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Dear Abby: In one of your columns some time ago, you solicited comments from people who suffered from depression. I am writing about my experience to offer hope to anyone who feels life may no longer be worth living.

If you are acutely depressed, joy is replaced by despair and hopelessness. I have been there. Most people see me as a smart, attractive, happy, energetic, self-confident woman. But for most of my life, I suffered periods of bleak, hopeless depression, during which I saw no possibility of a bright future and felt only self-loathing and anxiety. I occasionally considered suicide as the only way out of my pain, but my two young sons kept me firmly anchored to the earth.Over the years, I read everything I could about depression and underwent various types of therapy. After learning so much and working hard at the therapy, it was doubly disappointing to have the periodic bouts continue. I felt fatally flawed.

Finally, I found antidepressants. I have been taking medication for six months and feel like the happy woman described above. Since I am also in a therapy group, I asked my physician how much of the joy, motivation, energy and optimism I now feel is due to the medication and how much to therapy.

What he told me is very important: "In the same way a diabetic lacks sufficient insulin to process sugar, some people lack sufficient chemicals to permit their brains to function properly." My antidepressant simply makes my brain work correctly - I do all the rest.

Please urge your readers not to give up before they have ruled out a physical basis for their depression. I was vehemently anti-drugs. I believed depression was a character defect rather than a possible chemical imbalance. I was wrong. It is a physical affliction as much as diabetes or cancer is.

I realize this letter is rather long, but I hope you will print it.

- Contra Costa Woman

Dear Contra Costa Woman: Your letter will be read by many who will identify with it and be comforted by it. Thank you for writing.

Dear Abby: I have done a very bad thing. I am 15, not married, and had a baby girl. I told everyone the wrong boy is the baby's daddy. I couldn't say who the baby's real daddy is without getting him in a lot of trouble.

Please tell me what to do. I am too chicken to sign my name.

- A Sorry Liar

Dear Sorry: It took a great deal of courage to admit that you lied, but there are important reasons why you must now tell the truth.

At some point, you may need financial help to support this child. Not only would it be unfair to ask the "wrong boy" to do this, if he denies he is the father (which he would surely do), a blood test would reveal that you lied. Also, someday your daughter may need a family medical history; a history from the wrong family would be useless.

As much as you would like to shield the baby's father from trouble, I urge you to admit that you lied. And the sooner, the better.

What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS, and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." To order, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)