I was running at 0300 along the hardball road on three hours of sleep, secretly wishing for a truck to come around the next curve and accidentally hit and kill me. Was there some way to just die without doing it myself? Was I a coward for not being able to do it myself?
I was four months into six months of training at The Basic School. After four years at the U.S. Naval Academy, I finally got my dream job as a U.S. Marine. I was happy. I enjoyed the suck. So why was I suddenly struggling mentally with just wanting to live? My boyfriend at the time was deployed early, so we didn’t have time to communicate often. My dad had health problems back home. At the time, I was religious, and I was struggling to find a church in the area. You know, the usual life problems everyone has to deal with, nothing outlandish. No reason to complain.
It was easy for me to focus on controlling my weight instead of talking about my problems. Every pound dropped felt like a bit of stress off my shoulders. The more weight I lost, the more depressed I became, and the more unsatisfied I was with my body. I couldn’t tell if the eating disorder caused the depression or vice versa.
I was down fifteen pounds–underweight. I called my college coach. She suggested that I call my former teammate, who had dealt with an eating disorder. I e-mailed my boyfriend. Should I seek professional help now or wait after TBS?
“Whatever you do, don’t go for help. They will kick you out. You can get help after you finish service.” I felt overwhelmed by the idea I would wake up wanting to die for the next five years or more. I had imagined spending a career in the military. How could I focus on others when my mind was filled with just different ways to kill myself?
“Please, see someone. They won’t kick you out,” were the few words my boyfriend told me. I trusted him, so I went for help.
I saw my captain, then a chaplain, who sent me to behavioral health, who sent me to an eating disorder unit, which all lead to a medical separation. I sent in rebuttals and recommendations to be retained. I maxed the PFT. I learned to string 14 pull-ups in a row. I tried to prove that I was stronger and healthier, even better prepared to be a leader. I still got the boot. Gone was my life plan.
For many years, I was angry at myself for not dealing with stress in a healthier manner. I was angry how I had my dream job and fucked it up. I regretted taking the advice to seek help. I wanted so much to rewind time, to gut out the final two months of TBS, to have a career in the Marine Corps. I hated answering questions about my service time, which was nothing. I felt like I wasted a spot at USNA. Other people dealt with worse, so why did I have the right to seek help?
Today, my regret is not having a solid Plan B. Going to a school where one is “guaranteed” a job for five years only works if you don’t fuck it up. Although I studied something I enjoyed for my undergraduate degree, looking back, I would have accepted student debt (and the fear of debt) to go back to school and create a Plan B career.
I tried to be a Marine Corps officer, failed, and was separated. I picked up an internship working at a laboratory and worked part time as a personal trainer. Now I work at the lab full-time, but I still feel like I’m asking, “What is my plan B?”