How are you?

In Lebanon, we have this look, this moment of silence when someone asks 'how are you?'. It's like a dreaded question that reminds you that you're dead inside. We don't even need to answer anymore, we just nod at each other.

But it's different when a non-Lebanese person asks. Somehow, without realising it, I started answering 'I'm feeling a bit better'. That's not even close to being true though. I think I'm just tired of not being OK. I feel like a broken record so I wear my mask again.

I am not sure what else to say, where to start…

As a population, many of us have an endless amount of horrific stories of what we witnessed on August 4. Whenever I meet with my friends or family, it turns into a group therapy session. Stories of dead bodies on the streets and in hospitals' emergency rooms, children finding their parents dead in an effort to save them, glass everywhere, including under our skins, buildings collapsing, wounded people screaming for help… and the sound of this explosion… that sound that never leaves our head, haunting us day and night…

I swear, everytime I see someone, I hear a new way of describing this catastrophe… We're all broken. Even those who weren't near the blast and still have a roof over their head are broken. You don't need to have barely survived to be in a state of shock over this explosion. Over three weeks ago, an explosion destroyed our Beirut. People's homes all over the city, those streets we spent our weekends in, those pubs and restaurants that defied all odds and stayed open after the economic collapse, those buildings that stood through 15 years of war… they're all gone… all gone… all gone… We can repeat this a 100 times, it still sounds unbelievable, yet kills us every time.

No, I don't think I'm OK… In fact, I've never felt so bad… all my grief is back… it's like Mya left yesterday and on top of it, Ella's room collapsed, I lost a friend, lost my home, lost the little money I had in Lebanon's economic crisis and I barely make a living.

It makes you wonder how it all got so bad… how after years of fighting illness and then grief and then financial instability, you still end up even worse than you've ever been. How can I keep fighting when there’s no hope anymore? When I feel a small shred of hope, I just laugh at how ridiculous that sounds. I’m laughing in my head right now… How can there be hope after all this?

How do you explain that when someone asks 'How are you?'

I'm just dead inside.