Bipolar General — My Forever War with Mental Illness
Copyright 2023, Naval Institute Press
Hardcover, 288 pp.
Maj. Gen. Gregg Martin cut a striking figure in the Army: athletic, quick witted, devout, and studious, he was a natural leader. Thanks to his engineering and leadership knowhow, Martin was chosen to lead the thousands of combat engineers who paved the way for 100,000 Army troops to battle their way to Baghdad in 2003. Martin was astonishing to watch as he led this effort, his mind laser focused and body vibrating with energy. He made quick decisions, often anticipating and solving problems before orders came down. Only years later would he learn how the pressure of organizing dozens of simultaneous life-or-death missions each day altered the biochemistry of his brain. Since adolescence he’d had what psychiatrists call a ‘hyperthymic personality’ ― an exceptionally positive, energetic, and can-do disposition. But the Iraq War triggered what military and Veterans Administration psychiatrists ultimately diagnosed as late-onset bipolar disorder, a chemical imbalance that sends sufferers whipsawing between grandiose imaginings and suicidal depressions. His increasing erratic behavior led to his forced resignation as president of the National Defense University and ended his military career.
Bipolar General offers a candid account of Martin’s personal journey with undiagnosed mental illness as he rose through the ranks of the U.S. Army. The author provides a first-hand look at the various treatments available for bipolar disorder ranging from powerful medications to electroconvulsive therapy. He discusses why his condition went undiagnosed for so long and explores what can be done both within and outside the armed forces to diagnose and treat mental illness. Bipolar General should be of value to those with mental illness and to the communities of family, friends, and caregivers surrounding them.