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Living with BiPolar Disorder with Gregg Martin

George Grombacher December 1, 2023

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Living with BiPolar Disorder with Gregg Martin

LifeBlood: We talked about living with bipolar disorder, how it’s a genetic condition and how it presents, the impact it can have, and how to get the help you need, with Retired Major General Gregg Martin, 36 year Army combat veteran and author.       

Listen to learn how bipolar mania manifests itself.

You can learn more about Gregg at, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and LinkedIn.

Get your copy of Bipolar General HERE

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Our Guests

George Grombacher

Gregg Martin

Gregg Martin

Episode Transcript

george grombacher 0:02
Dr. Greg Martin is a retired Major General and 36 year Army combat veteran. His newest book is bipolar general, my Forever War with mental illness. Welcome, Greg.

Gregg Martin 0:14
Thank you, George, great to be with you. And excited

george grombacher 0:17
to have you on, tell us a little about your personal lives more about your work and why you do what you do.

Gregg Martin 0:24
Okay, about my personal life, I live in Cocoa Beach, Florida, it’s totally awesome. I have a network of really terrific friends. It’s bright, sunny, warm, which is really good for my brain and my health. And since I’ve been here, over the last seven years, you know, really, as part of my recovery journey, I’ve developed my life purpose statement, or mission statement, and it is steering my bipolar story, to help stop the stigma, promote recovery, and save lives. So that’s what I do. So I was a career army officer. And that was my full time job. And then I got really sick with bipolar disorder, basically, as a two star general. In 2014, I was fired from my job, forced to retire and then later, hospitalized. And that and I went through really bipolar hell for a couple of years. But once I got the right medication, and the right treatment, and I followed the doctor’s orders on how to be healthy, I began my journey of recovery seven years ago. And that purpose or mission statement really drives me now. So it is my full time job, I am totally passionate about it. I think I’m actually doing the most important work of my life. And that’s done by speaking, conferring and writing. And thanks, thanks for mentioning the book. This is really kind of my seminal work that just came out a little over a month ago, bipolar general my Forever War with mental illness. And it really tells in great detail in depth, my life as really kind of in the early stages of bipolar disorder, being on the spectrum, and then my life as an Army officer what that was like, and then once bipolar disorder came on with a vengeance, and then later erupted into a raging bonfire and took me down. So and then lots of lessons learned on how to live a healthy, happy, purposeful life.

george grombacher 2:29
Are you born with bipolar disorder?

Gregg Martin 2:32
You’re born with a genetic predisposition, or the gene itself. So that comes with your makeup at birth. But you may have the gene but never have an onset of bipolar disorder, that the onset actually depends on external environmental conditions, which then trigger the genetic predisposition, which is what happened with me.

george grombacher 2:59
What was the triggering event,

Gregg Martin 3:01
the Iraq War, in 2003. So I had been I was born with a bipolar brain with the disposition towards bipolar disorder. I lived on the bipolar spectrum, which was a rising continuum of moving up towards real bipolar disorder. And then the trigger for me was in 2003, I was a brigade commander in the army in charge of about 10,000 or more troops. And we invaded from Kuwait into Iraq. Really intense, stressful preparation. And then once we attacked, and we’re in combat, the combination of the thrill, the euphoria, the stress, the pressure, the trauma, all of that together, essentially, changed the wiring in the cells in my brain. And I shot into a state of mania, where I felt like Superman, bulletproof fearless, didn’t need sleep. And I literally was performing at an unbelievably high level of my mind, my body, my skills at focusing and solving, you know, complex, unexpected problems under enemy fire. were amazing. And so that was the start of my bipolar journey.

george grombacher 4:18
And then the other shoe dropped.

Gregg Martin 4:20
Well, I stayed mostly in mania for the better part of a year in Iraq, which was it gave me a great advantage. It boosted my performance, enhance my natural talents. It was really incredible. Just like the lower forms of, you know, the prelude to bipolar did for decades it it helped me incredibly, until it went too high, and then it hurt me. But when we came home from Iraq, we were stationed in Germany went home, and with the thrill of war behind me, I fell into depression, and was in a state of depression for almost a year. And then for the next 12 years, I swung into higher and higher levels of mania, which mostly helped me, and then deeper and deeper bouts of depression, which hurt me. Until by 2014, you know, 11 years after the Iraq war, I went into what they call full blown mania, or to use the kindling fire analogy, my brain burst into a full blown bonfire, and went completely out of control into a state of madness. And I can describe some details of what that was like. But that was pretty much the end of my Army career.

george grombacher 5:34
If I’d love to debt what, what does that mean? What does that translate to?

Gregg Martin 5:41
Okay, what it means is, and I’ll talk specifically about my case, was incredible energy. I mean, so much energy that it’s sort of frightening to people. My speaking pattern, I talked faster and faster with a forced method where I was just pushing words out of my mouth, talking for hours at a time meetings going for hours on end, me forgetting about events on my schedule, forgetting about meetings, a sense of grandiosity where I really, really believed I was the smartest guy in the world, that I held the keys to world peace, that I had this concept that it was given to me from God, that this thing called Global Security University, which I thought only I can set up, and I almost bought more than a million dollars worth of property in Washington, DC, with my own personal funds to housing campus, this particular university, which was only in my mind, but I was trying constantly to recruit recruit people. And to build it. I had a sense of religiosity, which I was I thought I was God’s apostle in the Department of Defense, there to transform and make the department more nimble, more flexible, more cutting edge. I had, I also had psychosis. So I had delusions that people are spying on me out to get me were going to put me in jail, that once in jail, I’d be beaten, savagely stabbed to death, murdered, die gurgling in a pool of my own blood. I had hallucinations that I saw demons flying to attack our house to try to break in through the windows and the doors. And I put Bibles and crosses and sprinkled holy water. And then I saw those same demons fly back, bump into the, you know, the Bible, and these, you know, God forces, they did a quick U turn and flew away, I saw the Holy Spirit descend, you know, numerous times, which was really pretty awesome. And I was doing probably 30 major time consuming religious events per week, across four different churches in Washington, DC. So I mean, just a huge part of my life was spent on religious activities, and that’s called religiosity. The other thing is reckless, I was very reckless, I was making decisions based on my own intuition without consulting people who knew more about the stuff than me. And again, this is sort of reckless, no at all mentality. I went for about three months with virtually no sleep. And at night, I would send out, you know, dozens upon dozens of emails and text messages. And, and I would see see hundreds of people, whether they had anything to do with the mic organization or not, I would see see them, I would go out at night and ride my bicycle at breakneck speed in Washington, DC, and have hallucinations that I would lift up off the ground and fly over the monuments. And I could fly around them and over them. And then I mentioned almost spending a million dollars of money that I didn’t have. But if I actually spent a lot of money on religious pursuits without mentioning it to my wife, Maggie, she would you know, suddenly say, Whoa, you know, did you spend X 1000s of dollars on such and such religious materials and missionary groups and church groups? And like, Yeah, I did. And so just this idea of this compulsive spending on things that really weren’t necessary, I guess, I was very generous. I was like more than tithing. And you know, in church, which, you know, some people would say is really good, but it was pretty much out of control. So those are just a few of the things I would mention to you when I was in full blown mania.

george grombacher 9:41
And when did it stop? The Army stepped in and said, Let’s pump the brakes here, buddy.

Gregg Martin 9:50
Well, exactly. Remember over that 12 year stretch from Iraq until what I just described, my bipolar disorder was unknown unrack recognized, undiagnosed. But I got so bad that people realize there’s something really wrong with this guy seriously wrong. And so what they did people, my students, faculty in the administration, started putting in anonymous complaints to my boss, who was the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the number one military officer in the country, he was my boss. And so the chairman got all these reports. And he had known me for years, because they had been we’ve worked together. And he decided based on investigations and assessments and what he could figure out that I needed to go. And so I got a call on a Friday afternoon report to the chairman Monday morning at 10 in the Pentagon. And so I did, and I was so high on mania, that I didn’t know if I was gonna get promoted or demoted, extended, I had no idea. But I went into his office, and the first person I saw was his lawyer. I said, Whoa, no promotion today. You know, whenever the lawyers in there, that’s not a good sign. And so the Chairman said, Greg, I love you like a brother, he gave me a big hug. He said, You’ve done an amazing job at National Defense University. But Your time is over. You have until 5pm today to resign, or I’m going to fire you. And I’m giving you an order to get a psychiatric evaluation this week at Walter Reed. So do you think I was probably disappointed, dejected, went into depression at that moment? No, I was so high, I said, Thank you, Chairman, this is great news. Because God put me in this position. Now he’s going to take me out and put me somewhere even better, and I’m going to do bigger, better things in the future. So thank you give him a big hug. And it’s interesting, that was nine years ago. And actually, I think I am doing bigger, more important things now with my bipolar mission than I did in the army. So from there, I got I got a mental health evaluation. And the doctors said, you’re fine fit for duty, nothing wrong. So that report went up to the Pentagon. And they said, Whoa, wait a minute, we know there’s something wrong, do another evaluation. So they did a second one, same thing fit for duty. And then the third one, the same thing fit for duty. So they were wrong, completely wrong three times, which we can talk about. But over the next couple of months, I spiraled and then crashed into terrible depression with psychosis, which is natural with bipolar disorder, what goes up, must come down. And so finally, in November, four months later, I basically kind of crawled back to the doctor and said, Hey, there’s something really wrong with me with depression, psychosis, all I want to do is die. I can’t make a decision, I’m withdrawn, I’m confused. I have no energy, no interest, can’t go to work. And he said, Ah, you have bipolar disorder, type one with psychosis. So we finally got it, right, which was good. And I was thankful for that. Because now we had a label a description, and we could go about getting fixed. But after I got diagnosed, I went from bad to worse. And for the next two years, I was in what I call bipolar hell, absolute misery. The only thing I wanted to do was to die. And I was fortunate that I had no active suicidal ideations. I didn’t, I didn’t want to take my own life. I just wanted to die or have someone else kill me. And that’s a very, very, very dangerous condition called passive suicidal ideations, which is what got me hospitalized at a VA hospital up in New England. And the VA hospital was very good. They did a really good job. And they helped to stabilize me. But they but I didn’t, I didn’t pull out of my depression. I stayed in depression, until my wife called my doctor finally, in the summer of 2016, and said, Hey, doctor, he’s not getting better. Can you try something stronger, and we made the decision to try lithium, which is a natural salt harvested out of the earth is typically very good for bipolar type one condition. And within less than a week of taking lithium. I went back to my old pre bipolar self, the depression lifted, the psychosis went away. I felt good. My energy came back, my interest in in activities came back. And that was almost seven years. Well, a little bit over seven years ago. And since then, I’ve been on a recovery journeys, and I call it a journey of recovery, because you’re never healed of bipolar disorder. It never goes away. You always have it, and you have to manage it, which is what I’m doing now.

george grombacher 14:52
I appreciate that. And I’m so grateful that you’re sharing your story. I been in A 36 year combat veteran and reporting directly to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Is that guy comfortable talking about his feelings and weakness? How’s that shift? Ben?

Gregg Martin 15:14
Are you talking about me?

george grombacher 15:15
Yeah, you’re when you were 20 years ago? Were you a guy that would talk about when you’re weak? Or you’re having problems? Or was that something you bottle up?

Gregg Martin 15:26
I wasn’t wanting to talk about my problems, or my feelings, or my weaknesses, or my emotions. Just, you know, that’s just how it is. I mean, I was kind of like, you know, the All American guy, Army engineer Airborne Ranger, who? And so yeah, not at all. But I would say, you know, one of the blessings of bipolar disorder is it, if you’re thoughtful about it, I think it can really enhance and transform your personality. And I think one of a couple of the things that have happened, I still have this drive and ability to solve problems and build teams and organize things. I still have a lot of creativity in my makeup. But one of the things that has kind of come a new is this total honesty about my feelings, you know, weakness, stuff like that. And it’s all, you know, totally in the book. You know, I mean, I decided, a few years ago, well, several years ago, I decided, I’m going to tell my story, no holds barred, because I feel like I owe it to everybody, the world, people everywhere, you know, the, you know, the millions and hundreds of millions of people with mental illness and mental health conditions, I owe it to them, because I went through a grueling, near nearly totally destructive experience, where I could easily have died, lost my family, my marriage finances, ended up an addict homeless in jail, dead, either killed or, you know, suicide. I said, I’m going to tell it like it is, and no holds barred. And I’ll have a extra heightened platform, because I’m an Army dude. And you know, was in war and lead soldiers in combat and Ranger, and you know, all that, all that good hood stuff. And it’s really been true, because people are like, well, if this guy who was an Army officer and a general, if he is willing to share his story, that I shouldn’t be willing to share mine, and I shouldn’t be bothered with a stigma or being ashamed or embarrassed. So I think it’s actually kind of a strength in they call it in, kind of in the bipolar world, they call it a superpower. So I mentioned my other kind of superpowers. Another one is making friends and building teams. But I think one of my stories now one of my superpowers is telling my story being totally open, transparent, you know, not embarrassed, not stigmatized, not afraid to tell, complete, open open book truth. And so yeah, that’s where I’m at right now. It’s actually pretty cool.

george grombacher 18:13
Well, I’m glad to hear that. I’m extremely grateful for your service. As as as as a combat veteran, and I’m really grateful for your work now and what you’ve just described, because yes, for feeling ashamed, or alone or isolated, whatever those feelings are, and it’s preventing us from getting help that we need or moving in moving in a constructive direction, then yeah, you’re, you’re you’re you’re allowing people to feel more comfortable doing that. So that’s an incredible thing. So thank you for thank you for everything.

Gregg Martin 18:47
My pleasure, George, thanks for having me on. And you have a great show. Thank you.

george grombacher 18:50
I appreciate it. Where can people learn more about you? And where can they get their copy of bipolar Gen my Forever War with mental illness?

Gregg Martin 19:00
Well, the best place to learn about me and my story, and even to order the book off of is my website, which is w w w dot, bipolar And the site once you go to it, the landing page has got three different places that you can order, order the book, it’s got Amazon, it’s got Barnes and Noble, and it’s got the Naval Institute Press all three, the links are good. We’ve had in the past some problems with the Amazon links. And so that’s why I make a point out of the website, we always have the right links. And then the website also has I’ve got about 25 published articles over the last few years and the articles are there. You know, probably close to 100, podcast interviews, and other media type things. It’s all there. And then what else? That’s the main thing, but there’s other other things as well. Other reasons CES. So check it out. And really, I would say the book, everybody who’s read the book has said this book is phenomenal. Riveting couldn’t put it down. They learned so much about all kinds of things, bipolar disorder, mental illness, recovery, you know, life in the army, what what the Iraq war was like, et cetera. And but Amazon, amazingly has already put it down. They flagged it as a number one best seller book. And they’ve said, it’s one of the best books ever written about mental illness and mental health. So check it out. It could save your life or save the life of someone you love.

george grombacher 20:37
Well said, Well, if you enjoyed as much as I did, show, Greg, your appreciation and share today’s show with a friend who also appreciates good ideas, go to bipolar And check out all the great resources that Greg’s been talking about and pick up your copy of bipolar Gen. My Forever War with mental illness. Thanks again, Greg.

Gregg Martin 20:58
You’re welcome. Thanks, George. Great show.

george grombacher 21:00
And until next time, remember, do your part by doing your best

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