I’m a 65-year-old husband, father, grandfather, fight veteran, and a proud, grateful bipolar survivor, thriver, and warrior.
A professional Airborne-Ranger-Engineer and strategist, I commanded troopers in fight, and served globally after my West Level commencement in 1979, at age 23, till my removing from command of the Nationwide Protection College (NDU) in 2014, at age 58. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Workers, Normal Martin Dempsey, the highest-ranking navy officer within the U.S., rightly gave me the selection to “resign or be fired,” and ordered me to endure a psychiatric examination.
Unbeknownst to everybody, I had a genetic predisposition for bipolar dysfunction. The Veterans Administration and the Military Medical Division imagine that in 2003, at age 47, the extraordinary stress of the Iraq Struggle, the place I commanded a fight engineer brigade of hundreds of troopers, triggered the situation. My medical doctors imagine that my mind responded to the stress of fight by producing and distributing extreme quantities of dopamine and endorphins, sending me right into a euphoric, high-performing mania that made me really feel fearless—like I used to be Superman.
However my journey to full-fledged bipolar dysfunction began a long time earlier with my hyperthymic persona. Hyperthymia is, basically, a close to continuous state of gentle mania that leads to persistently extraordinary ranges of power, drive, positivity, and the like (to not be confused with hypomania, which is episodic signs of gentle mania.)
Hyperthymia boosted and enhanced my efficiency from highschool on, but it surely additionally elevated the probabilities of me going into mania, melancholy, and bipolar (see Dr. Nassir Ghaemi’s A First-Price Insanity to be taught extra about this.) And from 2003 on, my bipolar worsened with my rage over what I noticed as catastrophic coverage selections that sabotaged U.S. success within the Iraq Struggle; the various gut-wrenching soldier funerals I presided over in hometown America; the resistance of Military and Division of Protection bureaucrats to embrace and implement long-overdue transformation to enhance our battle efforts; and the stress brought on by the Military service of my very own two sons, who served on the tip of the spear in fight.
Part 60 of Arlington, for service members killed in motion in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, in addition to extra not too long ago in operations in Niger and Syria.
Supply: Picture from Arlington Nationwide Cemetery / Public Area
My bipolar remained unknown, undetected, and undiagnosed from 2003 to 2014. My manic highs grew increased, and my depressive lows sank decrease till I reached a state of acute mania within the spring of 2014.
As I rocketed into full-blown mania and have become more and more disruptive, erratic, and eccentric, my four-star boss felt compelled to take away me from command, each for my very own good and the great of the group. He additionally directed me to get a psychological well being analysis. He made the fitting determination. Sadly, I used to be misdiagnosed 3 times that month as “match for obligation.”
Over the following 4 months, I spiraled after which crashed, into crippling, hopeless melancholy, which was accompanied by terrifying psychotic delusions. For the following two years, I used to be in a struggle for my life as morbid, vivid imagery of my very own brutal, violent, bloody demise crammed my thoughts. Psychiatrists name these “passive suicidal ideations,” which means I wasn’t actively making an attempt to kill myself or needing demise by my very own hand. However I did imagine that each myself and my household could be higher off if I have been lifeless.
Happily, whereas I used to be imagining my agonizing demise deep within the abyss of bipolar hell, an Military comrade helped me get into the wonderful VA hospital in White River Junction, Vermont. My spouse’s love and perseverance have been essential, and the help of household and pals helped hold my passive suicidal ideations from morphing into energetic ones, which might simply have led to suicide. It was lithium, a pure aspect, and a compassionate, multi-disciplinary crew of VA medical professionals, that led to my temper stabilization in September 2016, and subsequent restoration.
White River Junction, Vermont, VA Medical Heart
Supply: Picture from US Division of Veterans Affairs / Public Area
Since then, I’ve re-built my beforehand bipolar-shattered life upon the biochemical stability created by the mixture of three drugs: Lithium, Lamictal, and Latuda. Crucially, these drugs are crucial however not ample for restoration.
The profitable biochemical stability have to be anchored right into a social basis of Folks, Place, and Function (the “3Ps”), and be infused, energized, and strengthened with a fourth P: Perseverance. (For extra on the “3Ps”, see Dr. Thomas Insel’s e book, Therapeutic. In a future publish, I’ll broaden by myself expertise with the 3Ps)
Since beginning on lithium practically six years in the past, I’ve not had a “dangerous” day. Beneath the continued medical care of the VA, my spouse and I are having fun with an exquisite life in heat, sunny Florida, the place we have now constructed a community of enjoyable, vibrant pals. I attempt to maintain my bipolar dysfunction at bay and pursue my life objective of psychological well being advocacy.
I by no means wished bipolar, but it surely wished me. It practically destroyed all the pieces I worth—my marriage, household, well being, pals, profession, and life itself. In response, I’ve taken my “bipolar reward” and reworked it into my calling and mission: Sharing my bipolar story to assist cease the stigma and save lives.
I converse and write about my experiences, offering hope and information to others. Along with serving to cease the stigma that sadly surrounds psychological sickness, I hope to assist save lives, marriages, households, friendships, and careers.
Over the approaching months, I’ll be writing posts about my life with bipolar dysfunction and my “ceaselessly battle” with psychological sickness. I invite you to affix me on this journey.