“I didn’t want to exist anymore.” Quarantine Diaries, Memphis: Steve Williams

A revealing series of self-portraits during the quarantine

Here we are again. These profiles were photographed and written during the spring months when we were first introduced to the virus, when the city was in full lockdown, and before our focus shifted, appropriately, to this new civil rights movement. But here we are again. We present these diaries just as when they were written: vulnerable, real time snapshots by the individuals who experienced them.

By Steven Williams


Something I never really gave a second thought about.

Something I never really thought would happen to me.

Six months later, it all went away as if it never happened.

Now I understand the meaning of the saying the power of the tongue. Control the things you say by thinking what you want, and saying only what’s appropriate and positive.

Depression is something that I’ve gotten over, but it wasn’t an easy thing to do. Even though I have support, even though I have a loving God and a family that cares about me, I found myself trying to handle everything on my own.

I didn’t accept my problems to either.

I slowly found myself verbally attacking those I love and care about the most. I didn’t quite understand what it was and where it was coming from, but it slowly started to make sense when I realized that I wasn’t happy with this thing called life.

Numerous times I was told that I was one of best workers at my job, but I wasn’t happy where I was working. It was cool to be recognized for something that I put my all into so that I could make ends meet, but I knew I really wanted to do something else with my life.

Eventually they let me go, and being let go was bittersweet. With my down time, I put more energy into my photography, but I wasn’t happy as a creative either.

I found myself trying to mimic others when it can to my creativity. I wanted CERTAIN people to say, “Hey man.. I love what you’re doing.” or “Hey man.. your work is dope!” In the same breath, I was getting that kind of feedback and more from others. But it wasn’t enough for me.

So slowly but surely I spiraled to a darker and darker place within myself. I didn’t like being in that place. I wanted to quit at everything, including life.

I didn’t want to exist anymore.

It didn’t take long before I found myself heading to self-destruction. I was at a point where I would constantly wake up in the middle of the night at the same time. I didn’t understand why, but eventually I came to understand that it was time for God to talk to me and for me to tell Him what was on my mind.

After having long meditation periods with God, I was told that I needed a break from everything other than myself and my family.

After my last photography booking, I told myself I’d never pick up my camera, edit a picture, or find my face stuck into my phone on social media again, and I stayed true to that for six months.

I prayed for clarity, and I focused on just enjoying life with my family, without worrying about being accepted by people I don’t know.

Focusing on my loved ones made my life so much easier. It showed me how to balance things out. I no longer rely on things that don’t matter.

Depression is a demon that I never want to linger over or on me again.

In the middle of the pandemic, I started a new job as a truck driver, and I spend more time away from my family than I would like. But I also have more time to think about what I really want to create. The long hours heading to and from various cities give me a lot of time to reflect on things creatively.

I bought a new camera, and with my focus on God and my family, I am able to start creating things that are meaningful to me.

I wouldn’t wish depression on anyone, not even my worst enemy. I thank God, and my family, for sticking with me and not giving up on me.

Steven Williams is a husband, a father, and a local photographer in Memphis. When he isn’t busy capturing photos, or editing them, he enjoys spending time with his family and thinking of creative, meaningful ideas.

The Quarantine Dairies, Memphis:

On Monday, March 23, 2020, in the first of many safety precautions responding to the oncoming Coronavirus, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland issued the “Safer at Home” shelter-at-home executive order that directed all Memphis residents to stay inside their homes unless “absolutely necessary to take care of essential needs.” All over Memphis, people from all walks and disciplines adjusted to a new way of life, almost entirely from home: teaching, working, holding online meetings, coping. With this profile series we have captured a sampling – Memphians willing to share their quarantine diaries. Compiled from submitted stories and various contributors, this series gives us snapshots of a variety of voices around the city and presents a part of the narrative that is the ever-changing landscape of 2020. StoryBoard is currently editing our compiled snapshot stories for publication – we are also collecting more stories for as long as the pandemic continues.

Edited by Kristin Jones and Mark Fleischer

If you’d like to submit your snapshot, please write to info@storyboardmemphis.com or use this link for consideration.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.