Depression and Unpleasant Truths
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08-01-2014, 12:48 AM
Depression and Unpleasant Truths
While posting and commenting in the "Personal Issues and Support" section of the forum, I have repeatedly come across threads about depression. Sometimes it is the depression expressed by an Atheist who is not entirely comfortable with the harshness of the reality they now see. Sometimes it is someone discussing a chronic medical condition, which is sometimes expressed as a "chemical imbalance" in the brain. Medication is often mentioned as a means of restoring this "imbalance" to a more harmonious state.

It is the latter circumstance that I do not understand. If there is anyone who is a doctor, or suffering from chronic chemical depression themselves, who can please set me straight. What is a "chemical imbalance". It doesn't sound very plausible to me.

I will try to explain myself. I suffered from depression for many years, most especially throughout my childhood and teen years. My depression was never formally diagnosed by a doctor. I simply knew that I was sad and downtrodden far more often and with more emotional weight than seemed normal. In my case, I knew exactly what caused it. My home life was utterly miserable because of the constant abuse and conflict that went on there. I was a victim of it daily. Inwardly I knew this depression was not a part of my innate self, rather a symptom of my situation.

More than once a Therapist or Psychiatrist recommended that I take Anti-Depressant medication, but I always refused. I was afraid that If I sought chemical help that it would be a constant crutch to fall back on and I would never gain the strength to fully recover on my own. Instead I sought out things like meditation and therapy as tools to directly change my life for the better. I did not always succeed in driving away the madness, and more than once considered taking my own life. I can honestly say that the only thing that kept me back from a busy highway plunge, was the thought that I might merely be injured and doomed to life as a vegetable.

I no longer suffer from depression chronically, but I am also not being actively abused each day anymore either. Of course, my depression did not lift immediately upon my escape from that unhappy situation. It took several years on my own to sort through all the cacophonous madness rattling around between my ears. In the end though, I made it through and left my depression behind.

Occasionally my depression will come back, although it takes a rather different form these days. It takes the form of a deep sense of futility in the world, as a direct result of being an Atheist. I do not believe that life has a purpose inherent to existence. Any purpose I desire, I will have to supply myself. I do not believe that people shouldn't try to make a purpose for their lives, I merely don't believe in their being a purpose in and of itself.

Lacking an overall purpose, life is reduced to a series of events measured in pain or pleasure. I seek out the pleasure, carefully avoiding an overdose of any kind, while doing my utmost to avoid unnecessary pain. The pleasure makes life worth the struggle and difficulty which is measured out to me in pain. Depression seizes me occasionally and especially when the pain becomes great enough that I question whether or not any pleasure would be worth it to continue the struggle.

Having lived with this kind of thinking for years even after escaping my abuse, I have come to the conclusion that I choose to live each day with the reality that dying doesn't seem like a bad option. I have come to accept that not being all that thrilled with life in general, and wanting it to end one day is part of who I am. I cannot help but come to that conclusion, since the constant fluctuations of pain and pleasure pass with such speed and unpredictability that I have often wondered if I am not a normal human being, emotionally speaking. I wonder all the time if every human being faces these questions and feelings just like I do. If they do, I can't help but think that they should just do their best and suck it up like I do every day.

This is where this "Chemical Imbalance" stuff comes in. Considering the often unpleasant and undesirable nature of reality, especially when viewed under the unprotected light of Atheism, isn't it normal to suffer from depression at least once in a while? Can it really be considered a medical issue if life really isn't all that great, and "curing" the condition might actually require some form of nonsensical, irrational, bullshit. Self deception doesn't always seem like such a bad idea when you take a good long look at reality. If self deception isn't the answer, is a lifetime of medication really all that much better? If I knew I needed that to feel ok, I would just do it myself with booze, pot, or both. Vices have their place, and personally I think it is to dull the harshness of life.

Basically, I have always thought that depression is part of life, but so is happiness and pleasure. I find it difficult to believe that medical science should even bother trying to "treat" it.

Now all of that said, at the risk of having an ignorant, incorrect, opinion, I would really like to know if I have been wrong about this. Does anyone know anything about clinical depression? Has medical science discovered something about the brain that can help clarify this for me?

I apologize in advance if anyone feels that I have been insensitive to their depression, or feelings in general. I am willing to admit that I may be dead wrong about this, and that I do not understand what it is like to live with clinical depression. I think you can understand where I am coming from.

Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness.

-Karl Marx
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08-01-2014, 02:19 AM
RE: Depression and Unpleasant Truths
(08-01-2014 12:48 AM)Dark Phoenix Wrote:  It is the latter circumstance that I do not understand. If there is anyone who is a doctor, or suffering from chronic chemical depression themselves, who can please set me straight. What is a "chemical imbalance". It doesn't sound very plausible to me.

The phrase "chemical imbalance" is a colloquialism that originated from a (over)simplification of the cathecholamine hypothesis that was published in advertising material and patient information pages for the earliest cathecholaminergic antidepressants. The mass media picked up the--essentially meaningless--phrase and it then entered widespread lay use. Pharmacologists and psychiatrists did not originate the phrase, marketing people and technical writers did.

Regardless of the phrase "chemical imbalance" and the oversimplification that it represents the catecholamine hypothesis--which motivated the phrase--is dead. However, there is much research that shows that major depressive disorder (MDD) (as defined in the DSM) does have a biological basis.[1][2][3]

The current hypotheses regarding the cause of MDD are complicated and will mean nothing to you if you have no background in at least basic biochemistry. Silly phrases like "chemical imbalance" are created because some people insist on making an intrinsically complicated topic simple enough for anyone to understand when in reality this is not possible. The catecholamine hypothesis is not adequately or accurately conveyed by the phrase "chemical imbalance". Similarly, the Diathesis-Stress Model of Depression[4][5], the HPA-axis Dysregulation Hypothesis[6], and the Neurotrophic Factor Hypothesis[7][8][9] for example cannot be reduced to some facile analogy.

Quote:I will try to explain myself. I suffered from depression for many years, most especially throughout my childhood and teen years. My depression was never formally diagnosed by a doctor. I simply knew that I was sad and downtrodden far more often and with more emotional weight than seemed normal.

Depression is distinct from sadness and it isn't just a whole lot of sadness. In the absence of a formal diagnosis you can't be certain that you actually had depression.

Quote:More than once a Therapist or Psychiatrist recommended that I take Anti-Depressant medication, but I always refused. I was afraid that If I sought chemical help that it would be a constant crutch to fall back on and I would never gain the strength to fully recover on my own.

So you were formally diagnosed with depression by a psychiatrist?

If a person has MDD medication is not a "crutch". If a person had chronic migraine and they took a daily medication to prevent it that would not be considered a "crutch" by anyone. MDD is an illness with a biological basis just like migraine.

But to say that MDD has a biological basis is not to say that environment plays no role in the etiology of the illness. It does.

Quote:Instead I sought out things like meditation and therapy as tools to directly change my life for the better. I did not always succeed in driving away the madness, and more than once considered taking my own life. I can honestly say that the only thing that kept me back from a busy highway plunge, was the thought that I might merely be injured and doomed to life as a vegetable.

That sounds like MDD but it also sounds like your environment played a role in its appearance.

Quote:I no longer suffer from depression chronically, but I am also not being actively abused each day anymore either. Of course, my depression did not lift immediately upon my escape from that unhappy situation. It took several years on my own to sort through all the cacophonous madness rattling around between my ears. In the end though, I made it through and left my depression behind.

The depression will not lift as soon as you are removed from the stressful situation because it has a biological basis. Your brain takes some time to adjust to new--less stressful--environment.

Quote:Occasionally my depression will come back, although it takes a rather different form these days. It takes the form of a deep sense of futility in the world, as a direct result of being an Atheist. I do not believe that life has a purpose inherent to existence. Any purpose I desire, I will have to supply myself. I do not believe that people shouldn't try to make a purpose for their lives, I merely don't believe in their being a purpose in and of itself.

That sounds more like sadness than MDD.

Quote:Lacking an overall purpose, life is reduced to a series of events measured in pain or pleasure. I seek out the pleasure, carefully avoiding an overdose of any kind, while doing my utmost to avoid unnecessary pain. The pleasure makes life worth the struggle and difficulty which is measured out to me in pain. Depression seizes me occasionally and especially when the pain becomes great enough that I question whether or not any pleasure would be worth it to continue the struggle.

Again that doesn't sound like MDD but rather an existential angst.

Quote:Having lived with this kind of thinking for years even after escaping my abuse, I have come to the conclusion that I choose to live each day with the reality that dying doesn't seem like a bad option. I have come to accept that not being all that thrilled with life in general, and wanting it to end one day is part of who I am. I cannot help but come to that conclusion, since the constant fluctuations of pain and pleasure pass with such speed and unpredictability that I have often wondered if I am not a normal human being, emotionally speaking. I wonder all the time if every human being faces these questions and feelings just like I do. If they do, I can't help but think that they should just do their best and suck it up like I do every day.

If you indeed did have an episode of MDD--and it sounds like you did--then you are likely to have a genetic predisposition to the illness; also the Diathesis-Stress Model suggests that if you have had one episode of MDD you are more likely to suffer subsequent episodes of MDD.

Quote:This is where this "Chemical Imbalance" stuff comes in. Considering the often unpleasant and undesirable nature of reality, especially when viewed under the unprotected light of Atheism, isn't it normal to suffer from depression at least once in a while?

No. Sadness and depression are not the same thing. Sadness is a normal human emotion with an evolved function; MDD is an illness.

Quote:Can it really be considered a medical issue if life really isn't all that great, and "curing" the condition might actually require some form of nonsensical, irrational, bullshit. Self deception doesn't always seem like such a bad idea when you take a good long look at reality. If self deception isn't the answer, is a lifetime of medication really all that much better? If I knew I needed that to feel ok, I would just do it myself with booze, pot, or both. Vices have their place, and personally I think it is to dull the harshness of life.

Again, sadness is not depression and anti-depressant drugs do not make you happy--when they work they just make you less depressed or not depressed. Cannabis produces euphoria, no (current) antidepressant drugs produce euphoria.

Quote:Basically, I have always thought that depression is part of life, but so is happiness and pleasure. I find it difficult to believe that medical science should even bother trying to "treat" it.

MDD is not an emotion, it is an illness. The opposite of happiness is sadness not depression.

Quote:Now all of that said, at the risk of having an ignorant, incorrect, opinion, I would really like to know if I have been wrong about this. Does anyone know anything about clinical depression? Has medical science discovered something about the brain that can help clarify this for me?

There are still many open questions regarding the causes of MDD and its various subtypes. There is no unified or definitive theory yet but there is much evidence that is does have a biological basis.[10][11][12][13][14]

Quote:I apologize in advance if anyone feels that I have been insensitive to their depression, or feelings in general. I am willing to admit that I may be dead wrong about this, and that I do not understand what it is like to live with clinical depression. I think you can understand where I am coming from.

Your misunderstanding is common so I will re-iterate the main points:
--MDD is an illness with a biological basis
--MDD is not sadness
--Sadness is a normal emotion, MDD is not an emotion and with MDD emotions are not experienced in an normal manner
--The phrase "chemical imbalance" is a meaningless oversimplification
--Antidepressant drugs do not produce happiness
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08-01-2014, 07:31 AM (This post was last modified: 08-01-2014 07:35 AM by Bows and Arrows.)
RE: Depression and Unpleasant Truths
(08-01-2014 12:48 AM)Dark Phoenix Wrote:  It is the latter circumstance that I do not understand. If there is anyone who is a doctor, or suffering from chronic chemical depression themselves, who can please set me straight. What is a "chemical imbalance". It doesn't sound very plausible to me.

I'm no doctor, but I know enough there are chemicals floating around up there that have an affect on emotions, etc. Things like dopamine, serotonin, and more. Just like a diabetic must keep his insulin and blood sugar levels at a certain point for optimum health, our brains need other chemicals to be at certain levels. When they aren't it usually shows up in emotions and behaviors.

Quote:. In my case, I knew exactly what caused it. My home life was utterly miserable because of the constant abuse and conflict that went on there. I was a victim of it daily. Inwardly I knew this depression was not a part of my innate self, rather a symptom of my situation.

situations and events can cause depression, anxieties, etc. Sometimes when the situation resolves the depression, etc resolves. But that isn't always the case, it can turn into a chronic problem too.

Quote:More than once a Therapist or Psychiatrist recommended that I take Anti-Depressant medication, but I always refused. I was afraid that If I sought chemical help that it would be a constant crutch to fall back on and I would never gain the strength to fully recover on my own.

Since more than one is recommending, maybe you should consider it. Therapists have some training and experience in the subject matter. Depression isn't a matter of will power. You can't fix it like that any more than a diabetic can 'will' their insulin levels.

Treatment doesn't always have to be drugs. There are other ways to treat depression, exercise and diet being the top 2. But that may not be enough. And, in my experience, the meds don't make you feel like superman or something. They just clear the fog away so you can get back to feeling like you again. It doesn't invent you into someone who can do it all.

Quote:Instead I sought out things like meditation and therapy as tools to directly change my life for the better. I did not always succeed in driving away the madness, and more than once considered taking my own life. I can honestly say that the only thing that kept me back from a busy highway plunge, was the thought that I might merely be injured and doomed to life as a vegetable.
like I said, sometimes you need more.

Quote:I no longer suffer from depression chronically, but I am also not being actively abused each day anymore either. Of course, my depression did not lift immediately upon my escape from that unhappy situation. It took several years on my own to sort through all the cacophonous madness rattling around between my ears. In the end though, I made it through and left my depression behind.

Occasionally my depression will come back, although it takes a rather different form these days. It takes the form of a deep sense of futility in the world,

If its coming back, then I'm pretty sure that is considered chronic.

Quote:as a direct result of being an Atheist.
I doubt its the atheism, religious folks get depression too…


Quote: I do not believe that life has a purpose inherent to existence.

sounds like depression to me, again, I'm no doctor.

Quote:Any purpose I desire, I will have to supply myself.

YES!!! And sometimes that is hard. It would be nice if we could pray and BAM! its there. But no lottery fairy in the sky. You must work at life. We all must. Is this why you blame atheism for your depression? Because you realize that its all up to you to provide for everything in your life? It can seem like a huge burden, but its also a very freeing one for me. It means whatever I desire is most likely within my grasp- I just have to figure out and execute the plan to achieve it. I can do it.


Quote: I do not believe that people shouldn't try to make a purpose for their lives, I merely don't believe in their being a purpose in and of itself.

Lacking an overall purpose, life is reduced to a series of events measured in pain or pleasure.

I don't feel that way…but to each, his own.

Quote: Depression seizes me occasionally and especially when the pain becomes great enough that I question whether or not any pleasure would be worth it to continue the struggle.

Having lived with this kind of thinking for years even after escaping my abuse, I have come to the conclusion that I choose to live each day with the reality that dying doesn't seem like a bad option. I have come to accept that not being all that thrilled with life in general, and wanting it to end one day is part of who I am. I cannot help but come to that conclusion, since the constant fluctuations of pain and pleasure pass with such speed and unpredictability that I have often wondered if I am not a normal human being, emotionally speaking. I wonder all the time if every human being faces these questions and feelings just like I do. If they do, I can't help but think that they should just do their best and suck it up like I do every day.

Funny….the depression voice in my head says the same shit….that voice is such a downer-- I kill that voice with drugs and other forms of treatment. Because THAT voice isn't me. *I* have things in my life that I enjoy very much. *I* love this thing called life.. I love the sunrise and the sunset, I love raising my kids and being with my husband and thousands of other things. That voice in my head that says 'life sucks and is never getting better' doesn't know jack shit about me.

Quote:This is where this "Chemical Imbalance" stuff comes in. Considering the often unpleasant and undesirable nature of reality, especially when viewed under the unprotected light of Atheism, isn't it normal to suffer from depression at least once in a while? Can it really be considered a medical issue if life really isn't all that great, and "curing" the condition might actually require some form of nonsensical, irrational, bullshit. Self deception doesn't always seem like such a bad idea when you take a good long look at reality. If self deception isn't the answer, is a lifetime of medication really all that much better? If I knew I needed that to feel ok, I would just do it myself with booze, pot, or both. Vices have their place, and personally I think it is to dull the harshness of life.
actually if you are going to abuse yourself out of depression I would go chocolate, nicotine, caffeine route. Its a chemical thing….I had discussed it with a friend who is a psychiatrist when I started down this path and was eating mountains of chocolate. But I can't remember the details.

Quote:Basically, I have always thought that depression is part of life, but so is happiness and pleasure. I find it difficult to believe that medical science should even bother trying to "treat" it.
its a quality of life. You can spend it wallowing in bed, or you can get treatment, be productive and walk around with a smile.



I wanted to add more about the medicines. Most people get prescribed SSRI's. They work by balancing out neurotransmitters. They don't change your personality, they don't give you a buzz. It is COMMON to have a headache for the first few weeks of treatment until you get used to taking it. It is COMMON to have some side effects from dry mouth to less sex drive, to clenching your jaws. Tell your doctor about all of them. It is COMMON to have to try different ones at different dosages until you find what is right with you. It is COMMON for it to take weeks to months to get it right.

I find I prefer seeing a psychiatrist vs a psychologist. A psychiatrist is a medical doctor (with an MD) that has specialized in this field. They understand how the meds work on the brain on the chemical level and how that shows in behavior and emotion. An office visit with them is more like :

How are you feeling? tired? angry? can't sleep? scared? thinking about bridges?
How is your energy level? can't get out of bed? zombie 24/7? bouncing off the walls?
Any habits? eating a giant bag of M &M's daily? smoking 2 packs of cigarettes? 12 bottles of Coke a day? Many times we seek products that will give us what we are looking for.


A psychologist is for the talk therapy part of it….the things that you mentioned in your past.


good luck to you. You are not alone in this struggle, many people on this board in your daily life are dealing with it.


"Life is a daring adventure or it is nothing"--Helen Keller
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08-01-2014, 12:35 PM
RE: Depression and Unpleasant Truths
Thank you Chippy, most especially for the links and medical explanations. I had a feeling that there was more to it than what I understood. Thank you for taking the time to put it together.

(08-01-2014 02:19 AM)Chippy Wrote:  So you were formally diagnosed with depression by a psychiatrist?

I was never told directly "You are suffering from MDD. " or "You are suffering from depression." In sessions of therapy we used the word "depression" to refer to a deep sense of sadness. From what you are telling me, it looks as though we used it incorrectly. More than once, my therapist suggested that I go on Anti-Depressant drugs. I am unsure as to why I wasn't formally diagnosed, or even how they could recommend drugs at all without it.

Thanks Again.

Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness.

-Karl Marx
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08-01-2014, 12:48 PM
RE: Depression and Unpleasant Truths
Quote:If its coming back, then I'm pretty sure that is considered chronic.

I said that it only comes back occasionally. Occasionally being about twice a year. "Chronic", as far as I understand it, would mean more like every day.

Quote:I doubt its the atheism, religious folks get depression too…

Although religious people get depressed, I doubt they get depressed specifically because they are entirely sure of their lack of purpose on Earth. Living with a sometimes harsh reality, without resorting to bullshitting yourself to get by, is an achievement of honesty and courage in my book.

I don't think that being honest about it constitutes blaming Atheism or anything else. I just call it what it is. When I say that Atheism can be depressing sometimes, that doesn't mean I think Theism is any better. If I thought that, I don't think I would be posting here.

Hey thanks for your comment. I really appreciated your advice and understanding.

Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness.

-Karl Marx
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08-01-2014, 12:55 PM
RE: Depression and Unpleasant Truths
There's a book called Depressive Illness: The Curse of the Strong by Tim Cantopher that I recommend. I think it will answer all your questions. I have MDD myself, and it helped me understand what was going on in my brain when I was at my worst.
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08-01-2014, 01:06 PM
RE: Depression and Unpleasant Truths
I think it's a little unfair to assume that everyone can 'fix' themselves and that some people don't need antidepressants. There is still such a stigma about taking any kind of medication to treat depression that comments like this add to the number of people who don't get the help that's available. Proper use of medications can not only keep people from going into a suicidal funk but can also just help make life worth living by balancing things out in the brain.

I see two topics that seem to come up. One is that you should pull yourself up and just handle it. The other is the idea that if you start on an antidepressant you will have to take more and more and you will have to take it forever. Neither are accurate.

Sometimes a bit of pharmaceutical help can get a person back on track. Things from hormonal changes to major life events can throw a person off kilter. Think of the women that have killed their babies due to post partum depression - medication probably could have been used for a few months till their hormones and all other chemicals were back on track.

The fear that many people have of taking these types of meds just doesn't make sense to me. There are things out there that can help either by themselves or combined with counseling and figuring out new ways to help yourself. The pills aren't magic but they can definitely help. Sometimes it takes a bit of time to find the right one as we all react and respond differently.

I hate to see the use of meds put down...sometimes it's the way to get the little boost you need to break through.

I'm not anti-social. I'm pro-solitude. Sleepy
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11-01-2014, 04:21 AM
RE: Depression and Unpleasant Truths
I've been feeling the same way as you Dark Phoenix, minus the unhealthy home environment, and minus the therapy or medication. It's been going on for years and what I do is occupy my time off work trying to be creative, as if that was my sole purpose on this world. The only moment when I don't feel depressed is when I'm making something (writing, drawing, playing music, building something with my hands).

The only explanation I have for this phenomenon is that, humans used to have to be active in order to survive, or else they'd be sitting ducks for predators in the wild. Depression is the lingering anxiety that death should be upon us if we're not being usefull in any way.
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11-01-2014, 05:41 AM
RE: Depression and Unpleasant Truths
(08-01-2014 12:48 PM)Dark Phoenix Wrote:  Although religious people get depressed, I doubt they get depressed specifically because they are entirely sure of their lack of purpose on Earth.

http://purposedriven.com/books/pdlbook/#purpose

Don't be so sure yet. There are a lot of religion based self help books besides Warren's, and the people who buy them are religious people who feel a lack of purpose.
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11-01-2014, 07:02 AM
RE: Depression and Unpleasant Truths
(08-01-2014 12:48 AM)Dark Phoenix Wrote:  I think you can understand where I am coming from.

I understand a lot of what you have wrote. If you have been reading the threads here recently you may have come across my "empty feeling" thread.

My views on anti-depressants are that they are an essential tool in treating people who are suicidal or who are leading a lifestyle that will kill them sooner rather than later who want to change. They have given me a "boost" in the past when I have taken them and have been a stepping stone to me sorting my own shit out my own way.

The reason why I do not wish to take them now, nor seem them as a long term solution is because I have taken Ecstasy before. The anit-ds I have taken in the past, to me, are very very very mild Ecstasy tablets. They gave me slight rushes, jaw clenching and a feeling of being "dosed"... the only thing it lacked was the huge euphoria. Over the few months I took them the symptoms did decrease slightly but never went away and whilst others may just adapt to them I am more conscious of them.

What the tablets do not change is your circumstances, the personal relationship you have with yourself nor your world view and for years I had self medicated with weed and other illegal drugs to mask my problem. If longterm nothing changes in positive steps in peoples lifes or complacency kicks in I have experienced for myself and seen peoples dependency increase on drugs.... including anti depressants.

We are all hard wired through our psychology and our view on the future is nothing more than a reflection of our past. How you see this is entirely up to you and your moments of reality can be consciously changed if you are mindful of them.

For no matter how much I use these symbols, to describe symptoms of my existence.
You are your own emphasis.
So I say nothing.

-Bemore.
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