How I Deal With My Lifelong Depression

| by Truth Seeker |

I’ve been depressed ever since I turned 19. I don’t exactly hide it, but I never talk about it either for 3 main reasons:

  • I am a man so no one cares, and I just appear weak in other people’s eyes.
  • Life is life regardless of my feelings.
  • Even if people wanted to help what can they realistically do that will change the situation?

Some Dark Truths About Depression

My experience led me to the following realizations:

1. To an extent, depression is natural, unavoidable, and the price of being a human.

Saying this in a world where positivity reigns supreme and everyone is seemingly one hand away from ultimate happiness if they work hard enough thanks to capitalism, the Internet, and some pseudo-philosophical movement feels criminal.

But I believe this to be true nonetheless.

Life is inherently sad.

As the great poets say, “To live is to suffer”.

Suffering is the greatest teacher of all time. And if you live long enough, you will sooner or later suffer tremendously.

You will see your grandparents, your parents and maybe even your children grow old and die.

You will witness and experience a great deal of physical and emotional pain.

You will lose friends.

Someone will break your heart. You will break someone’s heart.

It never really ends until your last breath.

But the real source of the pain is our ability to realize the above by extracting ourselves from the present.

Animals suffer tremendously too, but they don’t suffer in advance. Only humans do. A dog doesn’t wake up and think “I will die one day.” It just lives.

A man cannot do that regardless of what the new age movement says.

Only creatures with consciousness below ours can perpetually live in the present. We don’t have that luxury. We aren’t designed for such an existence.

It is precisely this characteristic that makes us human.

2. People who are depressed are not cowards.

Depression is mental corrosion of some sort. It’s real regardless of what people say.

Back in the day, I read an article from Victor Pride (boldanddetermined.com), in which he says that the old-school solution to curing depression, the one that your grandfather would give you, is to just “stop being a pussy”.

The article was nice for that particular genre, but things are a little deeper than that.

Saying “Just don’t be a pussy” to someone who is heavily depressed is the equivalent of saying “Just earn more money” to someone poor.

3. You can’t cure depression forever with a magic pill.

You’ve probably heard the saying that depression is fundamentally a chemical imbalance and if you fix it, you will no longer be depressed.

That’s probably true but only in theory. Pills are temporary and treat symptoms rather than causes.


So here’s what I do.

1. Do activities that get you out of your head.

There’s a reason why being thrown in solitary is one of the most brutal punishments.

Because you are alone with your head…forever.

Your brain starts to eat itself out.

Believe it or not, you can easily do that to yourself without even realizing it.

The only way to allow your brain to rest and heal itself is to do an activity that requires attention in the now. Examples: swimming, lifting, boxing, welding…etc.

That way you’re living in the present naturally, not by faking it/forcing yourself as the new age writers promote.

2. Get yourself tired

If you’re too tired to stand on your feet, you’re too tired to think.

Every day, get as tired as you can (within healthy limits).

If you don’t have a physical job or a desire to do manual work for “fun”, just go to the gym 6 days a week and train.

The key in this case is to get the MUSCLES/BODY tired rather than the brain. If you stay in front of the PC all day, you will get tired in the mind but not in the body. It’s the tiredness in the body that you need in this case.

3. Internalize that society doesn’t care about men

Our society hates men. It wants us to be its slaves and shut up.

Even your parents don’t want to hear you complaining. (I know from experience.)

It is what it is.

Giving up 100% on the idea that another human being will ever truly transcend deep-level compassion towards you may be brutal, but at least, you ain’t wasting time trying.

Many people, usually women, say that men should share more. But that statement is as fake as politicians.

One of the surest ways to turn off and even lose a girl is to share with her your emotional pain and fear of the world.

4. Keep going through the motions even if you hate it.

The more you stay still, the less your body wants to move. You’re essentially teaching yourself how to be stationary in a physical and metaphorical sense.

That’s why it’s very important to do your best to keep up with your habits and even improve them if possible.

The same principle is observed when healing an injury – you’re advised to start moving/using the injured body part as soon as it’s safe to do so. Otherwise, you’re simply prolonging the rehabilitation process in the future.

5. Don’t Expect to Ever Be Happy

Happiness is an illusion. Even if you get exactly what you want, you still won’t be happy. It never ends.

The goal is not to be happy but to live in peace with your inner self.

6. Build your own little world

It’s easy to feel unimportant in a globalist world. The Internet gives everyone a voice and makes it seem that our opinions matter, but that’s an illusion.

When was the last time Trump called you to ask for your opinion?

People in large communities are mentally exhausted and heavily depressed because each unit is one drop in the ocean.

The only solution is to downsize and focus primarily on your group of people.

Being 1/5 is a lot less depressing than being 1/infinity.

7. Stop thinking the worst

Below is a rule as eternal as gravity:

“The worst things that will happen in your life will be 100% unexpected.”

That’s a fact. If you’re meant to get hit in a car accident, it will happen when you’re not thinking of it.

If you or a loved one is meant to get sick, it will happen when you expect it the least.

This is how life works.

Thus, overthinking about those things is pointless.

8. Don’t feel guilty that you’re depressed

Many men feel extreme guilt that they aren’t maximally happy all the time. That’s pointless. Feelings are like the weather. If it rains, it rains and there’s little you can do about it.

Your Internet idols are not substantially different than you when the cameras aren’t working. They cry more often than you think.

Many of the people telling you to “man up” feel just as sad as you even though they have the entire world in their palm.


Until next time

– Natty

P.S. Yesterday, my first book A Hater’s Synthesis 1 had its 8th anniversary. (AHS1 and AHS2 come as a single package now.) Check them out if you like similar topics. Thank you.

No spam. Unsubscribe at any time.

34 comments

  1. Guille

    Nice work…thanks teacher….greetings from argentina…

    1. Truth Seeker Post author

      Thank you, man.

  2. Jose

    Didn’t expect to see a new article so soon. Like the other recent ones, it was a good read.

    I actually can relate a lot with it because I’ve been also suffering from episodes of mild depression since my mid 20s (I’m 30 years old now). In those periods I got obsessed on things I didn’t (and still don’t to an extent) have. Out of a misguided desire to fill that “void”, I kind of acted and did things that were out of character and foolish in retrospective: such as experimenting with the “Red pill” and seeking sexual experiences in places I would never visit again for a lot of reasons.

    While I regret committing those mistakes, at least I think they helped me to rediscover myself and reach similar conclusions to yours: true happiness is nothing but an illusion. Hedonism is just a temporary patch that most of the time can ironically bring more unhappiness. What really matters is, like you say, to be true and at peace with your inner self.

    1. Truth Seeker Post author

      Yes.

      “Hedonism is just a temporary patch that most of the time can ironically bring more unhappiness. What really matters is, like you say, to be true and at peace with your inner self.”

      The hedonic treadmill is real.

  3. Bob

    6. Build your own little world

    That’s what I do. Anytime I’m not busy I start thinking of sore subjects that make me depressed. So I just occupy my mind preparing mental speeches on random topics I enjoyed reading about. Helped me a lot staying positive. That and getting a dog.

    1. Truth Seeker Post author

      Yes. The modern man is just too small unless we go in “micro” mode.

  4. Ahmed Salem

    Truthseeker, we need another hater’s synthesis part 3 i am 100% buying it.

    1. Truth Seeker Post author

      Not planning it currently. But I may write another book in a similar style. But the name will be different.

      AHS3 will be a book that I write when I am close to the end of my life (provided that this doesn’t happen unexpectedly.)

  5. Moto

    Based on my experience being in the same situation, I can tell you SSRIs work. Just like a broken bone needs a cast, the brain needs support to help one heal. And just as a the cast eventually comes off, the pills will eventually stop.

    To anyone who’s in same situation – Please speak to your doctor. Clinical depression is real.

    1. Truth Seeker Post author

      To an extent, yes. Diet (keto) also helps. But none of those remove the root.

    2. Jose

      Antidepressants can definitely help people suffering from severe depression to heal and return to a functional state (I’ve a loved one who went through a rehabilitation process after two literal suicide attempts and temporary antidepressants were an important part of it), but like Truthseeker says, they only attack the symptoms for a limited time, not the root.

      If you don’t tackle the source of your depression (negative self-talk, obsessive thoughts, etc) sooner or later it will come back strong. It will never fully go away, but you can learn to live with it and keep it at bay (more and less like Russell Crowe’s character does with his hallucinations in A Beautiful Mind).

  6. Lemmings

    Ironically, this post is actually more positive than it seems. I appreciate you leaving some room for hope in your writings, even if it is through the lens of depression. Stay strong brother

    1. Truth Seeker Post author

      Yes. I was planning to go all doom and gloom but stopped myself. haha 🙂

  7. Don

    NON is a huge wake up call.
    I wished I learnt how to deal with these issues as a younger man.

    1. Truth Seeker Post author

      Better late than never. And thank you for the support.

  8. SamS

    Such a great article about a subject very close to me. I could go on and on about it, which is probably a sad thing. But I’ll try to keep this short.

    One thing (of many things) that has helped me with depression is what the current WBC boxing heavyweight champ Tyson Fury (yes I know, very controversial person) said in the past about it. He said that depression is like they sing in the old Eagles song Hotel California: “You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave”.

    For some the idea of depression never leaving makes it even more depressing, which is very natural. But for me it has made it easier, because like Truth Seeker, I’ve been dealing with it for a pretty long time. In the past, I always waited and hoped it to “go off”, which never happened. Now I think that it would be very unnatural for it to suddenly go off altogether. But the idea that I can check out from it makes it easier for me. Of course it’s not that easy to but somehow for me it takes the pressure off from the fact that it should somehow be turned off for once and for all.

    1. SamS

      The afore mentioned is a similar change of mindset that happened to me with muscle building when a decade ago I started to read articles here in Natty Or Not. After a short period of time, I realized that I wouldn’t be able to build any significant amount of muscle.

      At first It kind of felt bad but then it became a relief. I then knew that it didn’t really matter what I did. No matter how I programmed my training, thought about reps, sets, rest intervals, cadence or researched exercise science and the latest studies and blah blah. It didn’t matter. Eventually this made it all easier because I was free of all the pressure about being able to build muscle and get results.

      1. SamS

        On top of mindset, here are some practical things that I’ve found helpful in my journey (some of them are the same or similar that the article goes through). And as mandatory disclaimer, I’m not a healthcare professional, I just hope this helps someone:

        Exercise
        This has been shown helpful on some many occasions by research etc. For me it has been in the form of strength training for years. I also walk a lot, but I don’t really get the same effect from it that I get from strength training.

        Rhythm & routine
        Having a clear daily routine has helped me. Doing repeatable things in a predictable schedule. It gives clear direction to the day. Of course, in the long run this may start to feel like the old Bill Murray movie Groundhog Day.

        Activity
        Being active has been helpful for me. Cleaning, doing the laundry, chopping wood, shoveling, mowing the lawn. No matter how small things and meaningless stuff I’ve been doing, they seem to help.

        Being outside
        Sunlight exposure, walking in the woods, fresh air. All good stuff.

        Goals
        Picking up something and working on towards it. Even just a little bit here and there. It grows on you. I didn’t really figure out any goal at first, then I just picked up something and tried to do it.

        Sleep hygiene
        Fancy term, but just trying to make your sleep better is essential. It’s very difficult to stay away from depression in the long run if your sleep is fucked.

        Being with other people
        This is difficult for me because I’m an introvert. So, I really have limits to this. But I think the worst thing is to be alone with depression all the time. Also being able to talk about your feelings is very good, although it may be a drag for your closest people if you always talk to them. In a perfect world you would talk to an unbiased person, but it isn’t always possible.

        Seek professional help
        Last but not least, go see a healthcare professional. This may be very difficult to do, but it should absolutely be done. I bet there aren’t many people who went to a doctor to talk about their depression too early.

        None of these things are easy, especially if you are very severely depressed. And of course there are times when you just need to rest. But when you start to get better, incrementally doing something, no matter how small, will help. It will get better. And when things get better and easier, you may even be doing many of these things at the same time. Maybe going for a walk with someone, talking about things, enjoying nature, and stopping for a few pullups in a local park.

    2. Jose

      It says a lot that men like Tyson Fury and Michael Phelps have been transparent about their depression issues, which kind of reinforces something TruthSeeker has mentioned in other articles: even “Top Gs” also suffer and experience deep unhappiness despite having everything in theory to be happy… according to some self-proclaimed “black pill” influencers at least (who turned depression and self-loathing into a marketable product to sell and not something to truly transcend).

      Despite not being a big fan of the current mainstream western culture, I like that male mental health issues are increasingly getting more visibility and recognition. Unfortunately, there is still too much hypocrisy and Stigma. A lot of people who claim to care about mental health ironically won’t doubt to weaponize it to mock or try to humiliate others if they dislike them for whatever reason (political disagreements, for example. Nowadays progressives seem obsessed with witch hunting “incels” for whatever reason despite most crimes are committed by sexually and socially active men lol)

      1. Truth Seeker Post author

        Yes. That’s because day to day happiness is relative. There are also many events behind the scenes that we can’t see.

        The truth, my friend, is that no one cares about male issues. They all pretend to do.

    3. Truth Seeker Post author

      Thank you for the support, Sam.

  9. Dayone23

    As a fellow life-long depression sufferer, who can’t even hide his depression from others, I feel your pain.

    As I reflect on the source of my depression, a couple of things became clear.

    At its core, I have been propagandized by mass media, teachers, parents, friends, and co-workers to think that happiness exists and is desirable. Happiness, does not exist.

    When I entered my dream school, the satisfaction gained was fleeting. I was now amongst peers who now attend the same school, and its now onto the next differentiator – grades, girlfriend, social circle, internship at a prestigious company. When I obtained my dream job, my baseline level of happiness never changed. Its now onto the next thing, chasing for progression, promotions and recognition at work.

    It just keeps escalating, till perpetuity, unless you decide to stop it. There is no end goal, there is no state of happiness that we can attain. There is no zen enlightenment.

    Being a high functioning depressive is lonely, as you have no solidarity at work. You’re seeing a bunch of seemingly well-adjusted people, while you appear to be alone treading this hellscape on earth.

    To compound this, I am a misanthrope. I hate people. Their small-mindedness, made transparent through incessant gossip and slander of others. Their inability to see past their own flaws and project their shortcoming onto others. Their shallowness, stupidity and insipidness. I can’t mingle with anyone for any prolonged period of time before my contempt for them becomes palpable.

    I’ve come to terms with the fact that I will never obtain any enduring satisfaction from life, that living in the present and ignoring the horrors the future entails, is my best hope for a life that doesn’t so closely resemble a walking hell. There is no remedy, no cure for this tide of insufferable anguish, just a bunch of imperfect coping mechanisms, that hopefully i can stack ontop of each other successfully enough to numb myself from the reality that I did not choose to be part of.

    1. Truth Seeker Post author

      Yes. But it’s also worth considering that this exact endless void keeps you moving and searching. Without it, you just can’t progress. Also, many people believe that this void is engineered by God as a pathway to him.

      1. Don

        100% facts. Im at this point in my life.
        When I reach a goal, I say to myself whats next?
        my personal belief is only God can fill that void.

  10. Daniel

    Hi, TruthSeeker, thanks for another superb article.

    Have you ever thought about the concept of God like a real heal for your ill? I mean, with regard to the articles about RooshV and V. Pride, who find in God the Ultimate Answer for their lives, i think you can find some useful in the same way.

    I don’t want to say that you should kill NoN, but your mindset about everything, your philosophy reminds me Chesterton, who combined in his writings humor and complaints about the shitty system that rules the world in his time (and in our time also).

    G.K. Chesterton became Roman Catholic when he was 48 years old. Maybe you could read some from his work and find the light that you need to overcome your depression.

    It’s only a suggestion. Thanks for the great work, TS.

    P.S.- I would like read an article about your techniques of writing. Your style inspires to try put in words the thoughts and feelings of more than one fella.

    1. Truth Seeker Post author

      Yes. I have thought about it. And wouldn’t be surprised if it happens. You can’t run from what God has prepared for you.

      The only writing advice that you need is to try. Seriously. IMO, every single person can write at least one really good book.

    2. SamS

      A couple of years ago my friend had a bit of a similar situation in that she wanted to write a book. I told her to just concentrate on getting it all out, just writing all the ideas that she had. Then she could iron out things later. She did very well, she was about 400 pages in, but then she started to do all sorts of research about different things etc. and finally her energy was gone. But at least she has all those ideas written. I bet she’s able to continue when the energy is back.

      I also knew a guy who always laughed at people who wanted to write a book, because they didn’t in his opinion “have anything to write about”. He felt that every writer should be and live like Hemingway, so that they all would have all those great adventures to write about. That can probably be helpful, but in my opinion, you learn to write by writing, not by doing some other shit.

      I’ve exchanged stories with people who were very young and didn’t have any experience of certain things in life. A friend of mine, in his late teens gave me one of his short stories. That story was about sex, and that was something that he didn’t at the time have much experience of. But it was one of the best writings about sex I’ve ever read, to this day. And it was because he didn’t really know much about it. But he did the most important thing, he still went on to write about it.

      1. SamS

        Sorry, I copy pasted my own writing earlier above and I messed up the first part of it. So here’s the whole thing:

        Truth Seeker’s advice on writing is spot on. One of my favorite writers is Charles Bukowski. In his tombstone there is the following text “Don’t try”. He surely didn’t just try, he did it. It took him decades to succeed as a writer, at least financially, but in the end he did it. As Truth Seeker said, just start writing.

        About 20 years ago I had a very clear idea of a book, but I didn’t write it because I was trying to do it by following all the so-called “rules” of writing a book. I would’ve done better if I had just written all my ideas. Then I could’ve polished it them up in the future. Now I can’t write them anymore, because I don’t remember all the stuff, and it wouldn’t be the same. The world and all the things have changed so much. Or at lest my perception of things has changed.

        A couple of years ago my friend had a bit of a similar situation in that she wanted to write a book. I told her to just concentrate on getting it all out, just writing all the ideas that she had. Then she could iron out things later. She did very well, she was about 400 pages in, but then she started to do all sorts of research about different things etc. and finally her energy was gone. But at least she has all those ideas written. I bet she’s able to continue when the energy is back.

        I also knew a guy who always laughed at people who wanted to write a book, because they didn’t in his opinion “have anything to write about”. He felt that every writer should be and live like Hemingway, so that they all would have all those great adventures to write about. That can probably be helpful, but in my opinion, you learn to write by writing, not by doing some other shit.

        I’ve exchanged stories with people who were very young and didn’t have any experience of certain things in life. A friend of mine, in his late teens gave me one of his short stories. That story was about sex, and that was something that he didn’t at the time have much experience of. But it was one of the best writings about sex I’ve ever read, to this day. And it was because he didn’t really know much about it. But he did the most important thing, he still went on to write about it.

  11. peketudo

    I m glad i did some od those steps instintctively before, specially the physics. Lifting weights can help at first,but becomes too boring and depressing sometimes.

    Sprints, or run like hell is one of the most effective ways to overcome depression. Some people says you have to be close to death to see life as it is, because only in those moments you are able to see how things are really are, or you know what things are valuable in that moment. Well, you dont have to put your life in danger…. . Afther the 10th sprint you cant be sad because you gonna be breathing for your life. In those seconds you will forget your (existencial) pain,

    If depression is like stay in the middle of a black hole, sprints can put you outside the black hole. The problems wont dissapear a bit, but at least you are not in the center, but outside for a while.

    Disclaimer: dont turn off common sense mode. . Before sprinting , check your health. I do not recommend this activity to those who suffer from severe heart problems .

    1. Truth Seeker Post author

      Yes. Sprinting is a good way to get out of your head!

  12. dr Deka

    Thank you. This text is really helpful.
    I have been suffering from depression for years. The main reason is my late father who constantly despised me because he didn’t want me to become a doctor like him and because I stuttered. My mother is a pediatrician and she never loved me. She doesn’t like children in general. They are both very similar sociopaths. I am now almost 40 years old. I have a nonsensical medical specialization in preventive medicine and I am a doctor of medical sciences. However, I feel empty. I don’t have a family. My occupation is meaningless. Most of my female colleagues neither do anything nor are they capable of doing anything new. A good number of them are either divorced or depressed (which I only found out later from them). I hate my parents and feel sorry for them at the same time. I miss my father sometimes. Do you have any other advice on how to get over this hell. Medicines help me, but like all medicines they have side effects that are not desired. Before corona, I used to work out, but working out in the gym is very depressing in the end for a natural person.

    1. SamS

      Just like you experienced, my father despised me. He took out every inch of my self-esteem. It’s crazy to think how much you can take out of a person without even hurting them physically. Which thank God my father didn’t do to me. But he was and still is the big champion of breaking people down mentally. And when you start to do it to a small child, you can really fuck his mind perfectly in the long run. I often think that it would have been a blessing in disguise if he had beaten me, then it would have been clearer somehow. The mental stuff was so depressingly difficult to figure out as a kid, and it still is.

      I had friends who were physically abused and grew up in much more difficult circumstances but at least many of them ended up mentally more solid and they were able to fulfill at least some of their potential in life. I unfortunately couldn’t. In my case the silver lining was that my mother loved me and still loves me. But the flip side is / was that she was overprotective and did a lot of things for me that I should’ve done myself. But it’s difficult to do things by yourself when you don’t value yourself at all.

      In my opinion you have done a miracle with your career. You are a doctor; I think that alone is something special. I have friends who wanted to be doctors, but although they paid millions (prep courses) to get in to medical school, they didn’t pass the entrance exams. And they had very solid backgrounds and families and they tried the exams a few times. I’m in a dead-end job. I know I’ve got some potential (at least if measured by academical success), but my mental scars make me a pussy. I just underperform when push comes to shove.

      I’m a bit over forty. I have a wife, kid, house, and a dog. I exercise and I have exercised for a very long time, although I’m starting to lose my interest in it. Which I thought would never happen. It has kept me sane for so very long time. All these things are great, no doubt about it. My kid is the biggest thing in my life, and always will be. But still, I always fight to keep the emptiness away.

      I’m not Truth Seeker, but I’ve been working out without a gym for over a decade. I know people will disagree, but I think you can get the needed results working out at home, there’s no need for the gym. Especially you can gain the results needed for better mental health. And if you like to go outside, the parks and playgrounds are great, they often have some exercise things. But you probably know these things very well already. Walking and calisthenics have been saviors for me.

      Just glad that you wrote, I think you have done great and hopefully you get to exercise soon. For mental health the way you exercise isn’t as important. You gain the benefits whatever you do.

      1. dr Deka

        Thank you for the advice. I’m not a real doctor. I am a doctor in public health just with MD. A bunch of random numbers (people give a shit about it, that’s why they enter nonsense. it’s like some kind of their rebellion against the system). Since 2020, my director has not published any of this so as not to give reasons to opposition newspapers. The state and government are also not interested in it and we are just spending budget money. That job is my biggest problem. My fellow students literally laugh at me. The girls I tried to date asked me if I could arrange an ultrasound for them or something through a personal connections. I live in a country where corruption is legalized. My inner self makes me give my best, but no one cares. I am also a Dr sci. In order to maintain some scientific reputation, you need to publish papers in journals where publication is paid for. It’s a pretty expensive hobby and you’re better off renting a prostitute a week than paying multinational companies to publish YOUR work. I lead a wasted life. Depression is breaking me and I have a feeling that it will take me to the end.

        1. SamS

          I listened to an interview of a world known surgeon some time ago, and he was talking about publishing those scientific papers. It sounded kind of weird to me. He sacrificed his whole life to his profession, but still, he had to have those papers published too. Which was kind of crazy to my ears because he already did crazy hours (most of the time 10+ hours a day) when he was doing the surgeries.

          I know this sounds stupid and pointless, but I hope that you can try and wait for a better day. It’s stupid and hard, but it will come. Hopefully you have asked for help too and received it, which you probably have because you said that medicines help you and you’re a professional yourself (which of course may make it more difficult). For me it took almost two decades to accept the idea that I should take medicines for my depression. When I finally agreed to try medicine, just like you said, there were some not desired side effects.

          The first medicine made me feel sick after about 30 minutes or so after I had taken it. And instructions said to take it before you go to sleep. Then when I was feeling sick, I couldn’t get to sleep. Finally, I started to feel bad already when I knew I had to take it. The second medicine I tried had a positive side effect to the potence according to the doctor. But to me, it caused arrythmia when I was exercising etc. so I had to quit it. Because if anything has helped me with my depression, it must have been sleep and exercise. So yeah, medicines would have taken those away. Many said that you should wait for quite a time to see if a medicine works, but it felt so difficult that I couldn’t do it. I also think that sleep and exercise are difficult to beat when it comes to feeling better.

          But what has helped me is talking about depression. Yes, a long process, but it has helped me. At times in my life, I haven’t even realized that I’ve had a person (or persons) who has helped me by talking. But yeah, it’s painfully slow.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *