Dean "Deano" Gladstone appears to have it all: he is dad to two beautiful kids, lives (and surfs) in Bondi, has rescued more than 2500 people (wow!), and appeared on reality TV show, Bondi Rescue. But life hasn't always been plain sailing for Dean.
What you might not know about this professional lifeguard, yoga teacher, wellness coach and, since April this year, personal trainer at Elixr Bondi Junction, is that back in 2006, he was knocked unconscious during an evening out by an attacker he literally didn’t see coming.
As Dean described it to Jason Nelson earlier this year, "When I regained consciousness, he was on top of me, continuing to attack me. I could taste the blood in my mouth and could feel my teeth bent back at 90 degrees or missing. My front teeth were never found."
Following the brutal attack, Dean suffered spinal damage and developed Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSS) or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), "a mental health condition that's triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event." (Source: Mayoclinic.org)
In Dean's case, the anxiety and fear were so extreme that he was unable to leave his home for weeks at a time. His body also had a physical response to the stress in the way of new allergies which made sleep difficult, as well as dermatitis and eczema, which caused him to scratch his skin until it bled.
Dean's journey back to health was a long, painful one that included meditation and yoga, swapping out western medicine for naturopathy, acupuncture and massage, reinventing his diet, and leaning on his friends and family for support.
Recently, he also began working with charity organisations Rise Foundation Australia and Life Warriors. "I'm currently working with them to help implement mental health strategies for young people – I've had some tough times, but I've also been able to help others, in my capacity as a trainer, health coach and yoga teacher, to get through difficult times."
We checked in with him to find out about his recovery, the role exercise played in his rehabilitation, and what advice he has for anyone struggling with PTSS.
Do you still suffer from symptoms associated with PTSS?
Not symptoms as such, but it has changed the person I am. Watching violent sports like boxing and cage fighting are no longer my cup of tea and I try to avoid situations like these that make me feel uncomfortable. I’ve also made sure that most aspects of my life revolve around health and happiness.
What role did exercise play in your recovery?
Exercise has always been a major part of my life and when I lost the ability to move without feeling pain, it was hugely challenging. Building a new, stronger version of myself was critical to my recovery, both physically and mentally. Our overall health includes physical, emotional and mental aspects and strategies that work for one person won’t necessarily work for another. I found that exercise gave me purpose and direction, which helped my emotional and mental recovery as much as it did my physical rehabilitation.
Which Elixr classes help you maintain a positive mindset?
As a yoga teacher, I love to keep my mind focused with Yoga. My favourite yoga style is Vinyasa, I love that it calms me and also gives me a good strength workout. I have recently started dabbling in Pilates, and am really loving Karl's class - the thing I like most is that he is really focused on technique and what I have learnt in his classes have been transferrable to every other aspect of my training. I will continue to explore Pilates classes to grow my knowledge and skillset. The body mind connection at Elixr is what I love most, it's a holistic approach to health.
What advice do you have for someone struggling with PTSS?
Get help and keep reaching out until you get the right help. Look for communities that will support you online and out in the real world and call Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636 or Lifeline on 131 114. Exercise, diet, family, friends and fun have also been known to help.