SnapJAX Stories: Photography becomes therapy for local man

It was the photo below on SnapJAX of a woman sitting in the intricate branches of a California coral tree that motivated this latest story. I found the man who took the picture and uncovered he had quite the story to tell himself.

Andre Mills is a Navy veteran and father to eight kids, gentle, thoughtful and creative.

“I took my first picture in Spain, and I was hooked. And I’ve been taking them ever since,” Mills said.

That was in 1989, five years before photography became a lifeline for Mills.

“No knock on doctors, but that’s my therapy, taking photography is my therapy,” Mills said.

Though he has needed all the help he’s been given. Mills suffers from PTSD and also a traumatic brain injury from his time in the military. He was blown off the flight deck by jet exhaust from an F14. Mills landed down on the catwalk unconscious.

“The only thing I remember was waking up down in medical with this big knot the size of my fist on the back of my head,” Mills said.

He was determined to overcome what could have been a life-ending injury.

“I grew up, I had dyslexia. That’s hard to get over. So pretty much all my life people tell me, I can’t do something. I’ll show you that I can,” Mills said.

He said that after the accident, when his neurologist said he wouldn’t be able to handle college, he showed him as well.

“So once I finished college, two and a half years, with my bachelor’s in English and a minor in sociology, I made a copy of my degree. And I went and gave it to him. And I said, ‘You said I couldn’t do it.’ And he’s no longer my doctor,” Mills said.

Now, he’s constantly seeking peace and that’s how he stumbled on the picture that he posted on SnapJAX. The woman was meditating in this tree and that’s something Mills does for an hour daily. It’s a self-care routine that’s taught him patience and resilience.

“If you allow people to push your buttons in your life you’re gonna be miserable. So you got to stay away from people like that and enjoy life. Like the pictures, you never see that moment again. So why let somebody ruin this moment, and it’s gonna mess up your next moments in life so no, you can’t let people get to you,” Mills explained.

This story reminds us not to sweat the small stuff — and it’s all small stuff. What I’m learning is there’s always a beautiful story behind a beautiful picture.

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