The only life Crystal Slay, 37, knew was being a soldier and a single mom to her 13-year-old son.

But after 19 years of service, she had to medically retire due to chronic headaches and neck pain.

“For the first time in my life I was unable to do the things I wanted to do and it really affected my quality of life,” she said. “I was depressed and anxious and I just started gaining weight.”

No longer happy with her appearance, Slay avoided seeing her reflection in mirrors.

Even though fitness has been a part of her daily routine since she was 18, Slay was unable to participate in her unit’s morning PT and needed to find another outlet.

“I didn’t want to work out on post because it was a tease to me,” she said. “I didn’t want to be around soldiers because I couldn’t be a solider myself.”

So used to focusing on others, Slay said this is the first time she is taking care of herself and her own needs, an odd concept for her to comprehend.

“I was really frustrated and I used walking and coming to the gym as a way to get rid of my adrenaline and anxiety," she said.

Slay was used to running a Human Resources office with 15 people under her watch.

“I was always on the go, catering to others, and my body finally caught up with me,” she said. “I was bringing work home, only getting four hours of sleep and I just burnt myself out.”

Slay was one person trying to do it all until her body’s “check engine light” came on. She knew she needed to revaluate her own life. Being stubborn, she didn’t want to succumb to the things her command and doctors were telling her, but she knew she had to be healthy physically and mentally during her transition into civilian life.

“It’s been an adjustment, but I’m getting there,” she said. “I realized I couldn’t continue at the pace I was going and that it’s okay to not get everything on my to-do-list done.”

Slowly but surely she realized she could no longer give the Army what it needed, but she began to believe she could excel at other things outside of the military.

“Instead of drinking my sorrows away I get up and come to the gym and work them out,” she said. “No more excuses.”

Her goal is to lose the 15 pounds she has gained and regain her confidence in time for bathing suit season.

“If it wasn’t for the support I got from my command and from my gym, I don’t know where I would be,” she said. “They helped shove me in the right direction, despite my kicking and screaming. I’m excited to see what’s next for me now.”

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