s suicide and tells anyone who is struggling with suicidal thoughts that they are not a burden.

The Legend of the Northern Lights

The Legend of the Northern Lights

“Look to the light and swim to the top of the Great Mountain. There you will find your home. There you will swim in the eternal river of the sky.” – Seth Adam Smith

This story comes from the book “Your Life Isn’t For You,” by Seth Adam Smith. Click here to order a copy from Amazon!

 

Winston Churchill and Depression

Winston Churchill and Depression

One of my heroes has always been Sir Winston Churchill (1874–1965), the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom during World War II. His active and steadfast resistance to Adolf Hitler, along with his vehement refusal to even consider defeat, helped inspire his nation to victory against Nazi Germany. His strength of character and his determination to never give up—even in the most dire circumstances—has made him one of the greatest leaders the world has ever known.

Winston Churchill Victory

Aside from all of that, Churchill was a very funny man. Let me share an example of his humor.

As some of you are aware, Winston Churchill and President Roosevelt were actually very good friends. Once, while Churchill was staying at the White House, President Roosevelt decided to stop by Churchill’s room. The Prime Minister, who had just finished taking a bath, was pacing back and forth in his room—completely naked. When Roosevelt rolled into the room and saw Churchill in the buff, Churchill calmly replied, “You see, Mr. President, I have nothing to hide from you.” [Source, TIME]

Winston Churchill and Depression

But there was something which hid from the world—he struggled with what he called “the black dog” of depression. Researchers and biographers have since diagnosed him as someone who struggled regularly with major episodes of depression.

Concerning Winston Churchill and depression, psychiatrist Anthony Storr said this: “Only a man who knew what it was to discern a gleam of hope in a hopeless situation, whose courage was beyond reason, and whose aggressive spirit burned at its fiercest when he was hemmed in and surrounded by enemies, could have given emotional reality to the words of defiance which rallied and sustained us [during World War II].”

The full weight of Europe on his shoulders, he was, in many respects, a lone man standing against the full onslaught of Adolf Hitler—one of the most evil men in history. In studying Churchill’s life—his victories and defeats, along with his emotional obstacles and personal challenges—I am perpetually amazed by his indomitable will to fight his way forward.

In a speech delivered to the House of Commons on June 4, 1940, Churchill rallied his beleaguered nation with these words: “We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”

Consider the context of those words. Not only was Churchill leading the charge against Nazi Germany, he was simultaneously leading a personal charge against his own depression.

With this in mind, the following phrase (one of his most famous quotes) is given even more power and meaning: “Never give in—never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”

Winston Churchill and Depression
Winston Churchill and Depression

I’d like to pause here and be completely candid with you. While writing about depression, I have felt discouraged many times. The process of creating books and blog posts about it has  caused many different thoughts, feelings, and experiences to resurface. Some of these have been good, but most of them have been very difficult to recall. I am often confronted with feelings of despondency, depression, and insecurity. After all, I begin to think who am I? Who am I that the world should care what I have to say?

But in these moments of self-doubt, I have often looked at my poster of Churchill. He doesn’t look back at me. Instead, he looks forward, into some distant horizon—as if to say, “Never give in. Keep moving forward.”

Winston Churchill and Depression FDR

Please consider this incredible irony of the friendship between Winston Churchill and President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Here are two leaders faced with tremendous challenges. One of them struggles with the darkness of depression; the other is bound to a wheelchair. Had they grown up in Nazi Germany, Hitler would have had both men exterminated for their imperfections. And yet, these two men—these two imperfect people—moved forward, and together, they defeated a darkness which had swept across Europe.

I think that there is a lot we can learn from Winston Churchill and depression, the most important being this:

“Never give in. Keep moving forward.”