When I started this journey with Hollis, I had no idea where it would take me. I honestly didn't know where I wanted it to take me.
The PTS journey itself has been a rollercoaster, filled with ups and downs. Not just for Hollis, but for me, too. Being an outsider and trying to help her has proven to be a struggle for me...especially when we're separated by so much distance. I will never stop being there for her, and helping her in this fight, because that's what sisters do. But, this isn't something that they prepare anyone for. Sure, they don't really equip our fighting men and women to deal with the effects of PTS and TBI's, and they certainly don't help them. But, they really don't do anything for the family members in this struggle, either. No resources...no one to talk to...nobody other than those that we can seek out that maybe have gone through something similar. And, when you're far away from your family member, the "isolation" is even greater.
I can't be there on her worst days. I can't be there to help her fight the VA when they treat her terribly. I can't be there to help her confront her therapist when she says that Hollis' "emotional state is exaggerated" (yeah, that really happened). I can't be there to help her through her lonely nights, or her worst days. And that really wears down a person. If I didn't have my amazing Husband around to vent to (and he has caught the majority of my anger and frustration!), then I truly wouldn't have any outlets available to me.
When Hollis and I started the 22 Portrait Project, I felt that we both finally had an outlet for some of the pent up emotions of this journey. And a healthy outlet, too. One that we could both connect through, no matter how far apart we are. I didn't have lofty goals of changing the world, but perhaps of bringing awareness to the struggle that many of our Veterans face. More importantly, I had the goal of helping Hollis heal, and find a sense of peace for her anger and hurt.
Once everything started to come together, and people began jumping behind us on this, I was happy and excited. It seemed our little project had a lot of people intrigued. But, slowly, somethings just started to not feel right. I started becoming overwhelmed by people rushing at me with their thoughts of how things should go, and people I didn't know being brought in on it. Before I could blink, everything started getting out of my control, and spiraling away from anything that I had envisioned. I kept trying to convince myself that it was ok, and this is the direction it was "supposed" to take, even if I wasn't comfortable with it.
Then, it happened. Someone had taken my idea, and gone their separate way with it. A person that I didn't know, but had consulted with about something....even offered to partner with. Before I could brush it off, it happened again. This time they wanted me to collaborate with them....on my idea. By the 3rd time, I was becoming an expert at just starting to ignore all the people who were copying me. It's supposedly flattery, right? Isn't that what they say? I had just decided that I was going to keep doing what I was doing, because I was helping my sister. And that's the whole reason I was doing this to begin with.
Well....I've finally hit my breaking point. I had a bad blow, and I'm not giving details, but it was enough for me to sit down, and re-evaluate this entire project. I hope that those who have taken this idea and run with it can help so many people. It's a story that needs to be told. But, I'm going to tell the stories the way I want to tell the stories. I want to do them the justice that they deserve.
I still believe in this project with my entire being....I believe that this can be an amazing outlet for those struggling Veterans who want to tell their stories. But I finally know where I want this journey to go, and I don't want to have it any other way. Hollis' story isn't done being told, she still has so much information, and I'll always be there to help her, and to tell her story....but I'm not going to keep having my emotions stomped on through this, by others who think they know how I should do it--or those who want to take it. It's enough of a rollercoaster ride without having all of this on top of it. So, until I have more of Hollis' journey complete, and the stories of other Veterans who want to get their stories and experiences out....I'm just biding my time patiently.
In the meantime....these are the remaining images that I have of Hollis' story. They're powerful and emotional...and mean so much more when you can see them all. I hope that they give you cause to sit, and reflect on the toll that invisible wounds can take on a strong and brave person.
I do have a couple people lined up for future 22 Portrait Stories, and I will let you know as soon as their stories are ready. If you want to tell your story, then please email me, I'm always willing to be a listening ear.
(And, as a side note, I'm going to be leaving Hollis' GoFund Me page open for the remainder of July, then I'll be shutting it down. THANK YOU to those of you who have helped us raise $450! That's just about halfway to the goal. She and I are so grateful to all of you for your donations, and your willingness to share the story. We can't thank you all enough. If you haven't seen the page, or would like to donate/share, you can view it here. Thank you again!)
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