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One afternoon in late January, I got a phone call from Robert Alvarez. I've known Robert a long time, having worked with him on a story several years ago about establishing a veterans court in Colorado Springs. He's a champion for service members, a guy who's worked with the Wounded Warrior program at Fort Carson. And when he called, Robert had a disturbing case on his mind.

He blurted out the sad story of Grant McKenzie, and how the way the Air Force dealt with his bipolar disorder has cost him dearly.

Bipolar disorder is more common than you might think. It affects approximately 5.7 million American adults, according to AspenPointe psychologist Robert E. Radujko-Moore.

Including, some speculate, Charlie Sheen. His very public wild rants and substance abuse have prompted a game of diagnosis-from-afar by clinicians, who say the actor's behavior tracks with bipolar disorder.

The spectacle of Sheen, in any event, has thrust the disorder into the spotlight. Symptoms swing between extreme mania to deep depression; from chronic insomnia and obsessive fixations on such things as sex and drugs to despondency and suicidal thoughts.

Grant McKenzie has been visited by both types of demons and now, 18 years after he was first diagnosed, he's trying to reconstruct a normal life. It's been a long road, as you'll see in the story that begins here.

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