I’m hosting a guest post today for the book tour for memoir “Sister Surrendered”. Enjoy.
Often asked what my desired final result is from publishing Sister Surrendered, I find myself pausing each time before answering. Instinctually, I’d like to jump on my soap-box and insist that the mental health care system be reformed, that all veterans diagnosed with PTSD receive extensive, on-going, interactive psychotherapy, that the public educates itself better on addiction and mental illness and the difficulties associated with these terrible and often debilitating disorders, that we as a society, together, rip off the band aids of a fractured system and repair it for the long-haul. These are just some of the answers that I’d like to sputter off, but thankfully, I’ve learned to take a breath first.
Frankly, it wasn’t that long ago that I too was ignorant to mental illness, depression, anxiety and addiction. When you read the first few chapters of Sister Surrendered, you’ll see that life was pretty good for my twin sister and me. Actually, it was great. We had an amazing childhood filled with fun, laughter and mischief. Eventually we joined the Navy and served six incredibly rewarding years as Hospital Corpsman, having the times of our lives. Certainly we had our challenges, but for the most part, life was smooth sailing.
But life as we knew it changed after our discharge. Life as we knew it ended. And what once seemed to be a bright, exciting future of new beginnings, sadly, turned dark and uncertain. The days became riddled with anxiety and the nights even worse.
It’s clear to me now that there is no “specific” message that I’d like to send. I’ve learned through the countless personal messages from readers that I’ve received that this book is a different experience for everyone. Some have cried for days, while others’ laughed hysterically. Some were left furious at a system who failed a beautiful young woman, leaving her desperate enough to take her own life.
And that beautiful young woman’s name was Kelli. Hopefully you’ll choose to read her story, a journey filled with more twists than I care to recall. And if you choose too, you’ll find yourself rooting for her by the end, you’ll cry for her after you finish, and you’ll remember her name for a lifetime. And this is my promise to you.
Author: Darla Grese
When you’re a twin, loneliness is somewhat unfamiliar because you’ve always had each other. So when a twin passes, the other is left unprepared. Our loyalty was steadfast and our devotion to one another, solid. Our love was unconditional no matter what the circumstances. I’m so grateful every day for the memories of the joy and laughter that we shared together. I know the bond that Kelli and I shared is impossible for anyone to replace.
This memoir has become something so much more than initially intended. It’s become a documented journey barely scratching the surface of the love between two sisters. And surprisingly, it’s also become an outlet for me to speak candidly and honestly about my struggles with the cause of Kelli’s death. This is a love story turned tragedy. An exposure of one of the greatest healthcare failures killing Veterans and civilians, and a cry for help to remedy the fiasco.
I’ve stressed about who I would mention in this book, nervous that I would hurt someone’s feelings by not mentioning their names. But I’ve realized that it’s impossible to do. Kelli had so many great friends, some I’ve never even met.
I need each person to know who has taken the time to reach out to me in whatever capacity that if it weren’t for your heartfelt show of support and love, I don’t know that I would be able to muster the energy to even get up each day. Kelli, we did it.
Darla M. Grese is a twin sister who lost her better half to side effects from prescribed medication. As a U.S. Navy Veteran, she is an advocate of Veteran X and Veteran Hope programs that address mental illness, PTSD, and unintentional addiction issues. Both programs are sponsored by the Veteran Affairs Medical Center and focus on Veteran recovery and independence. She raises money for Team Kelli and annually participates in the Out of the Darkness Walk at Mt. Trashmore in Virginia Beach (http://www.sos-walk.org/sos/). While continuing to bring awareness to this cause, being a loving parent is her favorite passion and the main focus of her life. Darla’s love for the arts has been expressed as a talented actress with appearances in The F.B.I. files, The New Detectives, Diagnosis Unknown, Wicked Attraction, Discovery Channel’s The Haunting, and the movie Atlantis Down. She currently works full time as a respiratory therapist at a trauma center in Norfolk, Virginia.