“The Secretary of the Navy has determined you are physically unfit to perform the duties of your grade and directs you be permanently retired by reason of physical disability. You are released from all active duties at 2359 on 30 October 2014 and transferred to the Permanent Disability Retired List.
[You will have completed] 10 years, 4 months, and 23 days of active service.”
I reported to Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, SC for Basic Training on 7 June 2004, 10 days after I graduated High School, three days after I turned 18. I know it seems like I may have rushed into it all, but the thing is, I was certain by the age of the 13 that I wanted to be a United States Marine. The only thing I ever remember really wanting to do before I decided to be a Marine was to be a Power Ranger. You see, the most definitive trait about me is my desire to protect people, my siblings, neighborhood kids getting picked on, all the weak and at risk people of the world, but at some point I had to admit that Super Heroes weren’t real, not the kind I saw on tv anyway. Some time after that, it became clear to me that the closest realistic option to being the Red Ranger was to be a Marine. The Marine Corps was my way out of the shit I had grown up in and against everything I’ve always believed about myself, I was really good at it. I was good Marine, a good leader, and a great Intelligence Analyst. Everyone expected me to do at least 20 years.
This post isn’t necessarily about my career, but it’s important for you to have an idea of what it meant to me. It enabled me to provide for my struggling family back home, it gave me a purpose and a sense of worth that I never imaged I would have. The problem is, when I lost my career, I also lost my sense purpose and any sense of worth I had developed. I’m not particularly intelligent (once I was categorized as “of high average intelligence”), I’m shit when it comes to any form of athleticism (which I now know I can blame on a genetic disorder), and I have no real tangible talent. But somehow being an Intel Analyst in the most demanding branch of the military was exactly what I’m suited for, the strict structure was ideal for my anxiety and I even managed to use my anxiety to my advantage a lot of the time.
Knowing what I know now about my physical issues, I know that my career was always doomed, in reality it never should have happened and it’s amazing that it lasted as long as it did. All it would have taken was for some medical professional to do their due diligence, there was also the very real possibility that I could have just died on any given run. But it would be years after my career ended before my Marfan Syndrome diagnosis was made. What ended my career was the need for a spinal fusion in 2013 as the result of an injury sustained in 2008 (throw in 4 years of misdiagnoses). After having vertebrae in my low back fused together I was told I had to adhere to many physical limitations, limitations that would prevent me from ever completing a mandatory Physical Fitness Test again, it didn’t matter that I was intelligence instructor at the time, if you can’t do Marine stuff, you can’t be a Marine.
In the time between knowing my career was ending and the actual end of it, I talked a lot about what my plans were. I wanted to take a year to travel, to reward myself after over a decade of hard work. Then, I would use my shining resume, still valid security clearance, and stellar reputation in the intelligence community to get job at a government intelligence agency.
So after my retirement I moved back home, to the house I bought for my family when I was 19, to plan my next move. Then that one year went by, then another year, then another. The VA calls it “Individual Unemployablity”, it means that have a disability, Generalized Anxiety Disorder in my case, that prevents me from obtaining or keeping gainful employment. For a while I told myself that I would eventually get a handle on it and go back to work. When my clearance expired at the beginning of 2017, I knew that wasn’t true.
At 28 years old I lost my purpose, my entire identity. In the three years since I’ve lied to myself, and fantasized about still having a future in what I was good at, but I haven’t moved forward. When I thought I still knew where I was going, I just couldn’t bring myself to take a first step and now I don’t even know where I’m going, I have nothing to work toward. I have been able to do a decent amount of traveling, but aside from those couple of trips a year, I’m just here, barely existing. I live in a crappy town in Texas with no culture and nothing to do. I have a few close friends, but they’re all married with kids so get togethers are few and far between. I rarely leave my house and 90% of the time it’s for medical appointments. I’m 31 and single with no social life, I’m bored, and I’m tired, and depressed and I’m lonely. I have found this wonderful community online though, lovely people with common interests and it helps. The support from this community has gotten me through some of my harder days and they’ve encouraged me to keep trying. So that’s what this is, I still don’t know what the fuck to do, where to find my purpose, but I enjoy telling you my story. The thought that someone might be interested in what I’ve gone through and what I’m going through and even more, that something I say might help someone in any small way, it’s a good start. So if you’re reading this, thank you and please know that you’re helping me inch toward feeling whole again.