I hate that question, and I know it’s selfish. How dare people ask about my well-being? It’s also hypocritical because I ask it all the time. It’s comforting to ask happy people and hear a relatively normal answer. The thing is, if you’re depressed, that question sets you up for failure no matter how you answer. Here are the options.
“Great, thanks for asking.” I know that’s a lie, and I hate lying. I’ve been perpetually sad since I was 5 – I still haven’t gotten the patch update that changes that. Maybe next year when the new iPhone comes out and they start chipping people.
“Shitty.” Brutal honesty. Now it’s awkward. You say you’re sorry, and I say it’s okay. One of us changes the subject. I feel responsible for this negative interaction. You might ask why, but I don’t know why. Through a combination of genetics, environmental circumstances, and life decisions, it’s just always been shitty.
“Not bad. How are you?” The implication that I’m not great, but I can quickly change the subject by throwing it back to you. You’ll be busy talking about yourself, so my vague response gets overlooked. Maybe it comes off as inviting, and you can share your struggle too.
“Oh, I’ve been super busy.” I hate this response, but it’s the most common and useful. Let’s call it the Ivy League kid response. There’s no time to talk about feelings when you’re busy skipping class and stealing answers from the internet. It’s all due to the fact that we think we need to be busy to be productive, and we get so involved in the concept of busyness we forget about everything else.
Lastly, “Wanna hear something crazy?” This is a fun one. It takes the focus away from me, we’re still bonding, and I get to tell one of my many stories. This is usually the route I take – it’s entertaining for both of us. The downside is we completely ignored the question, and neither of us knows how the other’s doing.
At this point, you’re probably asking, “Maria, what can I ask you?” Anything else. I’m not that picky. Controversial, but I quite like, “Are you okay?” A quick yes will settle it. A no is welcome, but not necessary. Simple.
Does it matter that much? No, it really doesn’t.