How a Crying Selfie Album Changed My Outlook on Mental Health

As a self-proclaimed photographer, I often find myself scrolling through my camera roll for hours on end. To date, I am at a whopping 22,581 pictures and counting. Every once in a while, I come across my album (my most glorious album) which documents the lowest points in my life. Kleenex-covered and raccoon-eyed, this is my Crying Album. 

As a Pisces, I embrace my emotions. I live my life like an old wooden roller coaster at an abandoned amusement park – lots of high highs and lots of low lows. There is no middle ground. I force myself to turn a minuscule tear into a Marley & Me, Philadelphia, and Schindler’s List marathon. My sadness amplifies like the volume on a retro radio. This concludes with a 10-hour sleep session, one where “Wake me Up When September Ends” is on repeat. 

Amidst my ugly cries in my bathroom (the bathroom in my school/workplace that is designated solely for my crying) or my somewhat pretty cries (where my eyeshadow remains despite aggressive rubbing), I always follow one simple rule: take a picture. 

In the moment, I see myself blown up on my 6.1-inch screen, 326 pixels per inch — and just want to cry more. Flash on or flash off, at perhaps my ugliest, my chubby cheeks expand, snot drips from my nostrils, and my messy bun grows messier. 

Highs and Lows

While my family and close friends find my reaction unhealthy, they fail to appreciate how these lows make the highs more tangible. Today, my album contains 38 unique tear-filled occasions. From teenage angst with pure anger in my eyes to tying my face tight in a black hoodie, each image is its own work of art.

Additionally, each image has a unique cause. There’s the obnoxious man that honked three times at me for being too safe of a driver after an already awful day. There’s also immense heartbreak – most recently Brooklyn Beckham’s engagement

I often endure these hardships and their attached breakdowns in isolation. Other times, my eyes lock with another in a public place. This intimate interaction never results in disgust, revulsion, or “yuck” as you would suspect. Instead, their eyes squint, offering a comforting smile. In the women’s bathroom, a kind soul will cheer me with satire — that was me yesterday, babe, don’t worry. In my school’s health center my tears provoked a similar reaction; nurse Barbara gave me a cherry lolly and a warm hug.

At first, I believed these interactions to be mere coincidence. The pro-criers all have the same spots, the same reactions. But the more and more I cried, the more I realized everyone was sensitive to my emotions. We are conditioned to believe shedding tears is a weak, if not childish, reaction to pain. However, it is truly the most human and powerful response.

Just glance at Picasso’s The Weeping Woman, 1937. “It is about the violence that we feel when we look at it, about translating the rawest human emotion into paint.” My pictures help me process my pain in the same manner. From minuscule to massive, my tears remind me that pain is universal. 

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Everyone cries — and people who say they don’t are lying or inhuman. So when I come across my melancholic photos days or even months later, it puts my tears in perspective. If I am lucky, it even makes me laugh. Why did I let her control me? Why did I let him belittle me? It all meshes into a blob of obscurity.

My raw digital diary serves as a reminder of what I have gone through every day. It reminds me to be resilient, to stand taller than those who hope to bring me down. It reminds me to spread kindness, smiles, or even sneak a glance at my album (when absolutely necessary). And most importantly I can tell myself I conquered that.

This is my remedy, it doesn’t mean it is yours. But give it a try, see if it can provide you with some solace or even a smile. Surround yourself with a support system, find resources, and take care of your mind.

This is my call to humanity: stop buying the waterproof mascara, it is okay to cry.