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Big career decisions.

(3 Posts)
JJT2908 Sun 01-Dec-19 11:08:37

Hello all. I'm sure you have all had variations of this conversation 100+ times, but I would appreciate some advice.

I am a 28 year old female Army Officer. I’ve been in for about 5 years and I do love the job. I am among the fittest women in the military and keep being asked when I am going to put myself forward for specialist training and be one of the first, pave the way for other women and so on. It is an honour to be so highly regarded in a very male-dominated environment, and most of them really wouldn't say it if they didn't mean it. Specialist/infantry training has been on my mind for a while, however what a lot of people don’t know is that I have had an on and off eating disorder and quite serious depression for about 6 years, which got to suicidal point this year. My fiancé and I actually had to cancel our wedding because I was so ill. We are attempting a re-arrange for next year, but with both of us in the armed forces it is tricky.

Part of me really wants to push and strive and compete and be the best woman out there - to have the balls to be the one that did it, and be 'A Great Woman' for evermore, but another part of me just can’t bear to compete anymore. I made myself so ill trying to be the best/thinnest/fastest/most extreme all the time and there’s a growing part of me that just wants a nice life with a kind job at home, and just to be able to focus for now on being a good mother. I don’t know if I’m letting a lot of people down in this current situation if I do though. I'm also aware that leaving the Army and having a baby is unlikely to solve anything.

Anyway, would appreciate people’s thoughts and advice. Has anyone else been in a similar situation? J x

TDL2016 Sun 01-Dec-19 16:24:17

I’ve been in a similar position. I have depression. I’m not in the armed forces but, but I pushed myself to get the best job, earn the most, work more to earn a monthly bonus, get a better car, get a bigger house. The working hours started to creep up, time for myself became next to nothing, I was sleeping less and less and eventually it lead to a breakdown. I was signed off work, started taking anti depressants (I don’t take them now and manage symptoms myself with exercise which works for me) went through therapy, had to fight work to adjust my work load through HR and occupational health.
Personally, the kudos of my manager being happy with the extra work I was putting in and the monthly bonuses were just not worth it. I’d rather have a happy mind and know that I’m in a good place mentally, than push myself to that place again because someone else thinks I should be “setting an example”
Doing what is best for you, to be the best version of yourself that you can be and therefore be the best mother and best fiancé to your family is not letting anyone down.

RidgedPerfection Mon 02-Dec-19 19:42:30

If you have sought mental health assistance from the AMS then that will bar you from selection I would have thought (or would have done in my experience - not current). I would also assume from managing those who have been military and experienced suicidal feelings and depression that you are not permitted to carry a weapon and be on ranges whilst deemed unwell.

If you have not sought help and have not disclosed the extent of your mental illness I'd strongly encourage you to do so - you do not sound (meant with kindness) like a good candidate for many of the forms of specialist training available as being mentally robust is so very, very important as I am sure you are more than aware amongst those who are successful. It's the mental aspects of much specialist training and selection that can lead to people being assessed as unsuitable. Physical ability is of course also absolutely essential; but personality / general character etc are very much at the forefront of decisions made.

If you had a soldier who came to you and told you what you have said in your post - or you deduced that they were having problems then I am assuming that you would ensure that their welfare (and that of those around them) was very much looked after and would not recommend them for specialist training / high pressure roles until they had been properly assessed by the appropriate professionals? You need to look at your own situation from that aspect I think.

I think that doing the very best for you is different from doing the very best that is EXPECTED of you by others - I am from a similar background from you it sounds (albeit I am now a fair bit older!!) and also pushed myself competitively and suffered for it (eating disorders and depression which I hid for many, many years but ultimately lead to me pretty much unravelling - all of my reports used to praise my mental robustness, but deep down I was resilient but with effort!!). I learnt that the best for me was perhaps not to live up to everyone's expectations of me all the time and to step away. I gave up the chance to be a mother really in the pursuit of various things and in hindsight I very much wish that I had seen the value of a comfortable and more settled life and of being a mother rather than chasing achievements.

I hope that my post in no way sounds harsh, yours just rings a lot of bells for me!!

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