Author Topic: Coping with surprise financial independence  (Read 4662 times)

MrFancypants

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Coping with surprise financial independence
« on: August 07, 2018, 03:54:00 PM »
I realize that the idea of having to "cope with" finding yourself in this position seems absurd, but here I am.

I've been on the path towards financial independence for a while now.  Over a decade ago I committed myself to eliminating and avoiding consumer debt and I haven't had a credit card balance or auto loan for so long I'm unable to remember what either was like.  For a while I comfortably exceeded my target of a 50% net income savings rate and my wife and I went for a reasonably priced house as we postured ourselves towards living on less as I pushed through to military retirement.  With that, we focused our efforts towards keeping our recurring expenses as low as possible, building up a cushion of cash to smooth over the transition, and build up some equity in the house to leave us the option to sell and move to another part of the country if we felt so inclined.  At the time we also felt that eliminating the mortgage entirely from our expenses would have helped tremendously in reducing my need to maintain traditional employment.

The reason we decided to push our finances to the 50%+ savings rate was because my job in the military was exceptionally stressful and when I crossed the finish line I wanted the option to just sit around and drool on myself for a while.  Where the plan fell apart was the introduction of children which caused our savings rate to suffer.  Were I a stronger person I could have kept everything on track, but when you're deep into extreme decision fatigue it's really hard to find the energy to make optimal financial decisions.

Still, we did reasonably well because we had set up effective processes and habits and we didn't do any damage to our financial future, we just fell short of our lofty goals.

In the process of separating from the military it's highly encouraged that you compile your medical records and submit them to Veterans Affairs for consideration for disability compensation.  Years ago I recognized this as a possibility, but I chose not to look at it too closely and I always kept it out of my mind while planning my financial future.

Then I was hit with a surprise about a month ago in that I had been awarded the highest rating possible along with a statement expressing that they did not believe my conditions would ever significantly improve.  The impact this has on my income is dramatic, as in my retired military income is roughly 85% of my active military income and the hundreds of thousands of dollars I've built up preparing to survive on less.

I had signed up for university this fall for the GI Bill stipend to supplement my pension, but that's no longer an actual need.  All I really want to do now is watch my children grow and upgrade things around the house and hang out in the garage and take my car apart and swear at it a lot when I try to put it back together again.

But I feel guilty even though my shoulders, hips, ankles, and back are shot.  A day rarely passes without a mild panic attack or crushing migraine.  The last time we went to the movies I had such an extreme physical and mental reaction to loud noises and flashing lights that I couldn't even get up and walk out.  I know this is why I've been awarded disability, because I ran myself into the ground.

So with that out there, how do you mentally and emotionally transition into an earlier than expected retirement?  If you've left behind a high stress occupation, do you focus exclusively on minimizing stress and only participate in what you feel like doing every morning when you wake up?  How do you know when you're ready to work towards developing sources of income out of hobbies and interests?  What if you never care to develop any extra sources of income and choose to focus on being present for your family?

I apologize for the long winded post.  I guess I never imagined I'd be where I am right now and typing this up has been good therapy all by itself.

Thank you for any thoughts you might have.

Cranky

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Re: Coping with surprise financial independence
« Reply #1 on: August 07, 2018, 03:59:00 PM »
I think that, like any big life change - you should give yourself a year without Big Decisions. This is your year to just be present. Work on doing whatever it is that you need to do to feel better, get those systems set up... but nothing has to be decided *now*.

honeybbq

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Re: Coping with surprise financial independence
« Reply #2 on: August 07, 2018, 03:59:21 PM »
1. Thank you for your service.

2. Enjoy retirement!

3. Remind yourself that you earned every moment of it.

no guilt!

diapasoun

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Re: Coping with surprise financial independence
« Reply #3 on: August 07, 2018, 04:18:36 PM »
It sounds like you have a lot to deal with, OP, and a very solid financial base given your hard-won savings and your military pension. You have the room to do what you want, and what's best for you. Given what you describe of your emotional and physical states and your desires, I'd say drop the university course, spend time with your children, work on the projects that make you feel good, and get yourself a very good therapist and a good primary care doctor. You've been through the wringer. You, and everyone else who's been through that wringer, deserves time, care, and support. Like others have said, no need to make any big decisions this year -- just take care of you and yours.

And I think you'll know when it feels right to start a business, or producing other income. If that time is never, that's just fine. Being present for your family, really truly present, is a real gift.

diffusate

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Re: Coping with surprise financial independence
« Reply #4 on: August 07, 2018, 05:57:08 PM »
The disability pay is there for a reason, so take full advantage of it--starting with doing everything you can to take care of your health. Spend a few months really doing everything you can to make yourself comfortable and healthy. I'm talking massage, physical therapy, joining a gym with a sauna, healthy food, buying a new mattress. A vacation on the beach if that's your thing.

You've got to decompress before you do anything else, and you've got the $ to do it.

BTDretire

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Re: Coping with surprise financial independence
« Reply #5 on: August 07, 2018, 06:20:44 PM »
I'm going to point out a different direction.
 You do not want to have to much time to think about yourself.
You might want to use some of your free time to get counseling
And get at least a part time job to fill some of your time.
Fix yourself, then you can be good to your family and enjoy your well earned retirement.

RedmondStash

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Re: Coping with surprise financial independence
« Reply #6 on: August 07, 2018, 07:08:03 PM »
I second the suggestion to consider getting some counseling for PTSD. Your brain has probably been through significant changes, and some guidance might be useful to help guide it back away from those changes to more appropriate reactions to a non-combat setting.

You might also be interested in looking into the Chicago Block treatment for PTSD. I know people who've been helped by it, though the success rate isn't 100%. Just another possible option. As with all things, YMMV.

http://globalptsifoundation.org/eugene-lipov-md

I hope you find ways to enjoy your well-earned financial freedom.

EnjoyIt

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Re: Coping with surprise financial independence
« Reply #7 on: August 07, 2018, 07:40:42 PM »

... and hang out in the garage and take my car apart and swear at it a lot when I try to put it back together again.


Why I enjoy this as well is beyond me.  While working, I complain, my joints hurt from being in weird positions and for some reason I keep repeating the process.

YHD

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Re: Coping with surprise financial independence
« Reply #8 on: August 07, 2018, 09:37:08 PM »
Dude, you earned it.  I honestly don't understand the issue.

MrFancypants

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Re: Coping with surprise financial independence
« Reply #9 on: August 07, 2018, 10:44:47 PM »
Wow, thanks for all the responses, I really appreciate the thoughts.

I'll take the hints and find my way back to a good therapist.  In general I find that this combined with the right kind of physical exercise to address the back/joints makes all the difference.  Overall my mental state has improved, although the period immediately following retirement was pretty rough.  Thankfully I'm past that, hopefully never to return.

Reading these posts and reflecting a bit upon my last few months I realize that I do naturally gravitate towards activities that keep my mind busy.  On top of that, a skill I learned a long time ago was how to catch myself ruminating and force myself out of the loop.  I've also learned that even with the wife and full time mother in the house there's more than enough parenting chores to keep busy as a full time dad.  This was even a specific point of conversation at my last therapy session, to be sure to find a new sense of purpose in life.  When I think about the option of getting a part time job, the first place my head goes is possibly not getting to wake up to an excited toddler crawling on my head, or maybe missing the time to hold my newborn while she naps late in the morning.

But in place of a job I can build a little more structure into my life, which can fill a similar purpose.  At the same time I do need to learn how to forgive myself when I'm not able to follow through on a thing I wanted to do, like some of those house projects I wanted to have accomplished by now.

Why I enjoy this as well is beyond me.  While working, I complain, my joints hurt from being in weird positions and for some reason I keep repeating the process.

I know, right?  I think that most of the time it comes from not using the right tool for whatever it is that needs to be done, but then I remember the frustration of trying to line up a transmission after changing a clutch with the advantage of having proper lift and transmission jack to use.  "ah this job should be easy, I've read the manuals, have all the torque specs, watched every video on YouTube so I know all the tricks...."   ......aaaaaand nope, something's going to happen, it always does.  I keep going back to it to save money, but I think I enjoy it because of those rare times when I surprise myself. 

MrFancypants

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Re: Coping with surprise financial independence
« Reply #10 on: August 07, 2018, 10:53:09 PM »
Dude, you earned it.  I honestly don't understand the issue.

I'm going to print this out and read it every day when I wake up.

flower_girl

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Re: Coping with surprise financial independence
« Reply #11 on: August 08, 2018, 05:03:17 AM »
Hi MrFancypants, it sure seems like you've done your fair share and had some trauma to go with it. 

As I read your post I felt really thrilled and delighted for you. Yes, you deserve this! I hope the road ahead is an extremely happy one for you and your family.  Warmest good wishes.

Noodle

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Re: Coping with surprise financial independence
« Reply #12 on: August 08, 2018, 08:54:15 AM »
Just because you don't know what you want right now doesn't mean you'll never know what you want. This may be a time to, as my yoga teacher used to say, "be where you are" and let the answers come to you. I am under the impression that a lot of people need some decompression after retirement before the next step becomes wholly clear, even under circumstances less demanding than yours.

One factor that might help give you direction in the moment is--if you're not sure what you want, does your wife know what she wants? I am guessing if you were military your life as a family has had to be arranged around your career. Could this be a time to support her goals and dreams while you ponder yours, or at least take over as close to 50% of the home/family work as your health allows to give her space to consider?

mathlete

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Re: Coping with surprise financial independence
« Reply #13 on: August 08, 2018, 09:11:36 AM »
My father went through something similar. There were pitfalls, but ultimately it's worked out okay. After 30 years of being the primary breadwinner in my parent's marriage, he buckled down and learned to do some homemaker things, which has been good. And he's had ample time to work on his handyman projects.

One dangerous thing that I never considered though, was that there are forces out there (let's call them BookFace and Cable News) that exist to make you scared, anxious, and angry. Retirees have a lot of free time, and it is easy to get sucked in. This started happening with my dad, but luckily he got out of it. He quit Facebook, and we helped him find some really constructive podcasts and YouTube channels to kill time on.

Good luck, and thanks for your service.

pbkmaine

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Re: Coping with surprise financial independence
« Reply #14 on: August 08, 2018, 09:34:12 AM »
Physical therapy combined with yoga and tai chi have really helped my joints and general sense of wellness.

Dabnasty

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Re: Coping with surprise financial independence
« Reply #15 on: August 08, 2018, 09:39:24 AM »
I have no personal experience with sensory deprivation therapy (yet) on account of the cost but I'm guessing you could afford a few sessions given your situation.

Seems to me this would be good for both the mental and physical ailments you describe.

https://www.military1.com/ptsd/article/1641000014-float-therapy-a-new-method-in-ptsd-treatment/

bognish

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Re: Coping with surprise financial independence
« Reply #16 on: August 08, 2018, 09:47:33 AM »
I am assuming you did not start your military service with the whole career plan laid out and then you followed it perfectly through. You probably had a short term plan/goal, maybe a long term general picture and then you adapted and came up with new ideas as you gained experience, found new opportunities and got new interest and life events.

I am targeting FIRE next spring. Calling it "retirement" is daunting. I feel like that is a permanent position and that I need to have retirement figured out for the next 40 years.  Instead I am planning a "sabbatical" for next summer. Take some longer vacations while the kids are young. I have ideas and options for what to do after next summer, but probably new ones will come up by then too. I don't plan on taking it one day at a time, but maybe season by season. Using sabbatical is helping ease the anxiety for my wife and I that we need to have all 40 years figured out by next spring.

Good luck.

Mezzie

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Re: Coping with surprise financial independence
« Reply #17 on: August 08, 2018, 10:41:54 AM »
I think your job right now is to take care of yourself physically and mentally and be there for your family. Disability insurance isn't just thrown around -- if it was granted to you, then you earned it through your service (and will continue to pay in pain, unfortunately).

Since people are throwing out potential therapies, I highly recommend EMDR for anxiety and PTSD. I wish you well.

Dragonswan

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Re: Coping with surprise financial independence
« Reply #18 on: August 08, 2018, 12:20:39 PM »
"when I crossed the finish line I wanted the option to just sit around and drool on myself for a while."

The official term for this is marinating in the funk.  And that's fine for a little while, but don't stay too long or you'll drown in it.

Prodigal Daughter

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Re: Coping with surprise financial independence
« Reply #19 on: August 08, 2018, 01:05:50 PM »
Quote
But in place of a job I can build a little more structure into my life, which can fill a similar purpose.  At the same time I do need to learn how to forgive myself when I'm not able to follow through on a thing I wanted to do, like some of those house projects I wanted to have accomplished by now.

I'm sure you will find more than enough things to keep you busy with kids, home projects, and car-cursing :) but also a reminder that maybe setting aside a few dedicated hours for volunteering each week or month can help with giving you some "purpose". If you are active in a church, get involved in the leadership committees...are your kids in school? Become a room dad. Is there a different nonprofit cause you support? Help them with office work or a fundraiser, or sit on their board of directors. It also sets a great example for your kids!

MrFancypants

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Re: Coping with surprise financial independence
« Reply #20 on: August 08, 2018, 03:10:17 PM »
Thanks again for all of the wise and warm comments.  :)  This has been more encouraging than I imagined as I was writing the first post.

if you're not sure what you want, does your wife know what she wants? I am guessing if you were military your life as a family has had to be arranged around your career. Could this be a time to support her goals and dreams while you ponder yours, or at least take over as close to 50% of the home/family work as your health allows to give her space to consider?

Actually....  yes she does.  This has even been one of the easier things for me to do, is to encourage her to engage in an activity that she finds meaningful and fulfilling.  I lovingly refer to her around the house as "the baby enthusiast."  Her interest in pregnancy, delivery, and early childhood is deep enough that she often has medical professionals believing that she's at least a nurse.  She's bounced back and forth between wanting to be a doula or a lactation consultant, and I believe she's ultimately chosen to do lactation consulting.  She's even found a mentor in the area and I've encouraged her to get out and participate and help others with her knowledge as she has the energy to do so.

One dangerous thing that I never considered though, was that there are forces out there (let's call them BookFace and Cable News) that exist to make you scared, anxious, and angry. Retirees have a lot of free time, and it is easy to get sucked in. This started happening with my dad, but luckily he got out of it. He quit Facebook, and we helped him find some really constructive podcasts and YouTube channels to kill time on.

Good luck, and thanks for your service.

I can't say how good it feels to see this kind of advice being put out there.  I've seen enough people fall into this trap, many of whom are military retirees.  I work to keep myself grounded by taking the evidence based approach to what's being presented to me while trying to spot any blatant attempts at emotional manipulation.  I'm very picky about what sources of information I allow in and have a process for determining who is reporting in good faith versus who is not.  It helps that my professional background is in information operations.

I am assuming you did not start your military service with the whole career plan laid out and then you followed it perfectly through. You probably had a short term plan/goal, maybe a long term general picture and then you adapted and came up with new ideas as you gained experience, found new opportunities and got new interest and life events.

I am targeting FIRE next spring. Calling it "retirement" is daunting. I feel like that is a permanent position and that I need to have retirement figured out for the next 40 years.  Instead I am planning a "sabbatical" for next summer. Take some longer vacations while the kids are young. I have ideas and options for what to do after next summer, but probably new ones will come up by then too. I don't plan on taking it one day at a time, but maybe season by season. Using sabbatical is helping ease the anxiety for my wife and I that we need to have all 40 years figured out by next spring.

Good luck.

Your observations on making it through a military career are really accurate.  Goals and desires always take a back seat to "needs of the military."  I've watched young Lieutenants break down because instead of being allowed to function in the job that they really wanted to do they got picked up to do exec work for a Colonel, which can be a really brutal job.  It's a job that isn't inherently dangerous, but if you think you're working less than 70-80 hours a week you're in for a surprise.  So the poor person gets an engineering degree and finds themselves in a place where they're surrounded by other like-minded people who just want to build things.....  and off you go to do staff work, super fun.

It certainly requires a certain amount of flexibility to get through it.

Best of luck with your own plans.  One thing I can say that I'm already really thankful for is having the extra time to spend with the kids.

BigMoneyJim

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Re: Coping with surprise financial independence
« Reply #21 on: August 08, 2018, 04:43:22 PM »
Thank you for your service!

I strongly identify with some of the Sudden Onset FI conundrums you seem to be facing. I had been saving and vaguely planning for an age 50-55 retirement, then when I got laid off at 47 I realized I need to start thinking and planning more about the transition. It's been quite an emotional roller coaster, and it's hard to find people to relate to about it because who doesn't wand the problem of "how do I start working less or at all and live my life spending this money I saved?"

Right now I'm back to full-time work because I'm not quite where I want to be, but I'm realizing I don't want to drive into an office and work full time with two weeks/year vacation, either, and I don't have to.

I'm single (and not ex-military, and not with the physical and emotional challenges you have), but I've seen several times in the past where someone who worked suddenly being home all the time creates unanticipated relationship challenges as the dynamics change a lot. I used to work IT in an aircraft maintenance hangar and saw several people come back to Temporary Return to Work ASAP shuffling and stapling papers while still bleeding into bandages because they or their spouse couldn't handle them just being home all day while healing up.

Be aware you have quite a few difficult emotional challenges you might not even be aware of, and don't be afraid to use any resources available to you, be it this forum or VA counseling or whatnot.

As for me, I thought I had to let my nest egg double again, but I found a pension I have in 6.5 years will pay more than I thought, and then I add SS in 13.5 years, and it looks like if I just make enough income to cover expenses or even just supplement smaller withdrawals for a few years I can exit any time I want. And most people won't believe how stressful realizing that is.

Dee18

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Re: Coping with surprise financial independence
« Reply #22 on: August 08, 2018, 06:07:39 PM »
If there is something you want to study at the university, that could add just a bit of structure that you might enjoy. You could try one or two courses and see if you like it.

MrFancypants

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Re: Coping with surprise financial independence
« Reply #23 on: August 08, 2018, 10:58:52 PM »
Thank you for your service!

I strongly identify with some of the Sudden Onset FI conundrums you seem to be facing. I had been saving and vaguely planning for an age 50-55 retirement, then when I got laid off at 47 I realized I need to start thinking and planning more about the transition. It's been quite an emotional roller coaster, and it's hard to find people to relate to about it because who doesn't wand the problem of "how do I start working less or at all and live my life spending this money I saved?"

Right now I'm back to full-time work because I'm not quite where I want to be, but I'm realizing I don't want to drive into an office and work full time with two weeks/year vacation, either, and I don't have to.

I'm single (and not ex-military, and not with the physical and emotional challenges you have), but I've seen several times in the past where someone who worked suddenly being home all the time creates unanticipated relationship challenges as the dynamics change a lot. I used to work IT in an aircraft maintenance hangar and saw several people come back to Temporary Return to Work ASAP shuffling and stapling papers while still bleeding into bandages because they or their spouse couldn't handle them just being home all day while healing up.

Be aware you have quite a few difficult emotional challenges you might not even be aware of, and don't be afraid to use any resources available to you, be it this forum or VA counseling or whatnot.

As for me, I thought I had to let my nest egg double again, but I found a pension I have in 6.5 years will pay more than I thought, and then I add SS in 13.5 years, and it looks like if I just make enough income to cover expenses or even just supplement smaller withdrawals for a few years I can exit any time I want. And most people won't believe how stressful realizing that is.

It really is amazing how difficult it is to find people to relate to.  I think that compared to the average person on this forum I lean strongly towards being frivolous with my money, but relative to virtually everyone else I know I'm an extreme tightwad (a few exceptions, of course).  Not too long ago I worked with someone who made the decision to buy a house so expensive that their military paycheck wasn't enough to cover it, and this person made somewhere in the area of $140,000 a year.  They had to retire and get a job making a certain amount to pay for it.

My wife and I were talking about this at dinner tonight.  I mentioned that I was feeling a bit insecure about the idea of not going back to work because "the thing that one does" when they retire from the military is pick up a contracting job and go right back to work where they were.  My wife's response:  "yeah, I've talked to the spouses of people who do that and they're miserable."

Fortunately though, her and I get along fairly well.  The first few months were rough because I was a depressed wreck and in addition to working through my retirement we had welcomed a new baby into the house.  As difficult as it can be for me at times, the key seems to be to just.....  talk.  Usually if I'm being difficult or not as nice as I would prefer to be there's an explanation.  Often it's a migraine, maybe I'm feeling anxious about something, or I could be in the middle of a panic attack.

Best of luck to you as you approach your moment to transition. 

If there is something you want to study at the university, that could add just a bit of structure that you might enjoy. You could try one or two courses and see if you like it.

At the moment I'm leaning towards this suggestion.  I was going to drop some of the classes I had signed up for and stick with one that's on a subject I'm already very familiar with just to see what I think.

Nords

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Re: Coping with surprise financial independence
« Reply #24 on: August 09, 2018, 05:16:58 AM »
Thanks to the other forum member (you know who you are) for letting me know I needed to check in!

I realize that the idea of having to "cope with" finding yourself in this position seems absurd, but here I am.
Welcome to the forum!  Youíre finding your tribe(s). 

And welcome to the club, too.  Iím a retired U.S. Navy submariner, I retired from active duty in 2002, and we have a few dozen other military vets (U.S. and other countries) here as well.

Yes, youíre working through a 1%-of-the-first-world financial problem, but itís a very good one to work on.  Your other physical & mental feelings and symptoms are all too common as well.  Some of them are unfortunately common with military vets while others are because youíre a human.

But I feel guilty even though my shoulders, hips, ankles, and back are shot.  A day rarely passes without a mild panic attack or crushing migraine.  The last time we went to the movies I had such an extreme physical and mental reaction to loud noises and flashing lights that I couldn't even get up and walk out.  I know this is why I've been awarded disability, because I ran myself into the ground.
Well, yeah, you might have taken on more abuse than your body could handle, but letís not forget that the military dumped that problem on you in the first place.  Youíve not only earned it but youíve paid the price as well.  Thatís reflected in a lifetime annuity of financial compensation.

Some of your condition has been exacerbated by your MOS, of course, but some of it could be genetics or aging.  Itís also possible that there could be new symptoms of a new problem which has nothing to do with military service, but youíll keep an eye out for that.  Whether youíre doing physical therapy or exercising, you might be overtraining. 

The key is figuring out the differences so that youíre not suffering from Tough Guy Syndrome or dismissive of something new thatís developing into a new problem.  Letís not get into how Iíve learned this.

For example, crushing migraines are not simply ďOh, youíre under stress, suck it up and take the rest of the day off.Ē  It could be medical symptoms or it could be caused by your environment (mold, allergic reactions).  For more discussion of this I recommend OneSickVet.com.  It could help to reframe your migraine symptoms as ďOuch, letís figure out whatís causing this and what makes the symptoms feel betterĒ, perhaps with a MRI or a CAT scan.  If you think itís stress but itís actually exacerbated by a thin-walled blood vessel in your cerebral cortex then youíd want to know that.

Even today, 16+ years into retirement, I react badly to loud noises and flashing lights.  It has nothing to do with submarine service (although that didnít help) and much to do with overstimulation, tinnitus, hearing loss, and being an introvert.  Now I know enough about myself to avoid fireworks (except from a distance) and Iím done going to college/professional football games.  I can watch a movie trailer for the next Marvel or DC epic (with earplugs if Iím in a movie theater).  Yet when a military conference seminar ambushed me with a trailer for ďThe Long Road HomeĒ documentary, I had to walk out.  In the hallway I met a similar group of vets all (individually) fleeing the scene.  It included one extraordinarily tough & capable military family counselor who was crying their eyes out.

So with that out there, how do you mentally and emotionally transition into an earlier than expected retirement?  If you've left behind a high stress occupation, do you focus exclusively on minimizing stress and only participate in what you feel like doing every morning when you wake up?  How do you know when you're ready to work towards developing sources of income out of hobbies and interests?  What if you never care to develop any extra sources of income and choose to focus on being present for your family?
You continue the process which youíre going through now.  You work on your health and physical condition (as best you can).  You take long walks (as best you can) without turning them into a Spartan GoRuck marathon.  (The point is simply to flex, to have your blood pump out the bodyís toxins, and to help you sleep better.)  You find people who share your background & experience, whether thatís in cognitive-based therapy or a Wounded Warrior Project event or simply volunteering for a veteranís group.  Or, you know, Internet forums.

You do what you feel like, but people outside of the military call that ďsetting prioritiesĒ.  Youíre going to guard your time for the things which are important for you and youíre going to eliminate the time-wasters.  Youíre going to leave about 50% of your time unscheduled simply because youíre a parent and a grownup who needs to have the flexibility and who finally has enough money to afford it. 

You work on income from hobbies & interests as a means of expressing your priorities and the use of your time.  You donít necessarily need the money, but you could buy a boat (or a private jet).  You could do it just because thatís how you value your time while youíre giving all of that revenue to military-friendly charities.  Or so Iíve heard.

Itís perfectly fine to declare that you have ďenoughĒ and never work for money ever again.  Unless you want to, in which case itís your time & effort and youíre your own worst boss.

I had signed up for university this fall for the GI Bill stipend to supplement my pension, but that's no longer an actual need.  All I really want to do now is watch my children grow and upgrade things around the house and... .
Iíd suggest taking one class now and seeing whether itís worth your time. 

Iíve had years of instructor duty, and itís made me the worldís worst student.  Youíll also need to find an audience that is not filled with people who are... not you.  If your professor is a poor instructor or even anti-military (because you defended their First Amendment right to be that way) then you might not be in the right classroom.  If youíre taking a class with a bunch of teens and 20-somethings then you might not feel much affinity.  But if youíre in a class with a bunch of older adults, or even co-teaching one, then you might enjoy it.

Many vets initially feel these issues with going back to school, and they eventually find the right combination of people and classes.

... hang out in the garage and take my car apart and swear at it a lot when I try to put it back together again.
It took me over a decade to appreciate that I was being frugal by habit and not by analysis.  Now that you have the time to do this to your car, it might also be time for you to spend a thousand bucks (or more) for the best tools to assist with illuminating, lifting, positioning, and aligning.  There might not be any more reasons to use your 1990s gear just because thatís what youíve done for the last 25 years.

In my case itís spending real money for real longboards (even if I have to pay retail because itís not on Craigslist) and buying high-quality computers and mobile devices (because I spend a lot of time using them). 

I apologize for the long winded post.  I guess I never imagined I'd be where I am right now and typing this up has been good therapy all by itself.
Ah, I recognize these symptoms.  As someone once said to me over a decade ago, ďYou might have a book in you.Ē


Nords

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Re: Coping with surprise financial independence
« Reply #25 on: August 09, 2018, 05:27:01 AM »
Best of luck with your own plans.  One thing I can say that I'm already really thankful for is having the extra time to spend with the kids.
When I retired our daughter was nine years old, or as I think of it ďjust entering the danger zoneĒ.  Today I tremendously value being around when she was growing up.  Some days it was baking cookies in the kitchen when she came home from school, but mostly it was just having the time (and the mental bandwidth) to be there for her and to work through the teachable moments.

Iím pretty sure she didnít appreciate it one bit during that decade.  Now that sheís in her 20s (launched, achieved career orbit parameters, married, thinking about starting their own family), sheís very glad to have had my presence in her life. 

She and her spouse are also on track for financial independence in their 40s or even their late 30s, but again itís because she keenly appreciates watching me cruise by her (standing at the school bus stop) with my longboard strapped to my roof rack.  Be the best parent and role model for your kids that you can be, because theyíre watching you and internalizing everything they see.

former player

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Re: Coping with surprise financial independence
« Reply #26 on: August 09, 2018, 05:34:14 AM »
I had a surprise FI aged 50 with an unexpectedly generous voluntary redundancy package from a somewhat stressful job (although nothing like yours, obviously). 

The one thing I would do differently is to not immediately plunge into a big project.  I had three months' notice of my impending retirement, and used it and the first four months of retirement to do a top to toe refurbishment of my house so that I could let it out and move to my retirement location.  While the financial results have been spectacular, I regret that the timing of this big project obscured the change from working to not working.  I would have done better to put it off for six months and have taken three months after finishing work to just revel in the change to my new life.

The thing I would do exactly the same is that nine months after retiring (six months after finishing the house project and moving to where I am now) I adopted a rescue dog.  He is an utter sweetheart who had a very bad time before I got him.   Rehabilitating him and developing a relationship together was a perfect retirement project, and I am rewarded with his companionship to this day.   The daily routine and twice a day walks in the countryside that also result are a bonus in regulating a life that is otherwise without daily responsibilities.

JanetJackson

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Re: Coping with surprise financial independence
« Reply #27 on: August 09, 2018, 06:12:46 AM »
I actually worked one day a week for about six months at a float spa so that I could float for free. 
We saw a lot of veterans and offered a specific discount for them.  A lot of them really enjoyed it, some tried it and never came back. I'd say 80% continued coming.

I only worked there for 6 months because I, personally,  did not care for it.  It just enclosed me in with my anxiety, and if I wore a swim cap I didn't get the experience of sensory deprivation, but if I let my hair be free in the salt water it would get really dry and damaged after just one or two floats.  Like snap off level of damaged.  :::Shrug:::

Might be something to look into OP!


I have no personal experience with sensory deprivation therapy (yet) on account of the cost but I'm guessing you could afford a few sessions given your situation.

Seems to me this would be good for both the mental and physical ailments you describe.

https://www.military1.com/ptsd/article/1641000014-float-therapy-a-new-method-in-ptsd-treatment/

YHD

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Re: Coping with surprise financial independence
« Reply #28 on: August 09, 2018, 09:15:15 AM »
@Nords, I "met" you in the early retirement forum just a year or two after you retired.  Remember you talking about your daughter and now she's all grown up.  Time flies.  Being around for it is the sweetest.

Nords

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Re: Coping with surprise financial independence
« Reply #29 on: August 09, 2018, 11:46:44 AM »
@Nords, I "met" you in the early retirement forum just a year or two after you retired.  Remember you talking about your daughter and now she's all grown up.  Time flies.  Being around for it is the sweetest.
Itís a victory lap now!

My spouse and I are visiting our daughter and her spouse in Norfolk this month.  Theyíve both been commissioned for four years and promoted to O-3.  Sheís just put in her resignation from active duty to affiliate with a Reserve unit next June.

MaybeBabyMustache

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Re: Coping with surprise financial independence
« Reply #30 on: August 09, 2018, 03:20:33 PM »
A lot of amazing advice already given, particularly by those more knowledgeable about what you might be going through. But, just wanted to add a few thoughts.

-Leave the guilt. You deserve this. A tremendous thank you to you & your family for your service.
-Take the time & emotional space you need to decompress & figure out what's next. You don't need to do that right now. You have time to work through pieces of this at a time. No need to have a ten year roadmap ironed out in the next week.
-I personally find that meditation helps me create some of that space that I need to process thoughts & make good decisions. Obviously, YMMV

Wishing you lots of luck on your next "adventure"

MrFancypants

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Re: Coping with surprise financial independence
« Reply #31 on: August 09, 2018, 11:39:33 PM »
First, thank you for the time and thoughtfulness you put into your post.  If it seems like I take a while to respond it's because I'm reading everything and taking the time to let it marinate for a bit.

And welcome to the club, too.  Iím a retired U.S. Navy submariner, I retired from active duty in 2002, and we have a few dozen other military vets (U.S. and other countries) here as well.

Yes, youíre working through a 1%-of-the-first-world financial problem, but itís a very good one to work on.  Your other physical & mental feelings and symptoms are all too common as well.  Some of them are unfortunately common with military vets while others are because youíre a human.

At my last assignment I worked with a retired Senior Chief that had been a submariner.  He was easily one of the most interesting and fun people to chat with. 

Well, yeah, you might have taken on more abuse than your body could handle, but letís not forget that the military dumped that problem on you in the first place.  Youíve not only earned it but youíve paid the price as well.  Thatís reflected in a lifetime annuity of financial compensation.

Some of your condition has been exacerbated by your MOS, of course, but some of it could be genetics or aging.  Itís also possible that there could be new symptoms of a new problem which has nothing to do with military service, but youíll keep an eye out for that.  Whether youíre doing physical therapy or exercising, you might be overtraining. 

The key is figuring out the differences so that youíre not suffering from Tough Guy Syndrome or dismissive of something new thatís developing into a new problem.  Letís not get into how Iíve learned this.

For example, crushing migraines are not simply ďOh, youíre under stress, suck it up and take the rest of the day off.Ē  It could be medical symptoms or it could be caused by your environment (mold, allergic reactions).  For more discussion of this I recommend OneSickVet.com.  It could help to reframe your migraine symptoms as ďOuch, letís figure out whatís causing this and what makes the symptoms feel betterĒ, perhaps with a MRI or a CAT scan.  If you think itís stress but itís actually exacerbated by a thin-walled blood vessel in your cerebral cortex then youíd want to know that.

Even today, 16+ years into retirement, I react badly to loud noises and flashing lights.  It has nothing to do with submarine service (although that didnít help) and much to do with overstimulation, tinnitus, hearing loss, and being an introvert.  Now I know enough about myself to avoid fireworks (except from a distance) and Iím done going to college/professional football games.  I can watch a movie trailer for the next Marvel or DC epic (with earplugs if Iím in a movie theater).  Yet when a military conference seminar ambushed me with a trailer for ďThe Long Road HomeĒ documentary, I had to walk out.  In the hallway I met a similar group of vets all (individually) fleeing the scene.  It included one extraordinarily tough & capable military family counselor who was crying their eyes out.

This is all indisputably true.  The migraines, in particular, have been going on for quite a while now, and the thing that pushed me to get check out happened to be when a high school friend said his first symptom for the tumor that ultimately killed him was frequent headaches.  With that I was given a CT scan and fortunately nothing out of the ordinary stood out.  Thankfully Imitrex is typically effective, but when it's not a run to the ER for a Toradol injection stops it quick.

You continue the process which youíre going through now.  You work on your health and physical condition (as best you can).  You take long walks (as best you can) without turning them into a Spartan GoRuck marathon.  (The point is simply to flex, to have your blood pump out the bodyís toxins, and to help you sleep better.)  You find people who share your background & experience, whether thatís in cognitive-based therapy or a Wounded Warrior Project event or simply volunteering for a veteranís group.  Or, you know, Internet forums.

You do what you feel like, but people outside of the military call that ďsetting prioritiesĒ.  Youíre going to guard your time for the things which are important for you and youíre going to eliminate the time-wasters.  Youíre going to leave about 50% of your time unscheduled simply because youíre a parent and a grownup who needs to have the flexibility and who finally has enough money to afford it. 

You work on income from hobbies & interests as a means of expressing your priorities and the use of your time.  You donít necessarily need the money, but you could buy a boat (or a private jet).  You could do it just because thatís how you value your time while youíre giving all of that revenue to military-friendly charities.  Or so Iíve heard.

Itís perfectly fine to declare that you have ďenoughĒ and never work for money ever again.  Unless you want to, in which case itís your time & effort and youíre your own worst boss.

Setting priorities...  lol, I like it.  "Priority" is such a loaded word for me anymore because I'm so accustomed to having to break out the magic decoder ring to figure out precisely which one of the boss's #1 priorities is the most important #1 priority, and which ones can slip if necessary. 

But I get what you're saying, and I feel a bit embarrassed to admit that I probably needed to hear it.

Iíd suggest taking one class now and seeing whether itís worth your time. 

Iíve had years of instructor duty, and itís made me the worldís worst student.  Youíll also need to find an audience that is not filled with people who are... not you.  If your professor is a poor instructor or even anti-military (because you defended their First Amendment right to be that way) then you might not be in the right classroom.  If youíre taking a class with a bunch of teens and 20-somethings then you might not feel much affinity.  But if youíre in a class with a bunch of older adults, or even co-teaching one, then you might enjoy it.

Many vets initially feel these issues with going back to school, and they eventually find the right combination of people and classes.

Unfortunately the university decision got made for me in a somewhat unrelated way.  I learned that my father has lymphoma, and while all indicators are currently as positive as they can be, I've decided that I value the freedom to travel on a whim over tying myself to a class schedule.

I also did a few years as an instructor, and I'm guessing that as an introvert, you found it as exhausting as I did.  I'm sure the phrases "stump the chump" and "verbal distractor" have some meaning to you.  I tend to sit and count all the "uhs", "ums", "and like", "you know..." (no, I don't, that's why I'm here), etc.  But otherwise if I see someone visibly struggling I remember what it's like to be thrown in front of a bunch of people armed with painfully weak course-ware developed by someone who was unqualified on the subject and be forced to tap-dance for hours and try to be the friendly student in the crowd.

I'm also questioning the degree plan I had initially set out to work through, which was in the area of my occupational specialty.  At this point I can't say that I have a passion for that.  If I were to redevelop a passion for it I'm fairly sure that increasing my education level isn't going to be what gets me there.

Instead I think I'll just hold onto that for a while so I can decide what's important.

It took me over a decade to appreciate that I was being frugal by habit and not by analysis.  Now that you have the time to do this to your car, it might also be time for you to spend a thousand bucks (or more) for the best tools to assist with illuminating, lifting, positioning, and aligning.  There might not be any more reasons to use your 1990s gear just because thatís what youíve done for the last 25 years.

In my case itís spending real money for real longboards (even if I have to pay retail because itís not on Craigslist) and buying high-quality computers and mobile devices (because I spend a lot of time using them). 

I seem to be transitioning towards this a little easier, but it is a surprisingly big shift to move from trying to save every last penny to feeling free to spend a few hundred bucks on a nice impact gun so I can retire ol' Bertha (the four foot long pipe I use as a cheater bar to supplement my Harbor Freight breaker bar).

My love for playing with cars hasn't really dimmed as I've aged, and being frugal has only served to show me the way to enjoy the hobby with a surprisingly small amount of money.  With a few thousand dollars and a 20 year old Craigslist Miata I can keep myself entertained for years.

Ah, I recognize these symptoms.  As someone once said to me over a decade ago, ďYou might have a book in you.Ē

Yeah I've considered it, but I've thought that maybe I'd start a blog and use it as exercise to develop myself a bit.

Thanks again for sharing so much wisdom, and big congratulations to your daughter and son-in-law.  Same to all who've offered me a few words here, it's been more helpful than I imagined it could be.

Nords

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Re: Coping with surprise financial independence
« Reply #32 on: August 10, 2018, 03:54:30 AM »
First, thank you for the time and thoughtfulness you put into your post.  If it seems like I take a while to respond it's because I'm reading everything and taking the time to let it marinate for a bit.

Yeah I've considered it, but I've thought that maybe I'd start a blog and use it as exercise to develop myself a bit.

Thanks again for sharing so much wisdom, and big congratulations to your daughter and son-in-law.

  Same to all who've offered me a few words here, it's been more helpful than I imagined it could be.
Youíre welcome!  This question comes up a lot, and this is how I practice answering it.  Including dinner-table discussions with our daughter, whoís suddenly learning to relax and enjoy the last few months of active duty without worrying about promotions or other work stressors.

It looks like youíre going to figure all of this out just fine, but please let me know if you have questions. 

Otherwise an impact gun is about the same expense as ibuprofen & physical therapy...

PDXTabs

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Re: Coping with surprise financial independence
« Reply #33 on: August 11, 2018, 04:40:39 PM »
All I really want to do now is watch my children grow and upgrade things around the house and hang out in the garage and take my car apart and swear at it a lot when I try to put it back together again.

But I feel guilty even though my shoulders, hips, ankles, and back are shot.  A day rarely passes without a mild panic attack or crushing migraine.  The last time we went to the movies I had such an extreme physical and mental reaction to loud noises and flashing lights that I couldn't even get up and walk out.  I know this is why I've been awarded disability, because I ran myself into the ground.

Do whatever you want, for as long as you want, as long as it doesn't make your mental or physical health worse. Do spend money on your physical and mental health, do not feel guilty seeking medical care, even if you have to pay for it out of pocket.

EDITed to add : I'm a US taxpayer and I'm going to be happy as long as you aren't hurting yourself or others, but what does it matter what I think? You earned your pension, and the opinions of others can't take it away from you.
« Last Edit: August 11, 2018, 04:43:47 PM by PDXTabs »

MrFancypants

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Re: Coping with surprise financial independence
« Reply #34 on: August 11, 2018, 09:38:36 PM »
EDITed to add : I'm a US taxpayer and I'm going to be happy as long as you aren't hurting yourself or others, but what does it matter what I think? You earned your pension, and the opinions of others can't take it away from you.

This is a very fair and reasonable request.  lol 

When I find the point where I know what it's like to not feel pressure or stress over a period of time I do intend to find some way(s) to serve in a purely positive way.  Maybe that means volunteer work at an established charitable organization, or maybe I try to start my own thing.

Laura33

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Re: Coping with surprise financial independence
« Reply #35 on: August 13, 2018, 11:32:31 AM »
First, thank you for what you have given.

Second, you have received better advice than I could give.  But one thing that struck me:  have you considered that your need to find/do the next "purpose" is itself a learned behavior?  You have spent decades in a very high-pressure environment, in which your job was to always be busy, always be achieving an objective, always be accomplishing some mission (I'm sure more in theory than practice sometimes, but you get the drift) -- and with someone else telling you what that mission/objective/goal was.  So your service has trained you to be working on a goal at all times, while at the same time depriving you of the opportunity to learn how to identify and develop a goal for yourself.  Which means that you feel incredibly guilty and useless because you're not doing something, but you don't even know how to figure out what "something" you should be doing.

So my advice would be to set your next "goal" as unlearning those lessons.  The reality is that there are billions of people in this world who can happily spend the day just chasing a kid or staring at the clouds -- and those people are not "bad" or "lazy" or lesser human beings for it.  They just have a different view of what is important in life.  Work with your therapist on addressing that little voice in your head telling you that you "should" be working harder, that you "should" have an objective and a plan, and that you are a bad person for failing to do so.* 

And then your goal after that is figuring out what you want your next goal to be.  The reality is that 99% of people do not intuit precisely the path/goals/priorities that bring them long-term satisfaction; hell, I'm 52, and I'm still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up.  So give yourself the privilege of unpressured time to try a number of different things -- be the primary parent; learn how to cook gourmet meals (or the best street food ever); take a pottery class only because you've never taken a pottery class and it sounds cool; join a Crossfit gym; take up mountain climbing; volunteer at your kids' schools or veterans' support group or animal shelter; take some business classes and think about an MBA; think about the best parts of your old job and talk to friends who consult to see if there is something that could focus on that and minimize the intolerable bullshit; go to your local community college and take some classes that will help you better take care of your dad (very sorry to hear that, btw); etc. etc. etc. etc.  See what brings you satisfaction -- not momentary happiness, but something that makes you feel good that you focused your time and effort and talent on it.  Who knows, you might end up consulting like everyone else -- or you might end up hiking the Appalachian Trail, or staying home with your kids and being Room Dad (I am totally envisioning Dwayne Johnson in Journey to the Mysterious Island here, btw).  If you give yourself time and space -- not to ass-sit with the clicker, but to try different things -- you will eventually find the thing(s) that give(s) you a real purpose.

Finally, my one caveat:  give yourself a minimum period of time for this exploration (like at least a year), but don't expect the answer to magically appear at the end of that period.  I remember when my stepdad died, my mom seemed to cope pretty well for the first year, and then had a major breakdown a year later.  Why?  Because everyone had told her that it takes a year to adjust, and so she had spent the first year white-knuckling her way through it, telling herself that she just had X more months to go and everything would be better -- so when she hit that year mark, and it wasn't magically better, she completely lost it.  And that, btw, was when she really started to heal and move on.  Don't hold yourself to arbitrary deadlines; give yourself the time and space to move at your own pace.

And good luck!  You deserve this.

*Ask me how I know.  Not military, but raised high-achievement.  Making for some interesting conversations with my shrink (usually revolving around my self-perception as "lazy," despite all objective evidence to the contrary).

MishMash

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Re: Coping with surprise financial independence
« Reply #36 on: August 13, 2018, 04:01:21 PM »
DH is SOF, which means so are all our friends lol.   You are NOT alone with the anxiety, noise triggers etc.  Hell, we literally had to drag a friend out of restaurant two weeks ago because they transitioned to evening atmosphere, which meant loud pulsating music and dim lighting.  He FREAKED and three of us literally had to restrain him and remove him.  That dudes still AD.  DH and most of the guys, are on anti depressants and anti anxiety meds and they don't always work.  Top that with all the back injuries from jumping and high TBI rates and frankly I'm amazed half these guys are still standing, never mind still working. 

It's taboo to talk about the mental health aspects of the military, the only reason we found out about our friends is DH is very open about his struggles with everyone.  Once people found out he had issues they opened up largely because at work he is like the most put together, totally with it, super nice, get anything done and help you with anything kind of guy.  Even the unit shrink was shocked when he asked to be put on meds.  What they couldn't see was him falling apart at home, sleeping 16 hours a day on the weekends, not wanting to move, the nightmares, the sleep issues, the never ending searing anger at the slightest thing like someone cutting him off on the road, the time he punched me in his sleep (that was the go on meds trigger).

Go see a therapist, if you aren't on meds, you may need to be, it's not the end of the world and you sure as hell are nowhere near alone in that aspect, I assure you.  Take the time, decompress, you are probably wound up like a damn top (ask your wife) pick up some peaceful hobbies, hunting seems to be the big one in his group.  You can sign up with Freedom Hunters for free and they may ask you on a trip.  If you were in SOF there is also the Special Operations Wounded Warrior project that does a lot of good for the guys in DHs unit. 

Having dealt with many a suicidal friend, including one last week that I think we FINALLY convinced to get help, think about volunteering with some of the veterans groups and do some good with your new found financial freedom.

BicycleB

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Re: Coping with surprise financial independence
« Reply #37 on: August 13, 2018, 04:41:23 PM »
@Mr. Fancypants, I am so glad you came to this forum.

Just a citizen here, but I kind of doubt they give out 85% unless you're pretty banged up. Please consider that whatever amount of healing you're capable of is a reasonable "job" to undertake. As a very amateur athlete, now 50something, I have been amazed to find how high a percentage of "age related" aches and pains go away if and only if I really get the right therapy, or persist with enough experiments in stretching/whatever that the problem resolves. Not to peddle false hope, but sometimes it is surprising how much is possible. Also - after a couple decades of putting pain aside to function in your task and support your team, it may take time to unlearn the "putting away" part enough to go through the healing process. Give this time. YOU are worth it. You're no longer called to sacrifice your body for us. You're personally called to repair it, at the pace that is best for you. There is no duty to do something else.

Plus, the more you do regain whatever health is possible, the more you are ready to be a good dad when called. I agree with Laura33's wise comments. Children benefit more from parents' availability than anything else. Being a trustworthy available parent is a huge gift for both you and the kids. Do not disrespect it by feeling that you have to do anything else. And realize that being "on call" as a parent is something that kids love, but few parents can do. You can. Maybe that's the real "thank you for your service."
 
« Last Edit: August 13, 2018, 04:44:41 PM by BicycleB »