On this day, 1 Nov 2019, it marks a very special 3rd year of Retirement from the U.S. Army. The reason why I chose to mark today as a special one is because of how far I have come spiritually, mentally and physically in both my personal and professional life.
Three years ago I was not in a good place. I was ashamed, embarrassed and pissed that I had to end my military career much earlier than I had expected or anticipated. I was NOT ready. Although, I was given the option to "Retire", I was still so upset. Who was I without my Army family? Who was I as a person? I felt like a failure. I felt like people were judging me. Like, I was not good enough.
When people think of Retirement, they think 20 years. I was not that person. I completed 17 years, 4 months. It was embarrassing. Was it all a waste? What did I do wrong? I held positions that not many are able to get in our specific branch. I deployed twice. I worked late. I sacraficed family time. I practically did parenting alone at times. I kept asking the question of "what didn't make me good enough to be selected for promotion?"
Everything that had happened to me while I served, all the feelings, all the things we were taught, all came crashing down at me all at once. For 17 years I was taught to be tough, keep moving forward, have thick skin and never let them see you sweat. I kept my head up, did what I was told and kept pushing through it all. I never talked about how I was really feeling because I didn't want to seem weak, and definitely as a female.
I crossed all the bridges and kept marching on.
When I received the paper that said I had six months to transition, I thought to myself "are you kidding me". Everyone else gets 1 year. Why do I only get 6 months? After crying it out and sulking, I got up and marched on. Everything that I had thought I wanted to do was no longer an option. I was pissed. I gave up. I had no drive. I had no motivation. All I was really able to think about was how am I going to take care of myself. What benefits will I have. Will my kids be taken care of. I had no job lined up. I didn't even have a resume.
I attended the week long transition assistance program. I listened to what they had to say. I learned some things. The one thing missing was how I was going to be mentally prepared for life after wards. That was not part of it. You can have the piece of paper. You can have the wardrobe and the credentials, but no one prepares you for the feeling of feeling lost.
I lived each day to the next for a year. I sat on the couch. I cried. I lost hope. I started talking about my feelings and even decided to write them down. I kept marching on. I even kept my game face on to those who asked how retirement was going. I even smiled during some of those conversations. Even when I was not smiling inside.
This blog came to light when I had enough and needed people to know how it was not easy. Life as a Veteran, Mom and Military Spouse was not ok..... until now.
After the car accident, Is when I finally opened up my eyes. My daughter and I survived one of the most traumatic experiences of our lives. No one prepares you for what happens after something like that. It has taken over a year to finally be ok from having PTSD after a traffic accident. This is when we finally started to appreciate the little things in our lives.
Three years later and I am reminded of all that I have accomplished. I could not let a piece of paper define me. I had 17 very successful years. I loved being a leader. I loved the camaraderie. I loved what I learned. Although with every bad experience comes a good one, I chose to live with the aftermath instead of suffering from it.
I have slowly learned to cope with my PTSD, anxiety and depression. I have chosen to help others know that they are not alone through social media and a podcast. I have two amazing children who have seen what it can do to you. Now it has been my mission to show them that you can in fact get back up. I have become vulnerable in sharing my life in which many may judge, but it is my story to tell.
Three years later and I am a trauma survivor. I am a suicide attempt survivor. I am a proud Veteran. I am a mother to teenagers who are learning how to be successful in life. I am a military spouse of 21 years who is now helping other spouses learn how to live this life and be their own person.
Three years later and I am still here. I never thought I would be where I am today. I never thought that I would be sharing my story with the world. I never imagined that I would be given the grace and grit to keep marching on. Life is not easy, but I am here to tell you that it can be done. Where will you be in three years?