When guilt fills the logic-shaped gap in your feelings

“Hey, how are you?” The usual question calls for an almost scripted answer: “I’m fine, and you?” Anything above that is also acceptable. But if, God forbid, you feel less than fine, you’d better have a bloody good reason.

It comes down to the difference between being depressed and having depression. Your dog dies, you break up with your girlfriend, you lose your job: you’re justifiably depressed. There’s a causal relationship; something bad happens, you’re having a tough time dealing with it, therefore you’re not feeling too well.

Depression, on the other hand, is something else. A small but not insignificant part of what makes it so hard to grasp is the absence of logic, and the guilt that fills that gap. “How are you?” they ask. Your dog didn’t die, you weren’t dumped, you haven’t lost your job. You can’t point to anything wrong with your life, save for a general feeling of hollowness, ever-present, nagging you with its whimsical tides.

You want to say, “I’m not well,” you want to point out you’re fully aware that it’s all in your head – and that’s the whole problem. But you feel guilty for bringing it up, for calling attention to it. Perhaps a smoother version will do: “Oh you know, ups and downs, nothing I’m not used to.” Yet that feels too much like a humble brag. So you stick to the script, “I’m fine, and you?”

And the conversation moves on, and nobody has any idea.