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Jun 3, 2022

Bipolar Disorder can be devastating if not effectively managed. Michael Wellington is one of the most recognizable individuals promoting effective treatment in this country. Michael came to terms with his acceptance of his disease while trying to reach his dream of earning a spot on the PGA Tour. Now his life is devoted to helping others. His work on Bipolar Disorder can be accessed at 



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[Music] welcome into the site with mike library this is dr michael mahan and i am here
as always with my friend and colleague mr brett newcombe how are you today i'm doing fantastic great
and we also have with us today a very special guest this is actually our 200th
episode and so i'm so excited that for episode 200 we are talking to a guy that
i've actually known for a long time i met you mystery caller when i was working at the
radio station 971 and interviewed you a couple of times there
and have been just such a fan of yours but i am super super excited to
introduce former professional golfer mr mike wellington mike uh how are you doing
gentlemen thank you so much for having me i'm doing great uh looking forward to uh chopping it up with you guys a little
bit here so the reason that a former professional golfer is on psych
with mike is because you have some challenges michael that
you've had deal with over the course of your career and really your entire life so why don't you
just give us a little bit of background about that and then we'll talk more about what you're doing today
of course yeah i was diagnosed in
january of 2001 with bipolar disorder and at that time i didn't really know
much about bipolar disorder at all and i had to kind of learn on the fly so
uh 21 years i guess now it's been that i've been kind of doing my own personal case
study on bipolar disorder and i've learned a lot of things a lot of what not to do's over the years and
certainly learned finally some of the things that you need to do in order to have success against bipolar and
you know i think my my background and competitive sports you know played
you know soccer basketball and golf in high school then played golf in college played golf professionally
um you know caddied at the highest level and um on the tours and
uh things like that i think the mentality that you learn playing sports and competing that's the
ideal mentality that you need to have when you're taking on something like bipolar disorder and a mental illness
that is capable of really doing things to you that um
you know are really you know they're not some of them aren't very fun but at the same time you know
bipolar is certainly manageable but it's taken me a lot of lessons to learn how
to manage it properly so back in 2001 when you were initially diagnosed
how old were you at that time i was 23 23 so were you on the
professional tour then no so at that point i hadn't turned pro when i uh when i first got diagnosed i
was still an amateur and i was getting my plan was uh was to turn pro
you know shortly thereafter but i had kind of my first encounter with bipolar disorder in
january and february of 2001 and
i had to learn or kind of realize okay well this this bipolar thing has set me back a
little bit and i wasn't going to be able to turn pro as quickly as i would have liked i ended up not turning pro until
the fall of 2001. at least i entered the pga tour q school at that point
i guess technically i didn't turn pro until 2003 when i made my first paycheck out in arizona but uh the plan had been
to turn pro you know at the end of 01 or sometime in o2 but i really wasn't able to get there
for a couple years because bipolar it set me back i didn't um i wasn't really
uh taking my medication as consistently as i needed to certainly for the first five years after my diagnosis and um but
yeah at the first part of 2001 i was uh i was definitely struggling with
something that i wasn't even really aware that i had until the diagnosis and then you know
had a manic episode of one up in a hospital in sarasota florida uh so all these kind of things
um were certainly kind of shaking me to let me know hey there's something going on here that's a
lot more important than golf so when that happened when you got diagnosed and
you're 23 years old and i'm assuming that at that point you you didn't even know what bipolar was
did you believe that you were bipolar did did it sink in did it make an impression on you or did you
kind of just out of hand kind of say no that's not me i'm just gonna keep living my life
great question yes i did know that i had it okay now i've done a lot of work in the
mental health community a lot of people will not admit that they have it a lot of people have denial for
having bipolar or many other mental illnesses but my specific situation
uh was that i was in florida my parents noticed that my behavior was becoming odd becoming erratic becoming grandiose
with different thoughts so they brought me to a doctor in south florida excuse me in naples florida and
um when we went into the see the doctor you know the doc gets me in the room one-on-one and he says michael they're
talking your parents and it sounds like based on your behavior that you may have bipolar disorder he put down in front of
me a uh piece of paper a nine and a half by 11 piece of paper and it just it had all
the traits of someone who lives with bipolar and i had every single one on that list
it was like you know go going on odd spending sprees i had been doing that very recently around that time i had
gone into for example i had gone into a sports memorabilia shop and i had
purchased a bunch of framed pictures and you know autographed memorabilia that
you know i was putting it in an apartment that i was only going to be living in for like four months and you know i certainly paid more than
i should have for it and i wasn't sleeping at that time and they had talked about insomnia being a side
effect and my speech was very very accelerated and very jumbled
at times and i knew when i saw this piece of paper that the doctor laid out in front of me that hey i've got this
one i've got this one i've got this one so i guess i was a little bit lucky to understand that i knew i had bipolar i
wasn't i never went into that denial stage but like i said a minute ago my biggest struggle in the first five
years was taking the medication consistently every day i would
i would uh you know at times i wouldn't take the full dosage at times i would just flat out skip it
all basically because i had a bunch of success as a college golfer i was an all-american at spring hill college in
mobile alabama and in my mind i thought well i had all this success on the golf course in college and i didn't take
medication why would i want to take medication now because i thought well it might it might mess up the touch of my short game or it
might mess up my putting or it might maybe i'll hit the ball shorter or maybe i'll react going down
the stretch of a round in a poor way um i just didn't know so i wasn't really
you know committed to taking the meds right away did the medicine make you feel bad at all do you remember any uh
reactions to i don't want to take that because it makes me not hungry or i don't want to take that because it makes
me jittery or no i mean good question i i
i really never felt anything bad for at that time i was
prescribed lithium which i actually still take today i've tested a bunch of different ones
but at that time it was lithium and i you know to be honest i didn't
take it consistently enough to really find out um what the side effects would be
you know like i was just asking because a number of people who who challenge the need to take the medicine will defend that uh challenge
by saying well you know it makes me feel this or makes me jittery or makes me go to the bathroom all the time so i can't
yeah i mean i would i would tell those people to take a three-week experimentation
period with each of those types of drugs you keep trying one until you find one you like and you know you may think the
one you take the first experimental week is bad but then you may take a couple others and they're even worse so maybe the one
you took in the first week is the one you need to use but i think that's really an important point people that
are looking for the right medication you've got to give it at least two and a half to three weeks in my opinion to
find out how you feel if there are side effects because you know everybody's different you never know like
what side effects are going to hit someone's body uh precisely or you know a lot of times
people tell me that because i do a lot of bipolar coaching uh with individuals and a lot of people will tell me well i read
on the internet that this is going to do this to me like well you don't really know that it's going to
do that to you you just know because it's on the internet it's not necessarily consistent to every human being i mean
you know you've got to be willing to try different medications to get to the point where you find the right one well
most people don't come to a bipolar designation first they're often diagnosed with other
labels and medicated for other conditions before they get enough history and
enough data to say what you're really dealing with here is being bipolar especially with depression or with manic
or hypermanic episodes so did you was that it seems that your experience was right
on at the beginning wham just knocked in the face with it yeah i guess i was kind of lucky in that regard because i was diagnosed correctly
right away yeah but and accepted it you could see it yeah i mean i could have accepted it
certainly a little better but i i also uh but i've worked with people
in my coaching my bipolar coaching that had been misdiagnosed as add or
adhd and then once they figured that out then they were able to get on the bipolar
meds which were more helpful for them so yeah it's difficult when you're talking about bipolar and schizophrenia because
those two are only um diagnosable by behavior you know you
can't like it's not like you could have a blood test or find something out that you know do something specific to find
out what you have if you have it your your behavior has to almost become erratic enough
where people notice it and then you can kind of start looking into the details of that behavior to get the proper diagnosis
but you were not taken or you were inconsistent with your medication regime
for reasons that felt very important to you you thought that it might change your golf game so what
for whatever reason that somebody is inconsistent the
what what finally convinced you that it was important to be consistent with that
medication protocol well i can tell you precisely when that was that was in
late may of 2006 when i was at barnes hospital in the
middle of a 33-day stay and on back-to-back days i had four
different groups of friends or four different friends of mine in two different groups come and visit me in the hospital the first group
sat me down in the way in the you know the i don't know not a waiting room but like just in a room we were in and said
michael we love you we want you in our lives but if you don't take your medication you cannot be in our lives and i said
okay and then the next day four different friends of mine came and saw me and they had the exact same
message we love you we want you in our lives but if you don't take your medication we don't want to be around
you and so was this an orchestrated intervention that all these groups got together and chose to present it this
way to try to make an impact on you i believe so yeah i think uh you know
these are guys that i grew up in the same neighborhood with guys that i played sports with in high
school guys that i was roommates with at certain points in my life they they all
got together and they came in two different groups and and they knew because they knew me so well
that particular time i was having real struggles with my parents and my family
and i think we see this a lot with bipolar and other mental illnesses is for some reason sometimes the family can't get through
to the person who's struggling and my friend group knew they could get through to me or at least they wanted to try and
ever since that day that they came in to see me my approach changed 100 i mean certainly
i was still in the hospital there for maybe a couple more weeks after those guys came and saw me but
as soon as i got out of the hospital uh from from and i guess that was probably middle of june
uh 2006 up until now i've been extremely consistent with my medication that's a
really an awesome story and an awesome story about friendship yeah i'm a very i'm blessed to have
these guys and they still god love them i mean not only do they come in and and tell me to take my
medication but some of them you know one of them had to tackle me one time just to get me into a hospital situation
other ones have you know had to give me kind of a tongue lashing at times and yeah i mean i i'm blessed i wouldn't be
where i am now without the friends that i have around me just kind of keeping an eye on me for sure
so we need to go to our break and when we come back michael i got a question
for you okay you bet hey brett yes what's your favorite thing
about psych with mike the opportunity to engage in mental
gymnastics with you wow that is really powerful so it's fun do you think that that's uh
beneficial for other people i have no clue i would hope so but i have no clue so people should should write us and let
us know yeah that'd be nice that would be great especially if they agree with me [Music]
as always if it's friday it's psych with mike [Music]
okay we're back and the question is is more of a request
i am very aware that you have a story about tiger woods that i would love for
you to share with us if you would feel comfortable doing that absolutely you know i uh i just gave a
talk in pinehurst north carolina and uh talked about that it's actually the tiger story is a uh
a major part of my speaking career i mean i always mention this story because um certainly when people mention tiger
woods it gets their attention and uh but basically what happened was this was around the time that i was diagnosed
in fact it was right before i was diagnosed obviously when you hear it you'll understand why i was diagnosed so
quickly thereafter but i'd say like probably mid-january of 2001
i had moved to fort myers florida naples florida area to start my golf career and
you know i'm literally like two or three weeks out of college and my mania was so intense
i mean i wasn't sleeping i i i had this paranoia feelings that
people were looking at me through the windows in my apartment um my i was moving very very quickly and
i got it in my mind that and i i'm not afraid to say it i'm a hyper competitive
person i mean i you know playing sports in high school playing college golf and uh some of my
friends are very hyper competitive i mean one of my best friends in the world is the head baseball coach at university of
tennessee his name is tony vitello and he's a hyper competitive guy so my competitive juices have always
been flowing and at this particular time in 2001 in um
in florida in january i got it in my mind my manic mine my mind was clearly exploding with mania
that i was going to drive from fort myers florida across the state of
florida over to orlando i was going to knock on tiger woods front door and i
was going to challenge him to play a golf match because i i knew he was clearly the best player in
the world at that particular time he had just won three major championships in a
row he was about to win his fourth one which was in the masters in 2001 and he was definitely the best player
and i wanted to find out how my game stacked up to his now when you're manic
you know you don't really think things through you know things think things through clearly what the the proper way to do that would
have been to go to the tour qualifying and work your way up the ladder and then take tiger on in a you know regular
tournament but um my mind was such that you know
i wanted to find out that day in january you know how good i was or how how could my game stack up against his and frankly
to be honest you know sometimes i take questions and answers in my speeches and somebody said well what was the what was
the obsession with tiger woods and it really wasn't about tiger woods it was because he at that particular time was
the best player in other words if ernie ells was the best player he lived in orlando at that time i would
have driven to his house if or i would have tried to drive in his house if if vj singh was the best player in the
world i would have driven to jacksonville you know so it was just about whoever the best player in the world was because i that was my thinking
when i was you know young in my early 20s like i want to play golf and i want to be the best player in the world like that's
that's the ego you know part of it but to be honest with you to have success i
mean there's not a pga tour player in the world who doesn't want to take on tiger so the thought process on one hand was
kind of okay but then on the other hand it was like well you can't be driving to somebody's house and try to play golf
with somebody now the funny part is i had met tiger before this happened i met him the
summer before out in colorado because um
i'm sorry i met him two summers before that my bad and i met him at a charity golf event because i had a summer job in
aspen colorado at a golf course called maroon creek and tiger had been there to play in a
um charity event and my good friend a guy named pj mcdaniel is a st louis and
pj had caddied for tiger that day and then after the round was over you know pj introduced me to him and we talked
briefly we got a picture and you know we i kind of wished him well on you know good luck in the ryder cup that was coming up
so there was when i when i was doing this manic drive across the state of florida
i think part of me was like well he'll remember me from aspen but the fact is he wouldn't have remembered me and you
know um i just i wanted to play so i drove all the way up to orlando i got to uh
his uh he you know it's kind of a famous everybody knows he lives in windermere he lived at that time in windermere and
i went to the guard gate and of course they didn't let me in i tried to you know see if i could go in they wouldn't let me so then i i leave the uh the
guard gate and now i've got you know another three and a half hour drive back to fort myers
um and i pulled over uh right next door to disney world
or disneyland whichever one it is down there and i i had a crying jig now i
wasn't i wasn't sad because i didn't wasn't able to meet with tiger i mean my mind was going so fast i wasn't sad at
all but like i just burst into into tears and then it's so funny because
about 10 days later that's when my parents came down and i had the diagnosis from the doctor and on that
list of the piece of paper i mentioned to you guys one of the things on there was crying jigs yeah so
so then i mean obviously at the time when i when it happened i didn't know what was going on with me but then
when the doctor put that piece of paper in front of me that was just another sign it's like okay well i definitely have this there's
no doubting it i mean i was an i'm an educated person you know went to a good high school went to a good college and i
knew that um this is what i was going to have now i didn't know what was ahead of me and how it would
how intense it would be and all the things that went along with it but you know i kind of had to learn on the fly
so one of the things that i've always heard from people with bipolar disorder
is that a big reason why they find it hard to be compliant with their medication protocol is because mania
just feels so good that's exactly right is is that what you
felt that's what yeah that's that is that is a hundred percent right hundred
thousand percent right so yeah so it's very interesting because certainly before you get to mania
there's a hypomania infection right and that feels really good too you feel
like you can accomplish a lot you don't need a lot of sleep all your ideas are brilliant your ego is getting ready to
go on the loose and then when you tip over the hypomania end zone line into the full-blown mania
then all bets are off because your brain is going at a rate that's just
unconceivable and you think that you feel your body feels good you know i
used to play really good golf when i was manic like i could my body could do things that maybe i
couldn't do if i wasn't manic and it it feels it's an invincibility
feeling you you feel like you're untouchable and and all your ideas are golden and you're the smartest person in
the room and nobody else knows what the hell they're talking about you're you know you're the
um you just are the aficionado on everything and the the feeling you get when that's why
it's so dangerous because that's why people don't want to you know get back to kind of the middle ground you know come back down
come back down from the hypomania stay above depression but stay in the middle ground because the mania it does it
really feels good mike that's a great point so michael before we put you on the air you were telling us a story about some
work that you're doing with veterans and i'd like for you to have an opportunity to talk about that while you're on the air as well if if you're in a place
where we can change focus for a minute absolutely no i always love to talk about my veterans they're the best
so basically when we started birdies for bipolar back in the summer of 2013.
we had our first event out of gateway national over in illinois and i just my both my
grandfathers were in the navy and i called the va hospital and i said hey do you guys have any of your veterans that
play golf we'd love to invite you out you know you can have two or three foursomes you don't have to pay you know just come and play and just
enjoy the day have some food and enjoy the tournament and sure enough um they sent us two
groups and they had uh the director of recreational therapy at the va hospital at the time
was a gentleman who's now become a very close friend of mine named herman luge uh herman was he held that position
of recreational therapy director for 36 years at the hospital i mean this guy is a living walking saint he's unbelievable
and i'm very i'm very proud to know him and he brought out he didn't even play himself he just brought out eight guys
and they all played i mean one of the gentlemen a friend of mine gary your gary does not have either one of his
legs he's a double amputee but he still has a custom-made golf cart where he could play awesome and you know there's
a couple other guys that were amputees that were there and so i just got to know them you know that day and herman
said something to me at the end of the day he said mike we're going to play golf
on thursdays at arlington greens you know would you like to join us and i said yes absolutely i'd love to come
over and play with you guys and maybe give some lessons to some of the guys and just kind of just play golf and so
you know for the first couple years in the summer times and in the early fall you know i'd go over there and
you know we had you know two threesomes or we'd have two foursomes and you know never more ever
more than 10 or 12 guys you know sometimes just six guys sometimes just nine guys whatever
well i'm proud to tell you that now we have a full-blown league it's called
the arlington greens veterans golf association because we have the league at arlington greens golf course in
granite city and it's every thursday and for the last two summers we have averaged 80 golfers everything
awesome and yeah it really i mean it really took on a life it's owned mostly because of two
people number one being hermit lugi who he retired from the va hospital but
he became the commissioner of our league so he resides over the league and i mean this league not only do we have that amount of
players but we have a little bit of small gambling like a five dollar gambling thing each week they have a
point system at the end of the year they have a champions breakfast they've got a couple of team events in there like it's
it's really well organized and it's it's very popular amongst the veterans and the other guy that this league would
not be possible without is is mark marcus so mark is the head golf professional arlington greens and he
just he welcomed these guys with open arms from the very beginning and as we grew
he continued to say keep coming out keep coming out and without those two guys that league would
not be what it is today but um one of the things we're doing and we literally just started this
initiative this week is we are going to fundraise and we're going to create an indoor golf
simulator space for these veterans that they will be able to use during the winter months because as you gentlemen
probably know there's a horrible number out there right now that number is 22 22 veterans are taking their own lives
every day in this country and i believe from my own experience that the winter months exacerbate that
seasonal depression yes and we've had all this positive momentum with our leagues
and certainly this last fall we had you know all these guys coming every week and i thought to myself man
this is unfortunate that we have to now stop for basically november 1st until you know the beginning of may because
you know the weather just won't be conducive so i thought to myself and herman and i had a discussion you know
what can we do to like help these guys in the wintertime and we came up with the idea to build this space
and um you know we're going to go full bore with it and we the goal is to have it finished by
halloween and we've got a simulator company on board we've got
um the home loan expert which is a mortgage company here in st louis that's behind us
we've got uh the morning after which is tim mckernan's radio show that's behind us we've got some other you know
individual donors that are going to be helpful and um you know i think this is going to be
something that's going to be able to help these guys uh in the wintertime because when they didn't have anywhere to go in
the winter you know it's cold nobody's getting together you know they need that social interaction with each other to
fight off that seasonal depression we think that this building we're going to create will do that for them and you know you mentioned the home loan expert
so that's ryan kelly people louis may know him may you know if you're not in st louis you may not recognize the name
but you know he's a huge sports guy and when he gets behind a cause that he
believes in he's a force man he's a force let me tell you i can't say enough good
things about ryan kelly i i had the pleasure to spend some time with him at spring training a few years back and we
hit it off a little bit and he's been helpful with us to this point with our veterans but when he found out uh that we were going
to do this i got a phone call from his marketing team and this is back in like november
and his marketing team calls me and says hey we want to get involved we want to contribute financially we also want to
help you raise other funds you're going to have a couple people at our disposal to help with these kind of marketing and
advertising ideas and they've been outstanding so yeah ryan kelly is certainly one of those people that
is helpful for veterans and i'm assuming that veterans it is not a requirement that they have
bipolar to be a part of this league so this is this is separate from what you
do with uh birdies for bipolar so what is birdies for bipolar tell us
about that how that started and what you guys do to try and give back to the
community uh just you know in better mental health awareness
well i wouldn't say that they're separate i would say that they're i would say birdies for bipolar and the
arlington greens veterans golf association are teammates that's the best way to explain it right so good
description um yeah i mean i think we're working together and to your point mike that was a good question about
you know does bipol do you have to have bipolar to play the league no i mean the reason
that i started getting involved with the veterans and one of them involved is because i knew what it's like to feel depression
and anxiety because of my own bipolar right and i also knew from my own research
that the ptsd that all these guys feel from their work you know overseas and helping
our country it's the same type of feelings the depression the anxiety uh they're all they're all very similar
so i just wanted to make sure that you know we were able to get everybody together
uh to play golf that's how it really just started was just trying to get everybody together to play golf because i knew
how powerful recreational therapy could be and then you know i i have to tip my cap to the
veterans because when they do something they do it full out and we this this league
it it it was a grassroots thing we never advertised for it it was word of mouth and you know we went from literally
eight guys to now we have 128 people of veterans of a list that is used every
week now like i said we only average not only but we average 80 a week but there's 128 that are on the list and
that list is growing yeah so that's amazing um you know birdies for bipolar is just
is there to be a support for these veterans and some of the things that british bipolar has done and continues
to do you know we've certainly done a lot of golf events we've done stand-up comedy events we've done trivia
nights basically just to raise funds and create awareness and we
would always try to funnel our funds into areas that we thought were going to have a direct impact on groups of people
and the the organic nature of the success of this league just kind of all made sense
because it's golf it's getting the veterans together and it's attacking that specific time of year that can be
more challenging for people you know when the weather is cold in those winter months so um you know i guess you could
say that bernie through bipolar and the arlington greens veterans golf association are brothers that aren't you know okay so but
uh bernie's for bipolar itself as an entity is the
uh i guess it's a 501c3 yes sir and so that's just a charitable
organization and you started that to really promote the
message of mental health and mental health awareness to the larger community so what are you
guys doing with that and if people obviously they can go to birdiesby for but how can people get more
information about that and get connected to that if they would like to yes certainly our website is a place
they can go that's birdies for bipolar dot org that's birdies and then the number four bipolar dot org
and yeah i mean our mission uh is to de-stigma destigmatize you know to let
people know that hey you know what i may have bipolar i may have schizophrenia i
mean even though by bipolar is in the name of our organization you know if you go if you go to the home page on our
site we talk about all the mental illnesses and one of the things that's on our home page is 24
of the population has been diagnosed with with some form of mental illness right
well that's only the 24 who are willing to go find out what's wrong with her
so it's probably closer to 45 or 50 percent yeah you know i mean and anybody
who's done therapy for any amount of time will tell you that probably
a hundred percent of the population has either been depressed enough or anxious
enough to be diagnosed as having a disorder so i would actually argue it's
just actually a part of the human condition and you're so right we need to destigmatize that so that when people go
through something that is a notch above what we would just
consider normal everyday slings and arrows of living life that they feel
comfortable being able to access the resources that are there because right now the stigma causes a lot of
people to be reluctant to do that yeah i mean you're exactly right and we wanted to
create the message that you know let's find out what's wrong and let's fix it let's not just ignore it
and hope it goes away you know we want to we want to address it we want to address it head on
and you know it's funny because i always say this to people you know my book came out in 2000 late 2015
and i would always tell people you know i couldn't do a book like that in 1985 or even a 19 you know but
i think the conversation and it's all over these days it's all over the television i mean you look at the
the ads they're talking about mental illness on commercials uh the conversation is much louder now
which is great you know because that's the way it needs to be the reason people would struggle before is because they
would sweep it under the rug and they would have think about it they wouldn't want to address it and talk about it and
you know i got to give my parents a lot of credit they said when i was diagnosed that we're going to talk about this
we're not going to you know turn our back on it we're not gonna you know ignore it we're gonna we're gonna
address it and i think that's the best way to make steps forward is to address it
well michael i just have to say from the depths of my heart thank you so
much for giving us the time we could talk to you for days if not weeks and
you know we we definitely want to get you on the show you actually said before
we started the turn the mics on that you know you'd be willing to come into the studio which is
great so the next time we do this we will definitely have you in the studio we will definitely get that set up but i
just really appreciate your time you know you have such a unique voice and to have
been in the the spheres of influence that you've been in
really helps to normalize the message and really helps people to be able to
say hey you know what if a guy like michael wellington can not acknowledge
this then i can acknowledge it and i just think that that's so powerful so again i really appreciate your time um
and uh the best way then for people to get more information is to go to british
for bipolar dot org we will put that on the show notes again michael thank you so much
for the time today as always the music that appears in psych with mike is
written and performed by mr benjamin the clue and if it's friday it's psych with mike