Army Retirement after 22 years
I'm retiring after a 22-year AD/NG mixed career with about 11 active. I enlisted at 18 years old and I'm 40 now on to the second half.
I feel anxiety about it since my identity and the way I look at life and work is heavily influenced by the Army, and it feels like a little death.
On the other hand, I feel like most of the satisfaction is in the people I served with, memories of the way up and the missions completed, not in being where I am now. I also feel like a lot of my success in the private sector comes from ways of doing things I learned in the Army. I'm also fed up with some of the military, and am eager to end involvement in the things I don't like, while feeling the loss of the things I do like.
I've spent years preparing for this and have developed another business to go to after, because I agree you shouldn't just stop at retirement. However, I didn't feel like I could leave financially without something to go to, and it took me 4 years to get ready. Still, it's hard to make a clean break, but you've got to initiate it and not become a victim of retirement.
For someone having a hard time, don't worry about the next step or necessarily having a job the day after you retire. Take some time off and get grounded again, it may take 2-3 months or even longer. I'd recommend traveling somewhere, maybe Europe, away from American military installations, or somewhere else nice.
Then your mind can get clear and you'll have a better idea of the future. Take care of your family and your relationships since they will be there after you get out, and save 6-12 months of expenses before you retire, hopefully more like 12 months.
I see a therapist for relationship counseling, and it took me 12 years to go to my best friend's grave, but I finally did it. Just assume there are some mental places you need help with, and that will help reduce the anxiety and other issues. Try to avoid keeping one foot in the military by moving near a military post.
If you get a federal job, good for you, that might be a great way to continue. I've learned there are great things in the private sector, personal rewards, and plenty of veterans there, too, though they've also mostly moved on, and may be able to help you do the same.
I hope you can develop a second identity and still remain proud of your service. It's helped me. Good luck.