What I wish I could tell you when you ask “How are you?”

You ask me if I am doing OK and I want to tell you how I am feeling but the words get stuck on my tongue, my teeth barricading them in. I planned on being honest and upfront with you. And even though I rehearsed this conversation 78 different times in my head, when I open my mouth, nothing comes out — not even a squeak.

Nevertheless, I persist. I try again and again until my heart is threatening to beat out of my chest and my mouth is so dry that I think I went to the Sahara. My palms are damp from sweat and I swear I have a flush. My head is pounding and I feel tears threatening to escape.

You ask me again and this time I simply nod my head. You say,“Are you sure? Because you don’t look OK.” I take a deep breath to center myself and I tell you I am doing OK.

What I don’t tell you, what I wanted to tell you, what I needed to tell you is that for me, OK is relative.

I am doing OK because until this moment, anxiety was simply at the background level I am used to. It was allowing me to function.

I am doing OK because I didn’t cry today.

I am doing OK because I genuinely smiled today.

I am doing OK relative to my worst days.

I am doing OK.

What I don’t tell you is I think I should take up gardening because maybe then I would be able to use the dead, decaying parts of myself to grow something beautiful. Something meaningful.

Maybe then I would finally be able to breathe again.

What I wanted to tell you is I could write a dissertation on loneliness. Defend the supporting facts and conclusions that I have drawn from my research. And by research, I mean the experiments that are the tragedies in my life. Because I have reached the same conclusion reproducibly and reliably. There is no statistically significant evidence that I will stop feeling this way anytime soon.

What I needed to tell you is I don’t know how to stop this tsunami of feelings. And I don’t know why I insist on trying to use natural disasters to explain myself because I will never be a hurricane or a tornado. I only destroy myself, not the things in my path. I want to believe one day it will rain without pouring, but I am so lost right now.

But instead of telling you any of this, I tell you I am doing OK.

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