The funniest thing anyone’s ever asked me about depression was, “When did it start?”

Like there’s a start date. Like I just woke up one morning, feeling sad, and that was it. I kinda wish it had happened like that, because at least then I could look back and think, “Man, those were the good old days. Back before the world was a huge, empty wasteland.” Or something else appropriately bleak, but more poetic.

The thing that surprises most people who don’t suffer from chronic depression is that we’re not actually sad all the time. Our emotions, like most people’s, are a sine wave. It’s just that our valleys are much lower and last longer than yours do.

And believe me, we know how goddamn ridiculous we are. We know we’re melodramatic. We know that stubbing your toe and spilling your coffee on the morning of a job interview should just be annoying, but for us, it’s a reason to hole up in the bathroom and cry. And it’s not like we don’t understand that we’re overreacting, but when you have as little to live for as we do, you’re always looking for an excuse to exit stage right.

That’s an allusion to suicide, in case you didn’t catch it.

We do that a lot, too, and it’s not because we’re looking for attention. What we’re really saying is, “I feel hopeless, and I want someone to help me.”

And then, when nothing and no one can help you, one of two things happens: 1) You sink lower, and deeper, to a place that’s much harder to find your way out of, where you find yourself crying into a can of root beer and researching suicide methods at 3AM, or 2) You figure life can’t get much shittier, and you’ve got nothing to lose, so you do something crazy as a last-ditch effort to make your life suck less: quit your job, sell your house, touch a spider. You’re literally invincible for awhile because there’s nothing that can make your life any shittier, and you wonder if that’s what real happiness is: feeling like you’re free to do anything.

Unfortunately, the feeling fades pretty quickly. It only lasts until the next conversation with your boss, or the next party you don’t get invited to, or the next time you’re alone and realize you’re going to die without having contributed anything of substance to the world.

Until you’re at a bar with a friend who’s trying so hard to be understanding, and you’re trying so hard to shut up about your feelings, because you know that everyone’s getting tired of you, and your issues, and your sadness, and wondering why you can’t just be fucking happy.

Until they ask, “When did it start?”

Until you force a laugh, and say, “When I realized I’m out of beer. You want another?”