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Spinning out of Control

Dave’s experience with trauma was a hard series of multiple emotional hits over a period of six months, beginning with the death of his dear friend Thomas Leonard. Leonard was the founder of Coach U and Coachville and is considered to be the “Father of Coaching” worldwide. Leonard died in 2003 at age forty-seven and left the company to Dave. Dave was thrown into the job with little preparation in corporate management—nor the legal challenges that followed almost immediately after.

Two former employees of the business sued Dave. Another person who had made a previous deal with his friend Thomas sued him. His friend’s estate decided to sue him, which meant that the decision about the future of the company could stay in probate for four years. Dave had never been in a lawsuit in his life. Now he had three on his hands.

To compound the grief of losing his best friend and the problem of the lawsuits, Dave’s girlfriend of ten years left him to marry someone else. This was just too much to bear, and he was just hanging on by a thread until he finally snapped. He said, “I couldn’t take it any more. I was ready to just disappear.”

Dave’s friends noticed his unraveling. They urged him to seek professional help. “They told me,” he recalled, “you are not going to get out of this depression, Dave, unless you see a doctor. The spiral you’re in will just spin you out of control.” All this was news to Dave, because, as he said, “I’ve always been a very upbeat person, and I never thought I’d ever be depressed. I just figured I was having a bad streak.”

Dave’s friends suggested that he should seriously look at taking antidepressants, since they had both used them successfully. He told both of them that he was not comfortable taking those kinds of drugs. His approach to his health had always been more holistic. His friends knew this, but they assured him that it was not so bad and that it didn’t have the stigma it used have.

I met Dave at the seminar he was leading in Toronto shortly after he “snapped.” The seminar was restricted to twenty people, which I thought was unusual, since I had heard him speak in front of very large audiences a couple of times. He is a very dynamic speaker, which was why we were there. For some reason, I asked him to join us for lunch. I had just started the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Association; in fact, my business cards were literally still wet. While I was telling my story about my struggle with PTSD, he recognized some of his own symptoms. Coincidence? I don’t think so. It was fate. He needed help, and I had come into his life to direct him toward getting it. After a long discussion, I found him an EMDR specialist in his area, and when I received his e-mail months later thanking me for saving him, my feeling of gratitude for being able to help was overwhelming. He would have taken his friends’ advice and not gone the EMDR treatment route. Dave started therapy in November. The next four months were intense but very productive.

Dave calls EMDR miraculous. “That’s when I started getting better,” he said. His therapist confirmed that he was depressed and that he had PTSD, and then they went to work. Dave described his state going into the sessions as being “stuck.” He couldn’t resolve logistical issues. “Anything more than two steps,” he says, “I couldn’t handle. As soon as I got to the third step, my brain got all scrambled. And here I was, trying to run a large organization.”

Through EMDR treatments, Dave was able to identify issues, past and present, that were upsetting him. He was able to face his anger and anxieties. He recalls a defining moment in late October, when he came home and couldn’t get his key in the door. Frustrated and powerless, he stood alone, crying in front of his house.

As he learned more about himself, he was able to release the events that had clogged his system and blurred his responses. He could actually feel the re-patterning taking place inside, his brain rewiring and the mind-body connection being restored. “By February, I was feeling pretty good,” he said. “That was a rapid turnaround month. I started really exploring myself. And from there, I could take an accelerated path to recovery.”

Dave credits EMDR and his therapist with providing a baseline of recovery from which he could put his life back in order. He says his optimistic view on life ironically turned into a curse, because it blinded him to his own distress. He had always believed in the super-individualist adage, “If it’s to be, it’s up to me.” He thought he could do everything all by himself. He learned otherwise, and the lesson was freeing.

Stress melted away. His recovery took off, with coaching techniques kicking in after he had reached the baseline with EMDR. “I had a lot of cleanup to do,” he said. He asked his two personal coaches to help him to right the personal and business mistakes he had made. He applied his coaching skills, especially environmental design, to make sure he stayed healthy and on track. “Being depressed for years, I had not taken care of the people who love me,” he states. He started to mend fences, reestablishing relationships he had neglected. He sees himself as much more compassionate and capable because of this experience.

Dave is quick to point out that “you cannot coach someone out of PTSD.” It’s a powerful statement from a leader in the coaching business. But coaching is very useful after the hard inner work is done, what he refers to as the “time in the darkness” when he discovered that “sweet Dave Buck had an evil twin inside, and he was no fun.”

He has come to believe that out of this dark comes the possibility of real enlightenment. “It’s the yin and yang inside of yourself. You have to be able to embrace both to be truly whole and enlightened,” he says. “And I can now see when someone else is in the darkness too, because I know what it looks like, and I have an appreciation for it.” He jokes, “I don’t recommend PTSD, but it has made me a better person, a better coach. It’s an incredible blessing. I have already referred three other people to EMDR therapists.”

Here is Dave’s final word: “We can be over-diagnostic about pathology in our culture. At the same time, PTSD is a real thing. If you are in any kind of helping profession, you should know what it is.”

 Excerpt from the book “The Power of Trauma” from the darkness of despair to a life filled with light.