I hadn’t looked it up since college. It was 2017 at some point and I was at my uncle’s house in New Hampshire. I typed it into my phone -- Can a person with bipolar disorder join the military?
Sorry, I just typed that question into my computer right now. The answer has changed in the last three months.
Back in 2017 and a few months ago the answer on the internet said that a person with bipolar disorder cannot serve in the military but some do it anyway. This was news to me. ‘Some do it anyway’... I never believed that route in life was an option for me.
I ignored what I read until the summer of 2018. I was stressed out at work… underpaid and tired. I had enough. I wasn’t making it and I was giving it my best shot. I looked up a recruitment office near me. I figured at least this way I would get insurance -- a luxury I could not afford and was not getting through work. Probably not the best reason. West on Addison there was a military office where I could sign up. I drove all the way out there and found the office boarded up. The recruitment place was in a big lot where I drove and parked my car to think about my next move.
I called the Marines, the Army, the Navy, and the National Guard. I was unable to get through to anyone. I was pissed and defeated. I didn’t have any other option but to return to work the next day and keep pushing.
I spent some of this last summer out in Michigan and listened to myself talk. I found myself thinking about service once again. I had more of a commitment to honor and felt it necessary to give service a better shot. I started to research different avenues of service. The Marines and Army stuck out. The Army afforded a chance to learn a discipline and start a career path. The Marines were another obstacle to tackle. First I reached out to the Marines on Facebook. In a discussion board I asked if a person with bipolar disorder can serve as an officer in the Marines and if that person has the option to declare their mental illness openly. I knew I couldn’t serve in the Marines as the maximum age of service was 28 and 35 with a previous service record. But I wanted the answer. I wanted the answer because I wanted to know what to say to the Army recruitment officer when I went to an office on Lawrence?...
The Marines didn’t give me a direct answer. I figured they wouldn’t. They sent me a rejection letter straight to my address -- something I don’t believe I ever gave them. I thought that was badass.
Next stop, the Army Recruitment office. Filled out the one page form and began to answer questions regarding my future endeavor and commitment: Have you ever been hospitalized… I circled yes. I wasn’t going to lie. Figured if I was in a situation with fellow soldiers they should be aware of my condition. I told the recruitment officer when he questioned my hospitalization record that I had been hospitalized six times and was diagnosed with a mental illness more specifically bipolar I disorder. He stopped the conversation in its tracks. He grabbed his mouse and clicked on the DoD instruction 6130.03; I later wrote this information down on a post-it this guy gave me so I could research the document later. This was literally the MEDICAL STANDARDS FOR APPOINTMENT, ENLISTMENT OR INDUCTION, INTO THE MILITARY SERVICES.
Pretty straightforward, in this document regarding bipolar disorder you can’t join. I didn’t know what to say, think, or do. One, I wasn’t going to be in the military. Two, I wasn’t going to be in the military. I say it like that because there are pluses and minuses to both options. I was prepared and ready to sign up. I would’ve right there and then. I had my doubts as to whether or not I would be allowed to. I would’ve signed up.
Another failed attempt into talking my way into the Marines a couple weeks later and yet another identical rejection letter. I didn’t keep the stupid letters…
The presence of any disorder with psychotic features, such as schizophrenia or a delusional disorder, does not allow one to serve. You're also disqualified if you have bipolar disorder or affective psychoses.
This is what appears on the internet now regarding a person’s right to serve with bipolar disorder. I could talk a long time about this decision. It’s the right one.