Carolyn:

I am really depressed. Really. I have been in and out of therapy, on and off depression medication for years. I have been upfront and honest during my therapy sessions but nothing makes me feel better. I am such a mess I have failed even to commit suicide -- four times!

What can I do? Is it okay to kill myself? I'm withdrawing from my friends but as a psych major, I know withdrawing will lead to even worse feelings. But what friend wants to hear my depressing thoughts? Even my therapist gets tired of it.

I am approaching the phase of my depression where soon getting out of bed will be too much. I want to die or get OVER this. What else is left?

I Can't Go On

Apparently, a little knowledge is a depressing thing, too. I'm so sorry you're going through this. But here's something you might not have heard in psych class: Depression distorts your perceptions -- of your past, your future, yourself. Your sickness says your friends don't want to listen. Your sickness says your therapist is bored. Your sickness says it's all hopeless.

Your sickness lies! Right there, you have Reason No. 5 to live: These urges to die can't be trusted. I'm not just blowing sunshine here -- this is a real phenomenon, according to Wayne Fenton, a D.C.-area psychiatrist. (He suggests you read "Darkness Visible" by William Styron, a firsthand account of this distorted self-perception.)

Fenton also suggests you see a specialist. He says about 70 percent of depression patients respond to treatment the first time around -- meaning a full 30 percent need more intensive treatment. Someone at the American Psychiatric Association (202-682-6325) can give you the number for your local chapter, which will have names of doctors who specialize in depression. (Or go to its Web site, www.psych.org, and click "APA Members.")

So that's Reason No. 4 for living: There is someone out there who can help you.

Or something out there, which we'll call Reason No. 3: new drugs! There are more psychotropic alternatives out there, and science may well have caught up with you. Consider inpatient treatment, too. You're ill -- there's no shame in that.

Melissa Berler, a licensed clinical social worker and a great help with this column, offers Reason No. 2 to stick around: Your suicide will leave everyone who cares about you devastated and angry. And their pain will be permanent, unlike the pain you feel now.

Which brings me to the ultimate reason to live: because you want to get OVER this thing. You've held yourself back from suicide, you've sought help, you've even written to me. Know what that describes? Someone who wants to live.

Carolyn:

I'm 17 years old and I'm going out with this great girl. We seemed to hit it off right at the first date. We've been going out about eight months now, and we get along great. The problem is, when we're alone, she begs me to do something silly, and I don't really mind her doing it. Sometimes she puts lipstick on me, and once we drove around with my hair in curlers. Another time, it was nail polish, and all the while she was putting it on, she was telling me I could take it off as soon as she was done. Unfortunately, she didn't bring the remover.

If I refuse her little wants, she embarrasses me until I say okay. I usually fight it so she doesn't get the idea I like it. I've tried to talk to her about it, but she just laughs it off and goes right back to the same thing. What do I do?

Feeling Sissy

If this is a great girl and you get along great, I think I need to hear your definition of great.

Let's define my word first: conflicted (adj.), in a state of emotional conflict.

As in, it's a "problem" that your girlfriend does this, but you "don't really mind."

As in, you pretend to resist it for appearances' sake, but you're disappointed for real when you fail.

As in, she embarrasses you until you say yes -- to her embarrassing you.

I read your letter and I see a guy trying, so hard, to convince himself he enjoys this kind of ritual humiliation because he wants, so badly, for this girl to want him.

But be honest with yourself. Is the attention of a sadistic little control freak worth that much to you? When she -- whoopsie! -- doesn't bring the polish remover, is that funny? She's on to your insecurities like a cat with a yarn ball. When your own girlfriend enjoys embarrassing you, you might as well hang with your enemies. At least they'd show some respect.

It's okay to say no to her. It's okay to get mad. It's okay to tell her where to put her curlers. And it's okay if she responds to this wave of dignity by ending your "great" relationship on the spot. Trust me, you're paying too much for a manicure.

Write to Tell Me About It, Style Plus, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or tellme@washpost.com, and join Carolyn's live discussion at noon today or at 8 p.m. Monday at www.washingtonpost.com.