My Forever War with Mental Illness
by Maj. Gen. Gregg F. Martin, USA (Ret.)
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Pub Date 15 Sep 2023 | Archive Date 15 Nov 2023
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.
“An intense, compelling, courageous book by a gifted senior combat leader whose life was taken over by severe bipolar disorder—and who ultimately recovered and built a new life with the help of his wife, an Army comrade, the VA, and his faith. I served with Gregg Martin in combat; he is the real deal and so is his book, one that will provide enormous insight and inspiration to families grappling with mental illness.”—David Petraeus, General, US Army (Ret.), former Commander, Coalition Forces in Afghanistan, and former Director of the CIA
“This unflinching, harrowing, and inspirational book is utterly unique. No senior military leader has ever ripped back the curtain and told their personal struggle with mental illness. A distinguished soldier-scholar-leader, courageous combat commander, and devoted family man, Major General Gregg Martin epitomized success—but when he was suddenly removed from command, it shocked everyone, until we learned of his bipolar disorder. I’m enormously proud of how Gregg Martin has handled this stretch of stormy seas, emerging stronger than ever. Bipolar General is an important and magnificent book.”—Adm. James G. Stavridis, USN (Ret.), 16th Supreme Allied Commander at NATO and author of The Leader's Bookshelf
“What General Gregg Martin has done in this book truly is unique. No one of his stature, whether as a military or political leader, has ever written such a thing. He describes how he did well with some aspects of bipolar illness, then how the illness worsened and nearly destroyed him, and finally how he recovered and survived with the right treatment. He was a great crisis leader, a top battlefield general, not just despite bipolar illness, but partly because of it. It is as if General William Sherman suddenly appeared in the modern age and told the world what it was like to be him.”—Nassir Ghaemi MD MPH, Professor of Psychiatry, Tufts University School of Medicine, Lecturer on Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Author of “A First-Rate Madness: uncovering the links between leadership and mental illness.”
“This is an important and compelling story. Gregg Martin’s experience exposes the need to study and better understand mental health issues among senior leaders. The traits that obscure bipolar and other disorders are prevalent in leaders. If those disorders go untreated, they can lead to behavior harmful to those leaders and others. Gregg has taken on his challenge with the same courage he displayed in combat. Readers and those who might encounter similar circumstances are the beneficiaries.”—H.R. McMaster, Lieutenant General, US Army (Ret.), former National Security Advisor, and author of Battlegrounds: The Fight to Defend the Free World
“Major General (retired) Greg Martin’s memoir paints a brutally honest portrait of a high-ranking military officer’s debilitating, but ultimately redemptive, experience with bipolar disorder. For civilians, this memoir provides a fascinating glimpse into the life of an accomplished Army officer. It also underscores the complicated relationship between the military and psychiatric illness. This book will help anyone struggling with bipolar disorder better understand their illness and feel less alone. A person of prodigious knowledge and talents, Martin turns his lived experiences with bipolar disorder into life-lessons for all of us.”—Holly A. Swartz, MD, Professor of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh; Editor-in-Chief, American Journal of Psychotherapy; Treasurer, International Society for Bipolar Disorders
“Extraordinarily courageous candor. An accomplished soldier's revealing account of his personal descent into, and finally out of, mental illness. Major General Gregg Martin's story, from start to finish, is simultaneously terrifying, thoughtfully instructive, and deeply inspirational.”—Gen. Stan McChrystal, U.S. Army (Ret.), former commanding general, International Security Assistance Force, and former commander, U.S. Forces–Afghanistan
“Martin's courageous narrative lifts the veil on mental health in the military through his own catalytic journey through, and recovery from, bipolar disorder. His powerful story offers a pathway of hope for anyone suffering from what is a disease, not a personal failing. His description of how bipolar disease’s extreme highs can mask its debilitating lows is compelling. Our military should closely read this exceptional book and extract ways to better equip leaders to recognize when someone is suffering from a mental health disorder . . . to eliminate the stigma that accompanies it . . . and to improve how our health care system diagnoses and treats it.”—Adm. James A. “Sandy” Winnefeld, U.S. Navy (Ret.), former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
“This is a groundbreaking and courageous book—the first of its kind. A senior military officer reveals his personal battle with bipolar disease in an effort to reduce the stigma that so many in public service still attach to mental illness. Kudos to Gregg Martin, for his willingness to share his journey from a nightmare back to good health.” —Ambassador Wanda Nesbitt, former Senior Vice President of National Defense University
“Nearly 20 years after the military deployments triggered by 9-11, we continue to struggle with understanding one of the signature impacts of combat – bipolar disorder. My friend, Gregg Martin, shares his riveting story in this ground-breaking book, and it will help those who are struggling with mental illness and the families and friends that care for them.”—Joe Votel, General, US Army (Ret.), former Commander, US Central Command, and US Special Operations Command
“For almost a decade now I have been teaching a course titled, Authentic Leader Development. Throughout the semester, I challenge students to consider the “counterintuitive role that vulnerability plays in leading,” how “putting oneself fully out there with no guarantees” is the ultimate act of leading. General Martin the combat leader was a national treasure before he wrote this book. Gregg Martin the author is an inspirational role model for anyone interested in experiencing the powerful impact that raw vulnerability (courage) looks like in action.”—Scott A. Snook, MBA Class of 1958 Senior Lecturer of Business Administration, Harvard Business School
“Exemplary human, or mentally ill? There's no clear line between the two, as this entertaining memoir will show you. Mental illness in the U.S. military? You bet. General Martin led battalions into war; and now he leads again, demonstrating that bipolar disorder can enable spectacular performance, even for years—and that after crashes into severe depression, full recovery and a rich life is possible.”—Jim Phelps, MD, author, A Spectrum Approach to Mood Disorders
“When one envisions a 2-Star US Army General, the word ‘bravery’ comes immediately to mind. Major General Gregg Martin demonstrates the utmost epitome of bravery by sharing this deeply powerful and personal account of his heartbreaking struggle with the invisible wounds of severe bipolar disorder. His courageous story sheds light on a difficult and pervasive mental health crisis afflicting the military community, and my sincere hope is that it will inspire so many others like Gregg who suffer similarly to bravely seek out the help they need.”—Lt. Gen. Patricia D. Horoho, U.S. Army (Ret.); CEO, Optum Serve, 43rd U.S. Army Surgeon General
"This book offers a rare behind-the-curtain glimpse of a highly decorated warrior who was the epitome of success in the most trusted of U.S. institutions—until he wasn’t. General Martin provides a compelling account of the roller coaster ride of bipolar disorder; how it can prove an advantage in the chaos of combat, and more importantly, how it can become disastrous in the aftermath. This is a brutally honest account that is a “must read” for all leaders and mangers, regardless of vocation, for it provides insight into the still unconquered world of the human mind.”—Vice Adm. William “Dean” Lee, U.S. Coast Guard (Ret.), Former Commander, U.S. Coast Guard Atlantic Area
“In 2012, we were partnered to enhance enlisted joint education. MajGen Martin's energy, enthusiasm and drive were phenomenal - at times in overdrive. Unaware, it was full-blown mania, on the perilous high side of bipolar disorder. A dynamic combat leader, he educates us on the causes, symptoms, mitigation techniques and recovery strategies from this destructive disease. His book is compelling and delivers blow by harrowing blow – a must read!”—Sgt. Maj. Bryan Battaglia, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret.), former 2nd Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
“A gripping account of his own “invisible wounds of war.” Must be read by everyone who either has a brain disorder or injury, or is affected by someone who does, which equals virtually the entire population. An authentic, honest, first-hand look at the life of a highly successful general whose life was devastated by bipolar disorder that was triggered in combat. He then climbed back up, out of the pit, with the love and perseverance of his wife, family, friends, and the VA. He and Maggie have rebuilt their life and are healthy and happy. This story is about faith, hope, love, perseverance and inspiration. Read it!”—Michael Linnington, Lieutenant General, US Army (Ret.), CEO, Wounded Warrior Project
“Major General Gregg Martin’s story needs to be shared with the world. His brilliant military career and battlefield accomplishments achieved as a two-star general are awe-inspiring, but his experience battling bipolar disorder defines him as a true hero. His bravery and selfless nature are evidenced by his mission to spread the word and increase awareness of mental health conditions. General Martin beat the odds, fighting through the darkest battles with an often fatal disease. His survival is miraculous, and I hope his story will help demystify and destigmatize bipolar disorder. It is an honor to know General Martin personally and to have had the chance to hear his story firsthand. I do not doubt that readers will walk away from this book with the same sense of awe and gratitude for a true American Hero that I have for the General. He saved countless lives on the front lines while serving our country, and the story of his fight against bipolar disorder will save countless more by increasing awareness of an often un or misdiagnosed disease. It is a story of grace, grit, and genius.”—Lauren Loftis, MD; Medical Director, VITAS Healthcare; President, Brevard County Medical Society
“I respect, admire, and thank Gregg Martin for writing this important, powerful book. His authentic, candid, truth-telling will make a difference in our understanding, treatment, and support of people—military and civilian, young and old—who are afflicted with mental and brain health challenges, be it bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, or otherwise. This book must be required reading at all military schools, for all ranks, from cadets to generals. Leaders in business, government, academia, non-profits, and entertainment would also do well to study this book and learn its lessons. It is time to bring mental health and its impact on senior leaders out of the shadows and into the light. This book is a timely and significant contribution to that worthy endeavor.”—Leonard Wong, PhD, PE; Research Professor (Ret.), Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College
“Moral courage of the highest order!!! This is a groundbreaking book that will enlighten and inspire those that suffer from mental injury. A must read for caretakers, medical professionals, and those that suffer from bipolar disorder, PTS, and TBI.” —Donald C. Bolduc, Brigadier General, US Army (Ret.), former Commander, Special Operations Command Africa
“I was Gregg Martin’s 3-star commander in combat in Iraq. He was an outstanding battlefield commander—highly skilled and courageous under fire. His soldiers loved him. I was shocked to learn he has bipolar disorder. This proves that anyone can be overcome with severe mental illness. Gregg’s book tells the harrowing story of his bipolar crisis, how he recovered, and his creation of a new life. I strongly recommend this powerful book to anyone afflicted by, affected by, or interested in mental illness. It's a must read.” —William S. Wallace, General, US Army (Ret.), former Commander, US V Corps, Iraq War
“Gregg is my friend. He is a true soldier, scholar, and statesman. Gregg’s powerful story will assist many individuals and families across the globe who struggle with the impact of bipolar disorder in one of their loved ones.” —Thomas P. Bostick, PhD, Lieutenant General, US Army (Ret.), former Chief of Engineers, US Army
“A West Point classmate, a friend and brother in arms, a fellow general officer, I have known Gregg for over forty years and I am most proud of him for writing the excellent first-hand account, Bipolar General. Gregg provides the first story by a senior officer outlining his own struggle with severe bipolar disorder. His brutally honest and open look into the mind of someone who is mentally ill is an absolute must read...it is an invaluable contribution to understanding how bipolar disorder works and morphs inside the brain. Gregg's passion and new mission in life are brilliantly portrayed in this unique book and will help educate, give hope, break the stigma, and ultimately save lives." —John F. Campbell, General, US Army (Retired), former Vice Chief of Staff, and Commander US and NATO Forces, Afghanistan
“Moving! This is an incredible testimony from one of our most prominent and distinguished military leaders. Gregg Martin is brutally honest in analyzing his bipolar disorder and walking us through his excruciating recovery. His story will save lives and help abolish the stigma of mental illness. This will be a timeless and valuable resource, especially for our college age population.” —Robert L. Caslen, Jr., Lieutenant General, US Army (Retired), former Superintendent of West Point, and President, University of South Carolina
“A CALL TO ACTION! Bipolar General is a personal and insightful look at mental illness reflected through the unknowing eyes of a great commander, warrior, and friend. I’ve known Gregg since he commanded the 130th Engineer Brigade, and we fought together in Iraq in 2003 when I was serving as the V Corps Command Sergeant Major. Gregg tells his personal journey of success, triumph, recognition, and unexpected failure stemming from a hidden mental illness. I found this book both educational and enlightening; connecting to a rollercoaster of emotional highs filled with excitement, to someone deeply depressed, psychotic and considering suicide. More than five million people in the U.S. and 700,000 veterans suffer from bipolar disorder; they need our help, and this book is a tool in the toolbox.” —Kenneth O. Preston, Sergeant Major of the Army (Retired)
"A seminal testimony of a general’s challenges in overcoming the deleterious impact of a significant mental health disorder. This book should alert all of us to the challenges presented by bipolar behaviors. It can grow unnoticed, even by medical experts. It is a disease that affects persons regardless of IQ, education, socio-economic status, religion, or sexual preference. The book provides the details that will help readers explore the nature of bi-polar in the most human terms. It is a slow burn over time until it erupts into catastrophic behaviors that not only overwhelm the person but also family members, friends, work team members, and bosses. Gregg’s writing style helps you experience nearly first-hand the impact. I can testify to observing the darkest of depressive states and the swings to “mountain top” experiences of self-perceived mental and physical accomplishments. Gregg’s story lays out the challenges and what it takes to have a continued, successful life." —William Barko, Colonel, US Army Medical Corps (Ret.), former Director, US Army Physical Fitness Research Institute, plus 50 years of mental health experience
Major push to media across all platforms (print, tv, radio, podcasts) about this individual's journey and his mission to recognize and destigmatize mental illness.
Major push to media across all platforms (print, tv, radio, podcasts) about this individual's journey and his mission to recognize and destigmatize mental illness.
Average rating from 2 members
This was a fantastic book. I spent a greater portion of the night reading it. The General's honesty about such a personal topic is refreshing and will no doubt serve as an inspiration to others.to get help and assist those with these issues.
As someone who is also dealing with Bipolar Disorder I found this book to be very uplifting. I have many problems with day to day things but I am still able to fight through it but this shows that I still have the ability to get even better as long as I fight back.