Notes From Behind Enemy Lines

By , SparkPeople Blogger
ďSo 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.Ē

--T.S. Eliot, Little Gidding

Many of you have probably noticed that I havenít 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 whatís going on.

Basically, I havenít 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 arenít life-threatening or anything like that. In a nutshell, Iím 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 Iíve also had for years, but which is now producing symptoms).

Iíve 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 Cuckooís Nest, he dropped that suggestion.

Itís 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 wouldnít have the problems anymore. That was true enough for the last three years or so, and I admit Iíve been a bit shocked by how strongly theyíve 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 canít do those things myself very well right now.

And why I canít 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 arenít 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, Iím afraid, I donít 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 weekóand having writing deadlines really pushes my anxiety level through the roof when Iím 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 Iím 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?

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Thanks for sharing about your depression. It take a lot of courage to write about it, keep reaching out to people and things will get better. My daughter has been suffering with depression since she was 9 years old. Most of the time she is doing well but their are days that are real bad for her. I give her all the support that i can and it seems to be helping. She is now 27 with a husband and a 3 year old daughter, but she will still call me when things gets too and all she wants to do is stay in bed all day and not deal with life. Some days i feel that i'm not doing enough , wish i had a magic wand to wave and make things better . Report
Your articles have helped me so much. My thoughts and prayers are with you as you work through this current situation. Don't give up! You will come out the other side! Report
Dean, I believe writing occasional blogs about your experiences and providing others with the opportunity to do so also is an excellent idea. Writing when you want to and not when you are compelled to can help alleviate the stress of deadlines. It seems to me that transferring your thoughts to paper and providing others with the forum to do so also could be therapeutic. At the very least, you would be providing people not dealing with such issues within themselves, their family, or with close personal friends to increase their compassion and begin expand their education. Your blogs could provide avenue of release for you, initiate a glimmer of recognition in others that spur them to do something in their own lives, and, finally, increase knowledge and empathy among all your readers. Please continue to write the blogs at a pace with which you feel comfortable, and give us the opportunity to experience and learn through you. Report
Dean--I'm so sorry about your troubles with depression and anxiety. I understand more than I wish I did. I'm really proud of you for what you're doing to get through this difficult time. If I could send you my magic wand, I would. Unfortunately, it's in the shop right now getting tuned up. I feel very optimistic for you. I think you're going to make it, even though it might be horrible to get there.

Oh, yeah--I would really enjoy reading blogs about your progress and how to get through times when depression and anxiety are overwhelming. We all need all the help we can get.

I'm rooting for you!!! Report
I'm sorry Dean you are having problems with depression. I too have had depression before. After the first time I was hoping it'll be a one-off and never to return again but unforetunately it seems to occur under terrible times of duress. I hope you get better soon because it is not fair for you to suffer, or anyone for the matter who has had depression. I still find it strange that humans, that despite all our opportunities and choices and the like we have, we seem to the only species that has severe enough depression which leads some to commit suicide. This is probably why I choose to study psychology because it is so interesting, complex but also very valid to the real world. All the best Report
Dean, I too deal with depression every day. We have never really gotton to the root of it but I have days where ai just can't function. My prayers are with you. I have so many health problems that I can't even work. I seem so worthless, at times, because everyone else is able to do things that I can't do anymore. Thank you for all your blogs you have done in the past and I hope you can continue to do them occasionally. I really enjoy reading them. Take care. May God see all of us through these times. Report
As a fellow human being who also deals with times of depression, I know some of what you are facing. Please know that my heartfelt prayers & thoughts are with you, Dean. May you arrive on the other side of this ďblack cloudĒ time a stronger person!

Be blessed!

Dean, I know exactly how you feel. I too suffer from the same emotional/mental issues you are currently going through. Just remember that we are all here for you and in time this too shall pass and you'll be back to your normal blogging self. Report
Hugs! I'm sure it will help those that can identify! You have to do what you feel comfortable doing and I like many others will be behind you in whatever you decide! Report
My son also suffers from depression. It is an evil neurological condition because it robs the person of the ability to be his best self. We hear all the time of people who are cheerful in the wake of illness, but depression steals cheer in the wake of ordinary life. I understand the inability to concentrate. I hope you can find the thing that gives you peace, if even for a short time. It would be helpful to hear someday how you conquer this. Best wishes. Report
We love you and hope for the return of a blogging nut with lots of new material. It helps us to know others have the same problems we do and hope it helps you to know you are in our boat as well. We are all in this together! Report
Coach Dean, I have always believed that half the battle in dealing with anxiety, depression, whatever problem may plague you, is being vocal about it. Things sometimes feel bigger, or more unmanageable when you keep them to yourself. Writing about your struggles, would most likely give some sparkers here a voice, and you another outlet for working things through. Report
Dear Coach Dean.
Thank you for sharing with us your current condition.
I too had a bad freak accident at my work 3 years ago.
I lost my thumb. My thumb was ripped apart from the base and my hand was
like an explosion .All my bones were shattered and exposed .
At that moment my mind was calm and as if it is a bad dream .

I am suffering also post traumatic disorder even at this point .

Thanks to my great doctor he was able to repair and saw my thumb together
and I am grateful but I am still suffering with various nerve damages that
made my thumb(half that was recovered) an not "useful and functional"
Instead causing whole bunch of pains that still continue these days .
(I am still even not able to pick up a piece of paper )

I joined Spark People 2 years ago and you guys are great .
I want you to be strong and try hard every day.
Every day is a new day for me ...Some days I wake up okay than last day and most of the day I wake up thinking I don't want do anything and just want to lying in the bed ,without brushing my teeth or watching TV.

I am keep working out ...But,I think I am better mentally now because I started take antidepressant (I hate to admit its true)..I didn't want to do it but today I feel
a little less negative about everything /.

Coach Dean,I feel for you .
Best think wasn't life threatening ..might take a while so be partitioned.

I liked your quote!! Report
hugs thoughts and prayers Report
Hang in there, Coach Dean!

I would think that sharing your thoughts would help you and help other people who might be going through the same thing. Report
Coach, thanks for the blog & the honesty! I've got a best friend who suffers from severe depression so I know how bad it can get. I agree with those who've said to get outside a little every day, exercise just a little, & speak with someone!

Take care & write when you can.

Anne Report
Hi Coah Dean , so good to know that you are human after all!
An exhilarating read after I read a really bad blog by some guy that lost 200 pounds ( BOTZZ or something). After thinking about it I decided not to answer to that, but what a bad example and how unusual that SP didn't realize how bad it was. "it's all a matter of diciding to have a healthy life" HAHA! if it was that simple. I can't even start to imagine how inadequate it must have made some people feel. Anyway nobody is perfect and SP is nearly perfect.
Coach Dean I hope you are patient enough with yourself to navigate this without doing stupid things like electro shock.
This was your best blog ever.
Claudia Report
This was the first time reading your blog, and I thank you for sharing it. My dad had a triple bypass in 2001, and ever since he has had depression and hormone issues. The heart doctor finally got his medications adjusted and found what worked, but it greatly helped. It took a long time and many doctors for that to happen like anything else. I have dealt with PTSD myself, and counseling helped but you are so right that it is surprising how quickly things can set it off again. You are not alone in this, there are many people out there with it and who can relate/talk to you about it. Perhaps it is time to look into what local support groups there are.....because everyone can say, "I know how you feel" or say "snap out of it". Unless they have been there though, they don't know and it helps so much to find others who do understand and to be able to talk about it and help each other through bad times and share in the good times. My prayers are with you. Report
It is the first time I read something from you. But all I can say is that prays will help, nothing we can do along, we need help. For I understand you are a tremendous, help for so many people now is time for us to do something for you we all have to pray for you and send you everyday good energy Report
Hi Coach Dean,
I'm of the opinion that if it helps you, it will help us. I suffer from depression and anxiety, as well, and while I hate that others suffer as I do, I always appreciate the reminder that I'm NOT alone, that I'm NOT the only one who suffers. If you feel that way, too, then please do blog about your challenges. Clearly, many people here care, and many understand your struggle, and we're all here to support you and each other. Report
Hello Coach Dean,,thank you for your blogs they are very honest and pure, we all are with you and we will be there all the in the Indian Ocean, living in Mauritius and am glad and honoured to read your blogs..look after yourself. Report
Coach: We appreciate knowing how you are feeling.
Peace Report
Coach Dean - I wish you well in your recovery. I have some learned skills that may be assistance to you.

Step 1: Feel the feeling of anxiety and think about what you can and can't do.
You can either do 100 things in one day or 1 thing perfectly. I would choose the 100 things in one day because I know not everything can be perfect.

Step 2: This is for your depression. Everytime you feel a negative feeling coming on combat it with a positive feeling like being with your family.

Step 3: Share your feelings. We will all be ready to hear what you have to say.

"Our lives are not determined by what happens to us but by how we react to what happens, not by what life brings to us, but by the attitude we bring to life. A positive attitude causes a chain reaction of positive thoughts, events, and outcomes. It is a catalyst, a spark that creates extraordinary results." Report
Coach Dean I wish you the very best in your recovery. I cannot possibly know what you feel or what you have experienced. I will not tell you I do. What I can say is I have found you motivational, inspiring and a reasonable and rational voice in a world of exaggerated irrationality. I have used your advice to manage my feelings and focus on my habits. In short I felt you supported me in my journey. I hope you take my comment, along with others and know deep inside yourself that you are supported. While that may not cure you, I hope knowing you are supported gives you the same comfort you have provided myself and countless others. Good luck to you. Report
Good Morning, Coach Dean. This is the first time I have read any of your blogs, and I am sure I clicked on it for a reason. One of the best ways for me to get out of depression is to do some art work. It doesn't have to be a masterpiece oil painting, or the best quilt anyone ever made. I always strive for an art form that depicts nature, so of course, it begins with a walk in nature. Then I figure out what I want to try doing, go to the store (or garage) for the supplies, and just start it. I don't do a lot of planning; just sort of jump in and let what wants to be expressed come out. When I am REALLY down, I try painting a scene with my left hand. (I am right handed by nature) The concentration it takes to do any form of art work gets my mind off lethargy, and before I know it, I am feeling and thinking much better. I hope this brings you a new insight. Report
I have always appreciated and learned a lot from all of your articles and reading about your journey to this point. They strike a chord in me because what you write is genuine and real. I hope you continue to share your experiences - good AND bad to let others know that, while it's not always roses and rainbows, it's part of the process...

You have to go through the valleys to reach the peaks, and the struggles we face are preparing us for the next steps in our journey.

You are a seed of greatness in this world and would hate to lose the humor and insight you provide to all of us! Report
Coach Dean,
I wish you best on the road you must travel. It was a courageous thing to talk about the things that have consumed you recently. My sister suffers from severe depression and PTSD, much of which manifests in self-injury. She had been doing extremely well until an hormonal fluctuation associated with peri-menopause caused her to fall and fall quickly. As a family all we can do is continue to support her and help her realize that there is no shame in her illness and she is a wonderful no matter what she thinks when she is at her lowest. Continue to know that, you too are a wonderful person who deserves all the love and support that is lavished upon you. Be well.

"Two steps forward, one step back" You have come a long way from where you began.

I hope you keep reaching out to the spark people community. A fresh perspective can be one of the most eye opening and helpful things one can do when you find yourself mired in problems. Report
"As a man thinketh... so he is." I changed the "tapes " going around in my head as soon as I realized they were playing and eventually they stopped. I also took what I call Baby steps... only one new tiny thing a day to do and then added another baby step to that the next day... no sooner. Treat yourself like you have been very sick... which you are/were.... be kind and gentle and forgiving of yourself... just like you would be for others. Give yourself a break !!! Report
Thanks for your transparency. It helps to make connections with others who think nobody else has THESE problems. And when we are connected, healing comes more quickly. Keep reaching. And keep being real. Report
I have been wondering what was going on with you Coach Dean. I am upset to hear that your experience with surgery triggered these old symptoms.
My thought is that you definitely should blog about your experiences. I think that what goes on in all of our heads is often painful and unsettling. Your sharing will help others to see their own experience is not unique and is in fact common to alot of us.
And most important, if it helps you, that would be the best outcome. Report
Coach Dean, good luck with everything. You have a lot of virtual friends cheering for you. Hope to hear from you once in a while if that works for you. We'll be thinking of you. Report
Coach Dean....get are an over comer...and you will get through this. Probably blogging through it will offer you insight into not only your own difficulties but also to help others...try to keep blogging. We need you! Report
I miss you a great deal and am glad to hear you are doing physically well. As a depression sufferer I know that I don't really cure my depressions that both the good times and the bad times never last. I remind myself of that regularly. For me it's normal to be either. Sometimes I let myself wallow in a good depressive state just to get it out of my system then I start back up doing the things that need to get done. Force myself to act as though I wasn't depressed and then after a while I'm truly done with it for that cycle.

I love your point about "why can't I do any of that myself right now" Its so true that what we know in our head doesn't always translate to being able to put a technique into practice or to feel it in our heart. It gives me a great deal of compassion for people that struggle around me. Ultimately we each have our own struggles and no one else can share our joy. Report
Hey Dean,
Just wanted to quickly echo some of the amazing sentiments that have already been left here. I always look forward to your blog posts and am continually motivated by reading them (even revisiting ones I've ready already). Thanks for all you do to help us all - hopefully we can now return the favor and help support and encourage you through your trying times.

There's a family of thousands of Coach Dean friends just waiting to help in any way we can so keep us posted!

SparkCheers and Good Health Your Way! Report
Coach Dean, we've been missing you more than you could know. Please know that you are well-loved in this "little" community - your blogs have been a source of great inspiration to so many of us! You have been generous with your help and suggestions for *us* so many, many times, and it's so deeply appreciated.

Yes, absolutely, DO share what you feel you can share about your recovery, too. And, may I say, for all the demons from the past that are bothering you - put them where they belong, IN the past. Whatever you may have done or not done, you are a completely different person now, those memories do not have to shape your days any longer.

The Coach Dean we know is a strong, fun-loving person. You've dealt with pain before, so I'm thinking it's not just pain that's causing the stress and depression. Is it, perhaps, that being unable to exercise (or perhaps to exercise at the intensity you are used to) is getting you down and bringing up some fears? If so, I hope you trust yourself to work through the recovery period and then slowly start up the exercise program again.

Whatever it is, know that we are here for you - come vent, rant-and-rave, whatever you need! We miss you - be kind to yourself and take *care* of yourself!

I think your experience, wisdom, insight and honesty with what is happening to you would be a huge benefit to others out there suffering from the same things. I think it would be helpful if you chose to write when you feel you can - to others and yourself. Good luck with this battle - I'm confident that you will get through it this time too. Report
Thank you for your honesty in sharing this painful part of your life. Even in that you have much to offer others. You and your loved ones are in my thoughts and prayers. May you find your way through this darkness back to Peace. Report
Hey coach,
Sending positive thoughts your way. Report
Thanks for sharing this! Depression adn PTSD are real and keep coming back to haunt us. How many times have I been told I should be over that by now. But this keeps creeping back in our lives.
So it is good if someone stands up and talks about it. Report
It takes a lot of courage to face what is so compared to the ideal in life. By opening the door to this conversation you are doing a great service to those who are looking for a fix for their own life. It takes as long as it takes to get the emotional charge off of life events. I believe our bodies have cellular memories that hold some of these anxieties and trigger our mood swings. The good news is that emotions are energies that will discharge.

I dealth with what I would call PTSD that involved falling to the floor and crying hysterically while having flashbacks of childhood events. Sometimes pictures would come and other times not. Once an accupuncturist placed a needle right between my eyebrows, the image was so funny it almost cured me on the spot.

I would like to offer the space of openness-awareness-and love. The Budhha field where you can relax into your own true nature. I truly appreciate your contributions to SP and it would be enough if that was it. I feel you have a lot more to offer of great value as you get to the other side of this tunnel. My vision of the world is like a continuous set of ladders, with each reaching down to help those on rungs below and at the same time being uplifted by those reaching out to them from above. You are a blessing in my life and I wish you the peace that surpasses understanding. Kindest Regards. Report
I wish you a speedy recovery. I too had a valve replacement in 2007. I needed one due to the chemo and radiation treatments I had because of breast cancer. It was sudden and totally unexpected,but that surgery was harder than the cancer. I was determined that I would recover quickly as I had a trip to Scotland and Ireland booked for August 18. My surgery was April 26th. I made it and went on that trip and have never looked back. I think having something to look forward to really helps. Hugs to you. Report
So sorry to hear about your problems. Thanks for letting us know what's going on with you. I understand how you don't feel like blogging right now, but keep us informed once in a while as to how you are doing. I will keep you in my prayers. Report
As you can see you were missed alot! It was a very humbeling thing to go and blog about your personal struggles right now. You are definately not alone. You are in my prayers that God will reach down and touch your life and mind and may you find peace and comfort once again Dean. Report
Depression after heart surgery is normal. And not just for the patient. Months after my husband's surgery, after the drama and the anxiety and the healing was over, I finally just fell apart for a while.

But it passed, it's been ten years, and our marriage is stronger than ever.

Take it easy. Report
Number 1 - don't rule out the effects of your recent surgery.
Number 2 - You are normal
Number 3 - I believe I recall from a past blog post that you live in pretty rural environment. I know it is very difficult when you are feeling this way but try to get out and be with some people, preferrably friendly supportive ones. As much of some of us (myself included) would like to believe we are just fine (if not better off) alone, humans are social beings and being with others will make you feel better (even though you probably don't believe that right now).
Number 4 - you are cared for by a lot of people here who feel like they know you even though we have never met. Hang in there.
Lastly - you write really great and informative blogs (some of the best, truly). But for right now we would welcome just a couple lines of an update on how the weather is where you are. Just keep in touch because many of us will be thinking about you and wondering how you you are. Take care of yourself! Report
I think the blog is the least of your worries right now. I think you need to go back and perhaps try applying some of those suggestions to yourself. Concentrate on small things, small getting out of bed or remembering to shower and get dressed.

Yes, I've been there. I know just how awful the cloak of depression can feel and how it literally crushes the life out of you.

You need to take care of YOU first. The rest of us will be here, cheering you on, and we'll wait for you to have the time, energy, and health to write again. Report
I have struggled off and on with anxiety and depression. One thing that has helped is acknowledging that this will be a life-long battle. I will have good weeks and years, and I will have bad weeks and years. Believing that this is not because I am broken or weak, instead seeing it as my life challenge to learn about my own compassion (for myself and for others) as well as my own strength (just struggling with these issues makes us strong!). I have a fabulous therapist who supports me and friends who I feel are a positive influence on me. I recently took a health class that looked at all domains of health (physical, spiritual, emotional, etc.) and I realized how unbalanced my life was and where I wanted to improve. As my life is becoming more balanced, I have also started to like myself more. I think it has something to do with becoming more who I want to be as well as opening up to the strengths I already have. I'm not sure how any of this might be helpful to you, and I cannot imagine the experience of living with PTSD. I feel for you. Here are some things that always help me:
You are stronger than you think.
You are your own worst enemy, don't be too hard on yourself and don't let setbacks define who you are.
Our worst behaviors and habits (ruminating thoughts, vices, etc.) are still ways of coping with life. Pulling back from activities is our body's way of saying we are overwhelmed by life and lacking good coping resources, and guilt and shame provide reason (I caused this event) for and meaning for unimaginable and unexplainable events. So don't beat yourself up, you're absolutely doing the best that you can with what you've got right now. Keep surviving, keep thriving, and I wish for you to return to where you want to be.

Good luck with all of your goals!
The assumption that you're not the only one struggling with depression, PTSD, self-esteem issues, etc. is a safe one. Thank you for sharing. It's good to know that we're not the only ones who feel this way. Report
ARE YOU KIDDING ME? DEPRESSION IS A HUGE FACTOR AFTER HEART SURGERY....HAPPENS ALL THE TIME........YOU ARE NORMAL. Really..thank you so much for posting really give us that great sense...of being "real".....I so appreciate all the staff here.....because make us we are really part of a big family. I am so sorry that you are not feeling as well as you had hoped......but I know that you will feel better eventually. I have seen what you experienced first hand in my fil........after is surgery (triple by pass and valve replacment)......he was not the same man. He could not tolerate working any longer...quit his job and retired to AZ....spent the next 5 like he was dying........then finally settled down and realized...he had lots of years left.......that was 20 years ago....and he still has the pig valve they told him would only last 10 years.........he is 82 and they want him to have another valve surgery...but he is refusing because he is "too old" got lots of great years ahead....take it one day at a time, my friend, one day at a time.......take care...JO Report
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