Notes From Behind Enemy Lines

By , SparkPeople Blogger
“So I find words I never thought to speak
In streets I never thought I should revisit
When I left my body on a distant shore.”

--T.S. Eliot, Little Gidding

Many of you have probably noticed that I haven’t been blogging recently. As this situation is likely to continue for awhile yet, I thought it would be good to at least let you know what’s going on.

Basically, I haven’t been doing very well physically or mentally for the past couple months, to the extent that my ability to concentrate on reading and writing for this blog has been very compromised. The good news is these problems have nothing to do with my recent heart surgery and aren’t life-threatening or anything like that. In a nutshell, I’m having problems with pretty severe depression and a return of old post-traumatic stress symptoms. I guess they may have been triggered by the surgery, but their real roots go back a long ways before that. Physically, everything is fine (except for some annoying nerve impingement problems caused by bad spinal arthritis that I’ve also had for years, but which is now producing symptoms).

I’ve been hoping the depression and anxiety would be short-term problems that would respond quickly to tweaking my medications a little, but no such luck so far. The doc even suggested electroconvulsive ("shock") therapy as a potential quick fix. But after I explained why one of my favorite movies is One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, he dropped that suggestion.

It’s funny how easy it was for me to assume for many years that my weight was keeping me stuck in these problems, and that once I lost the weight, I wouldn’t have the problems anymore. That was true enough for the last three years or so, and I admit I’ve been a bit shocked by how strongly they’ve reasserted themselves again all of a sudden.

These days I find myself reading some of my own articles about managing stress, boosting self-esteem, and overcoming negative feelings and thoughts, and wondering why I can’t do those things myself very well right now.

And why I can’t just shrug off all the feelings of guilt and shame and fear attached to many of my memories, when my adult mind knows that none of that is worth carrying around all this time and letting it ruin the present. After all, there aren’t a lot of people on this planet who know more than I do, both academically and through personal experience, about these problems and how to deal with them. But knowing, obviously, is not the same thing as doing, and it seems to be time for me to work on the doing part again.

In the meantime, I’m afraid, I don’t have the mental energy or capacity to stay focused on one thing long enough to do the research and writing it takes to produce a couple of blog posts every week—and having writing deadlines really pushes my anxiety level through the roof when I’m not functioning well, which just makes everything even worse.

It seems to me there could be a way to make something worthwhile come out of this situation. Assuming that I’m not the only one around here who struggles with depression, PTSD, self-esteem issues, etc., I could write occasional blogs about my experiences dealing with this stuff now, and others could share some of their experiences/suggestions in the comments. If we all work on not being too morbid, overly personal, or graphic, hopefully some helpful things will be said.

What do you think? Would that be worth trying?

Click here to to redeem your SparkPoints
  You will earn 5 SparkPoints


I still think about you Coach Dean and hope you are doing well. I still struggle with depression and probably PTSD even though not officially diagnosed. I had a round of something like that a few years ago, just before my dad died - really left me spinning and out of control. I'm not "there" yet. I hope you are. Please let us know how you are doing. We're all human, we are all striving for perfection. And there's been some good material from this Michelle Rosenthal on PTSD. Report
Godspeed. Report
Dean, Do what you feel comfortable with; If you want to talk, by all means, talk. If you need to rest, please do so. Either way, judging from the comments, we are behind you, fellow sufferers or not. HUGS Laurie (BiPolar, depression, SAD, and PTSD) Report
Best wishes for feeling great all over and in all areas. Your articles have helped so many people. May they be a merit for you in your journey.
Deena from Jerusalem Report
My fiance and I both have PTSD. I'd be very appreciative of any and everything that you can share on the subject. Thanks so much. Best of luck to you as you sort things out for yourself. I think it takes great courage to be so open with people about your own personal struggles, and there's no telling how many you will have helped by doing so. Report
Coach Dean, all your articles are inspirational and beneficial. I return to them time after time. We would love to have new ones whenever you can write them!
Best wishes! Report
I think a lot of us would benefit from your ideas and insights. I have dealt with depression for years and finally found a medication that helps me feel like myself. I think we all develop a tool box of things that work for us and sharing these toolboxes may be just what someone else needs. I found that even little things like adding more color to my wardrobe have helped me. Report
I to suffer from depression.I started to deal with my past.A lot of things from there were holding me back.Some of the past you have to dig for your mind hides it. Report
Coach Dean,
Thank you for your honesty in letting us know what is going on. I am bipolar with PTSD. I had ECT done several years ago. Each person is different along with how they will respond. I have totally lost four months of my life because of memory loss. And I am slower than I ever was mentally. I try to stay positive for others, even if I can't be for myself.
Your articles are wonderful and I can't tell you how many I have saved to refer to because of the memory thing. Report
I think a blog series on PTSD and depression/anxiety and other mental health issues would be wonderful. I take medication for depression/anxiety (two meds daily) and my psychiatrists thinks the problem is PTSD stemming from 2007 (started as post-partum depression then certain circumstances transformed it to PTSD, in her opinion). Hearing first hand what someone else did to combat the problem would be good to read.

BTW, your post was written in 2009. I hope that you have come to terms with your depression/anxiety and have them both under control well now. Best wishes. Report
I was in a car accident that nearly killed me back in August 2002. Since then I have had multiple, extended periods of surgery and physical therapy; and brain chemistry challenges. I have been dealing with the consequences of a head injury. As a result I have lost the ability to do my profession and have chosen to place myself (temporarily-*fingers crossed*) on disability. The downward spiral of the last 8 years and intense effort to recover have lead me here to reading your article. I too struggle with depression and PTSD symptoms-not only from the accident, but memories and feelings from a traumatic childhood that were stirred up due to the accident (thought I was done with that stuff!). I am grateful that you have shared your struggle and how it effects your efforts to work and live life. I continue to get help and am beginning the process of returning to a lifestyle I used to have which included healthier eating and exercise. I wish us both luck with our futures and look forward to reading more about your experience. Report
Comments on your experience would absolutely be helpful for other sparkers. It means so much more coming from someone who knows what you are 'supposed to do' and has first hand experience of how hard that can be to actually achieve. Wishing you all the best in your recovery. Report
Yes, if you feel comfortable writing about your experience, I think many Sparkers would appreciate it. Report
absolutely. please do. so many of us struggle with depression/anxiety/low self-esteem ... it would actually be positive to know that even super-duper you are vulnerable. those issues can make such an impact on physical health and your well-respected opinion could help others. Report
Hi Dean -
I'm so sorry to hear of your struggles. I too have had serious bouts of depression. For me they seem to return about every 5 years. For better or worse, I worked throughout my last bout (tears and all), and I think knowing that others needed me (other than my family, who would make allowances for my low moods) helped me keep functioning. In the end I had to make some life changes (start a degree, go on substitute status at a job that was in conflict with my highest priorities). All uncomfortable.

I don't know if your depression is cyclical, but it helps me a bit to know there is an end to it eventually, based on past history. In the meantime I take St. John's Wort, walk, spend time outdoors, and try not to turn away from loved ones. I saw that some other comments included EMDR. I've also had good luck with that.

I wish you peace. Report
Dean, PTSD seems to be that dirt stain that never goes away. It becomes manageable through periods of time which is a safe haven. Have you tried EMDR?.. I found this to be very helpful with a well trained therapist. I too am struggling with some old issues that have not bothered me in some time (oddly, I just had a major surgery, maybe it's the loss of control that sets it off). I'm trying to focus on today only, sometimes in hours and sometimes in minutes. I do see my progress in coping with my PTSD, it's not easy, but I do see it. My heartfelt thoughts and prayers are with you.
Lisa Report
Coach Dean, I have no answers other than to give you a hug. Praying God will show you a way out of the darkness.
Iris Report
so sorry to hear, or read, that you are still struggling with your issues. I like the idea for your new blogs - we can all share in this together - its the least we can do for all you've done for us. I've not experienced PTSD but I have dealt with depression.
ECT is no longer as it was in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest - I haven't received it but have seen it administered.. they know a lot more now than they did then!
Have you tried a chiropractor for your back? both my partner and I have found that it helps - we both have arthritis and she has a pinched nerve L5 and its making a big difference for her!
keep the faith!!! Report
As this goes back 2 years, I'm not sure what the situation is with you know. All I can say is that I empathise in my own way. I am teaching stress managment, and trying to apply it to weight managment too. I attempted a light hearted blog on the subject http://myvoyagewithsophrology.blogs
/. I can only hope that you do/have manage to come through the depression, and if/when that happens(ed) I am sure that you will put your experience to good use, though your empathy, understanding and example. Report
This is the first time I read anything on this post. It is extremely helpful and would love to become part of this group. Thank you for your inspiration. Report
You have been such a help to me through your articles and posts. I have many of the same issues as you and want to say thank you for all the help you have given me. That said I want to add that you need to take care of yourself now. I will be here when you feel that you are back on track. Take your time healing and repairing YOU. Report
I have read MANY of your articles and posts and found them to be so helpful to me. Perhaps one way to look at your current issues is to know that they are building the character and insight in you to be of great help to all of us.

But fiirst you have to take care of yourself. Get whatever rest you need. Do those things that help you mentally.

We're here for you, ready to help if you need it and waiting to read whenever you have something to post.

Please take care. Report
I have very much the same problem... this post was written in June; I've been more absent than not from the site since May because I just couldn't face sitting in front of the computer for any length of time ... it's now a couple days till Christmas and I'm just getting to read it now (along with about 6000 emails). I hope you're feeling better too, Dean. Report
I'm a bit slow on posting here but I needed to add this.
We all have some sort of issues, it's just human. It helps me to read your posts and others to see it's just not me..
Like you I thought once I lost the weight my issues would work them self out, most have but the deep down ones are still there....
I try and work on them as much as I can but then realize I will have days that I just can't.

anyway just want to say Dean we love ya and we understand...
Coach...thank you for your courage in sharing your struggles so honestly and openly. As one who has struggled with PTSD, several auto-immune diseases, and at least one major mental illness, I can appreciate the depression and fear generated by being unable to function at the levels we desire and expect. There has been a great outpouring of love and helpful suggestions from other members on this board. We all care about you. Now, I'm going to say something very politically incorrect, and people can tell me it's inappropriate if they want. If it weren't for the love of Christ, I would have committed suicide many times over in this life. Just knowing His love, however, didn't "fix" me. There are still root issues, "lies" we've believed about ourselves...perhaps from earliest childhood, for example, that must be examined in the light of His forgiveness...and questions that leave us with anger and confusion in life...such as, ultimately, "Where were You, God, when (insert: "whatever") happened to me that has left me so freakin' angry at You, at myself, and at life in general?" I don't know you or your specific struggles. I pray you can find the "healing" you seem to need. You have been such a source of insight and encouragement to so many people. Depression is a physical as well as emotional and spiritual condition. You know that already, so get whatever rest and help you need. We sincerely hope you'll be back and with us for a long time to come. Report
I agree with every one here. you are only human and need the rest especially at a time like this. I am hoping the best for you and looking forward to your return but no sooner than you can handle it. Report
Dear Coach Dean, Even leaders need a rest sometimes. I understand PTSD completely and like you, deal with its effects from time to time. I'm a survivor more than 20 times. For about 8 years I was really good, not having flashbacks and just enjoying life and then last fall, WHAM! Everything came back. It was like I had never dealt with or talked about these issues before. The only difference this time is that there are times that I honestly cannot stop crying. For days...and I do mean days, I will sob, weep and moan unendingly.
Do not feel bad about needing a break. And if you don't feel like you can write here, don't. We love your writing and we love you, but you need to take care of you. Only when you are ready, and I do mean ONLY WHEN YOU ARE READY, come back and resume your duties. Even doctors need doctors. And even psychiatrists have psychiatrists. Take the time you need. I will pray for you every time I think of you, which is often. Don't rush back less you make your depression and anxiety worse. I'm walking in the same shoes you are right now. Take care of YOU. Report
First of all, let me say that I am trhilled that you made it through your surgery ok. It was a bit scary not seeing your usual blogs so knowing that the surgery seems to have been a success is awesome.

Now, on to the other items- even though you are a super blogger, an inspiration and an amazing man who lost tons of weight and is livng a phenomenal healthy life, you are after all, ONLY HUMAN!!!! We all go through what you are hitting now. It's just part of life. The lucky part for you is that you have many friends and spark friends who care and support you. I KNOW you will make it through this rough time. We are all here for you as you have been for so many of us. Feel free to reach out. Report
I think that any part of your struggle that you feel ok with sharing will surely help many people here on the site that struggle with those same issues. You have such a down to earth, straightforward way of expressing yourself, that I find all of your blogs and articles very informative and helpful.

Depression runs rampant in my family, so I empathize (although fortunately, it hasn't struck me to date). Please know that my thoughts and prayers are with you. Report
My thoughts are with you.
Take the best care of yourself that you can with all of the resources available to you. Report
Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I hope this will show us that we all suffer at some time or other and I wish you well. god bless. Report
Coach Dean,
I am sorry you are going through this. I really enjoyed this blog. Just concentrate on taking care of yourself now. I can certainly relate to the depression and all that goes with it.
And I think your idea is a good one.
Take care of yourself.

I don't know the author, or am I sure of exactly how the quote goes, but I remember reading on some Sparker's page the quote that said something about how friendships are formed over the words, "Oh, you too? I thought I was alone...." That is the quote that came to mind with your usggestion/question about sharing some of your experiences with us.... I too am a mental health therapist and have experienced quite a few bouts of major depression that, at times, have been severe and debilitating, so it is nice to know that I am not alone and that we, the so called pros can't always fix ourselves as easily as we can offer assistance and compassion to others. Funny how many of us think that the weight is the problem when it is really the byproduct of a bigger problem and losing the weight doesn't always fix that big problem, no matter how good the benefits from losing the weight!

I'm sure your doctor discussed how depression is often a side effect of major heart surgery.... I do believe the surgery he;helped to ignite the despondency you are experiencing. I hope that we, the folks out here in Spark People Land, can help you by letting you know you are not alone and that you are never alone..... I hope we can offer some suggestions that will aid in your recovery too! Take care. Report
Hello Dean
I am another member who has not read your blogs before. But I am also a fellow depressive. I think I am ok I can manage and then zap! I am floored by the silliest thing and I have a real time tryiong to pull myself up.

There is no shame in it. But we sufferers 'feel' shame do we not? Guilt is my second name. You know the drill!

So all we can do is try to smile. Get out of bed, do the normal things we can usually muster the energy for and try also doing the ritualistic things to lift us, plkay music we like, eat foods we like, have a nice showser or bath, watch a silly film we enjoy - you get the picture......get out in the fresh air and take a few breaths.

You know, every day is a challenge and we can and we do manage IT. We live our lives literally 'managing' our depression (it is always there in the shadows waiting to pounce - and all we can do is be 'aware' of this fact and keep ourselves in the best shape we are able to - health and fitness and nutrition wise. And yes, putting some motion into those feelings as someone recently said, is the 'E' in something nice for yourself.

Biggest hugs and sending you bright rainbow reiki blessings my friend :0) Report
This is the first blog of yours I have read. I have struggled with depression all my life. I finally got on antidepressants and in psycho therapy. They have both helped me tremendously. I've had the doses of my antidepressants changed and also had to try different ones because the old one stopped working as well.

One of the best pieces of advice I learned from a book. If you have a task that is hard for you to do tell yourself you can work on it for 10-15 minutes and then quit. If you want to go longer than that after you've done the time do so. It has worked very well for me, especially in the kitchen. My dishes used to get stacked high waiting for hand washing because they weren't dishwasher safe. I told myself which dishes to wash and then quit. I finally caught up.

Talking about issues with someone is very helpful. It is still amazing to me how much saying something aloud to someone (instead of keeping it inside and stewing) really helps. Insight from a different perspective is quite useful.

Being unwell and not able to do things is very hard for me and I will get depressed. Hang in there. Best wishes. Report
Dean, I can understand your feelings of depression. We all suffer from it one or more times in our life. I wish you the strength to deal with it. Most of all I hope you continue blog, when you feel up to it. Best of thoughts your way. P-bunny Report

You're in my thoughts... I'll be sending all the positive vibes I can!

Becky, PA Report
Don't worry about us. Take care of yourself! Hope you feel better soon. Report
Sometimes life is rocky and full of crazy rollercoster twists and turns that knock us on our feet. Its also so full of that magical thing called happiness, its like mixing all of your favortie things together.Once we tread through the darkness and hit our goals, we promise never to go back again.Well to be truthful, as much as we vow never to go back it happens, hey we are only human right? So we are allowed to take time off sometimes. Yet saying the words are easy " I will start to do things to make myself feel better." But its easier said then done. We all know thats true, about most anything. Take time to heal yourself, no matter how small it is, if you make yourself feel better in even the smallest amount its one more step to be in that magical happiness. Don't rush it, take your time. Great things dont happen overnight. Report
Definitely keep writing when you can! And thank you for your honesty in writing this blog. Report
Dean, thanks for the insightful and informative pieces that you've written for the blog, and that have helped so many of us, including me. We value and appreciate you; your illness does not define you or your worth, either for us, or for you. From the comments that have been posted, I can see that many of us share anxiety, depression and PTSD. Personally, I'd rather share a good laugh, but no one consulted me before handing me darkness instead. I wish peace, beauty, and happiness for you. I hope that you find support and understanding that can see you through this season, and that your pain dissipates as the night turns to day. Take care of yourself. Report
I too suffer from depression and anxiety. Exercise helps a lot, but certainly there are days I do not want to go out, don't want to eat right, don't want to work out. Losing weight has increased my happiness level, but that is due to eating better so my body feels better, exercising, so I feel better, etc. So my depression and self esteem issues like yours didn't disapear. I don't know what happens in the future, I don't know if my depression will come back as strong or stronger now that I am a healthy weight, but here's hoping that the support systems I use to eat healthy and exercise can be used in other areas of my life. Report
I am so sorry to hear that you are struggling with depression. You will be in my prayers. Report
"I could write occasional blogs about my experiences dealing with this stuff now, and others could share some of their experiences/suggestions in the comments. If we all work on not being too morbid, overly personal, or graphic, hopefully some helpful things will be said." Yes, YES! and YES!!! is my response!

You are my #1 Favorite SP contributor. Please continue to share from your wisdom place...I, for one, deal with anxiety, sadness, low-grade depression periodically and any insights we can mutually share with one another could only be helpful.

Stephen Levine speaks of "the healing we took birth for." THAT'S what I'm talkin' about!

Write on Dean!

Om Shanthi,
Maha Report
It's so encouraging to hear someone share the scary stiff about depression. I too have thought that I'd dealt with past issues. Doing even the simplest of tasks-brushing you're teeth, are a chore. I hope and pray that you'll soon feel like you're on the road to peace and excitemnent for life again. Report
I know you mentioned that this has nothing to do with your recent heart surgery, and being new I don't know what that was all about, however there is a documented link between between heart problems and depression and anxiety. People with anxiety (myself included) tend to have an over-developed awareness to our body sensations so a lot of the anxiety that you are experiencing may be a reaction to the changes in body sensations as a result of the surgery. As you heal from that, you may find the anxiety easing. Depression has also been linked to heart problems with documented links to post heart-attack and heart-surgery - I don't know your medical situation or resources but it's important to talk to either a cardiologist with experience with patients who have had this happen or a psychiatrist who has knowledge of this link and might have a perspective on treatment specifically for this situation. Report
I am praying for you. I too suffer from depression so I can sympathize. Just know that you have a lot of people thinking about you and praying for you.
Denise Report
Many of the thoughts which immediately come to mind when I read your poignant post have already been stated by others. It took me a long time to realize - you should come first. We will always have pressures which by society norms we'll feel pressured to address but unless we get ourselves in the proper state of mind first, we are ultimately hurting ourselves.

So do whatever you need to do in order to heal. If sharing is part of that - do so; but don't add anxiety to share if ultimately hurts you in the long run.

My best for your recovery. Report
I am so sorry to learn about the return of old symptoms. I think a post dealing with the issues you are currently facing or responding to your blogs would be helpful to many. I appreciate your comments about working on not making our entries too morbid, etc as I have left some threads on the Depression team site because the posts were overwhelmingly tragic. I wish that I had the fortitude to handle other's grief (when described in such detail) and am glad that there are those who can. Report
I am sorry to hear about your depression. We all have our demons to deal with but I hope you will be able to fight it off and continue on with your courageous journey. Report