Photos from When I Was Suicidal

by Catherine Butler about a year ago in humanity

Memories I found that shocked me. They were from such a dark time, but they didn’t look like it.

Photos from When I Was Suicidal

Trigger Warning: Suicide mention, dark thoughts, etc. (there’s nothing graphic, but I talk about being in that mindset).

I was looking through my Snapchat memories gallery, which I forget exists a lot, and realized something that shocked me.

In certain selfies I came across, my heart would drop. Though my expression in the image didn’t really give anything dire away—no tears, sad expression, heartbroken eyes—I could vividly remember how suicidal I was when I took it.

A lot of them were actually photos taken right before I was admitted into the psychiatric unit of the hospital. And it was stunning, in a sad way, how well I hid it. At least, to me.

I don’t know how exactly I knew, maybe that sort of feeling/memory sticks with you. Even pictures from years back, I could see it. I heard what I was thinking back then. I felt the pain around my heart that was present during that time. I couldn’t tell you why I took the picture, where I was or even what date it was, but I knew what was going through my head. I remembered how badly I was sinking.

I’m not full-out grinning in any of them, but it’s almost like there’s a playful glint to my expression in certain ones. Like I’m just having a silly day at work. Some of them I kind of get, because they’re more serious, but still... I can’t help but feel heartbroken for this version of me, who was feeling so irreparably broken.

It honestly just goes to show how easy it is to hide this stuff from others. One of the most infuriating things I hear when I let someone know I’m struggling is, “But you’re so cheerful, and your life seems to be going so well!” Sorry, depression doesn’t care about the cheer agenda. I can laugh and still want to sleep my life away. Being suicidal is a rough subject to touch on, so a lot of times to keep people from asking me about it I subconsciously cover myself in a protective shell of emotion, using jokes and a happy smile to keep anyone from knocking. In a lot of these pictures I’m wearing a full face of makeup, and that makes sense because I was probably hoping that would help my act.

The most recent one, I remember, from a few weeks ago, I was sitting in my stepdad’s truck and watching as he tried to figure out what was wrong with my car, which had broken down for the umpteenth. It was raining, and all I wanted to do was be in bed. I was staring at the raindrops hitting the window, unable to keep those dark thoughts out of my head. I don’t know why I took the pic—distraction, self-obsession, take your pick—but I can remember looking at it and being like, “she looks cool. She looks put together. She is not me.” I had just gotten done crying on my way home from work, and I truly felt like nothing would ever be fixed. Like I was shattered and desperately trying to sew myself back together to no avail.

And yet, I look like I’m having an average day. You would not look at this photo and guess that in the moment, I was suicidal.

Take this as a reminder, whether you’re the one needing to hear it or a friend concerned about how someone is acting, but cheeriness and success doesn’t always mean happiness. Just because someone can great another with enthusiasm and crack jokes and be the silly one at work, doesn’t mean they’re not an entirely different person when they’re alone. You can be happy and sad at the same time.

If you’re concerned about someone you know and don’t really understand what they’re going through, try saying, “I’m here for you” or “you can get through this” rather than “but you always seem so happy.” We know that your heart is in the right place, but it hurts to hear something like that. In my experience, at least. It may be hard to understand and confusing for you, but it’s even more confusing for us! Ha.

And, just in case you needed to hear it, as cliche as it may be: You will be okay. It will all be okay. No matter what happens. You’ve got this. Stay strong.

Catherine Butler
Catherine Butler
Read next: Never In the Cover of Night
Catherine Butler

Hello there! I’m an avid reader/writer and while I mainly spend time on songs/poems I have written PLENTY of stories (most fictional) and also run a blog! Hope you like what you read!

See all posts by Catherine Butler