Psychosis, Loss of Citizenship, Physics Career ... Branded for Life?

Hi there,

I’m thinking I don’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell for receiving a clearance on any level, but I just wanted to present things here and get some feedback on what I should expect. Input and insights are greatly appreciated: the feedback I receive now will help me understand what to expect career-wise, and how to plan my life.

I will try keeping this as short as possible and apologize ahead of time for its length.

I am currently double-majoring with BSc’s in both Physics and Quantitative Economics, working in a laser and optics laboratory, co-authoring a paper, presenting at a conference in Washington DC, maintaing a 4.0 GPA and I have been accepted to an astrophysics program ranked #23 world-wide at another school.

As happy as this has made me, I am now starting to realize that there are many jobs for physicists out there that can require a security clearance. With my past being what it is, I now fear that my inability to acquire a clearance could strongly limit me in what my scientific mind can offer to society.

I grew up in an abusive home with an alcoholic father who also had a terrible mental illness. My parents fought, seperated, and my dad did things like lock me and my mom in the basement. I grew up under constant stress and despite my brains, my mental health and well-being were constantly lacking. As a boy, I had to watch my father fall apart and my mother frantically try saving him. When I was 15, I found my dad in our bathroom as he attempted suicide and what I saw there is said (by psychiatrists) to have been responsible for what triggered my own problems; the “straw that broke the camel’s back.” After seeing that, I began withdrawing from friends and family, hearing commands in my mind, and oftentimes losing touch with reality. At 18, I dropped out of highschool with a GED and ran off to Germany where I married a German girl with similar issues. Despite my declining mental health, I worked full-time there, went to school at night, graduated as valedictorian from my school there, and began studying astrophysics in Frankfurt.

At this point, my German wife left me for another man, and I ended up temporarily homeless. I was reluctant to return home, feeling a deep fear of going back to the place of my childhood. My dad had also killed himself by that point. During this time, I began developing psychosis and believing things that didn’t make sense. Having been a straight-A valedictorian, I suddenly found myself unable to accomplish basic tasks, let alone schoolwork in the astrophysics program. I dropped out of school and began working full-time at a mindless job, chain-smoking and living alone in a small room at the edge of the woods in Frankfurt. Here, I began believing that the English language was literally rotting my brain tissue. I also started believing that both the US and Germany were conducting language-based mind-control experiments on me, and that I was under surveilance. In my state of mind, I believed that, in order to avoid deportation back to an English-speaking country, I had to find a way to stay in Germany at all costs. This delusional fear of the English language applied to Canada, the UK and Australia, but I happened to be a US-citizen, so for me in my ill mind at the time, the greatest risk of being exposed to the English language was being able to be sent back to the US.

For that reason, I ended up applying for German citizenship, getting it, and had to renounce my US citizenship in the process. After becoming a German citizen, I then spent about 2 years aimlessly moving around and trying to go to school. After contacting my mother, I underwent hypnotherapy in Germany, was medicated, and was able to come back to the US as an F1-student. I am now working on the physics and quantitative economics degrees here at home, as mentioned. I was also hospitalized in the US back in January 2019, and diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, OCD (likely inherited from father, as he had this) and C-PTSD. This hospitalisation was voluntary and I went as soon as I noticed symptoms starting up that were similar to those I had experienced back in Germany.

I have been on various medications since then, and I am very stable. My psychiatrist and psycho-therapist is starting to believe that I don’t have an inherent psychotic disorder, but that my mind, at various times, has reacted to an overload of stress with psychosis. So, the schizo-diagnosis might be removed, and we are planning on weaning off of the anti-psychotic. I am also working with a DC-lawyer to hopefully have my citizenship restored.

I don’t know, but I can imagine that this is probably a worst-case scenario, or at least one of the worst for the question of clearance-eligibility. I don’t have a strong desire to work in the military sector or on weapon systems anyway, but I have heard of clearances sometimes being necessary for work, simply because excessive caution is a fad at that time. I have heard of people being members of a tight research team, working with others for years on various projects, and then a government project comes in that needs everyone on the team to get a clearance and - boom - you get denied and can’t work with your colleagues. In addition to that disappointment, there also comes an element of shame and embarassment (“Why didn’t he/she get one?!”), and if colleagues know you well, some explanation might be due. At least in my mind, it feels like it would be difficult to be perceived as a rational scientist knowing his stuff, with that kind of known history. Right now, it’s hard for me to not feel branded permanently.

I fully understand that the country must be careful about who is trusted with specific information and that I am (at best) a very difficult case. I don’t feel like I’m “owed” anything, just because I might be smart. I think, more than anything, I’m just afraid I might one day be restricted to sitting in a corner crunching numbers because people are afraid to trust me, when my mind could be doing much more good for society and those in it.

Can anyone here say what I should probably expect in terms of ever needing a clearance? Are there jobs in the government, or in close connection to the government for physicists that are interesting, but don’t require a clearance? Anything that helps me get a better idea of how I should plan my future career path will be of tremendous help. I thank you all so very much for taking the time to read this long post. Wishing you all well.

1 Like

Based on what you wrote, right now, it would be impossible for you to obtain a clearance as you are not a US citizen.

If you were able to regain citizenship it would then become extremely difficult. I’m not a security officer or adjudicator but I would say it would require at a minimum:

5 years of stable mental health history

Signed attestations from your psychiatrist and therapist that your mental health issues will not inhibit your ability to handle classified materials. If they are willing to say that this was a one time incident brought on by an unusual situation unlikely to recur, all the better.

Successfully passing a psychiatric evaluation by a government psychologist or psychiatrist.

Your actual diagnoses are less important than how the symptoms affect or are perceived your handling of classified. For example, would you be more likely to turn over material or be recruited to do so if you believe the US is trying to harm you via mind control?

As far as alternate careers I’m sure there are fields in astrophysics that don’t require a clearance. Either in university settings or commercial (i.e. commercial space flight ). NASA may also have positions only requiring a public trust or no clearance

I have no part in making these decisions at all. I’ve never been an investigator, adjudicator or FSO.

I have to believe that surrendering your citizenship, even if you get it back, is always going to provide legitimate reason to question your loyalty to the U.S. This is a major issue even before we talk about your mental health history.

First, explore another tree; other people in your field. They are best ones perhaps to tell you what places or positions require clearances and at what levels. Check out industry professional groups for some of that inquiry too on confidential level.

As far as who gets clearances and adjudicative guidelines, we BIs aren’t privy to that side of equation. Your case is your case, so will be evaluated individually. From open source google sources I read 85 percent of people in past in general were granted clearances; very broad number! And you can read on this website that it seems finances, foreign influences and loyalty factors are paramount. If and when you are given chance to get clearance know that you can’t hide anything and so just be honest. Life will play out as it always does, sometimes fairly and sometimes not.

Before I put any more effort into this career I would get a mentor who can help you figure out your job options with your background, professional and personal, as I am sure there are many for someone so talented who has overcome such obstacles. I myself am proud of you and wish you all the best.