Biographies & Memoirs

DEEP COVER: A Memoir of Hiding While Dying to Be Seen

By Nadia Dean

This book will launch on Dec 31, 2019. Currently, only those with the link can see it. 🔒

It is one thing to recognize that you have been betrayed by your father, your brother, your husband, your culture, and your country. It takes a deeper level of insight to see that you have also betrayed yourself.

Dean’s first book, A Demand of Blood: The Cherokee War of 1776 brought to life the compelling story of the southern frontier on the brink of war. “Here is historical writing at its finest — an examination of the past which both connects us to that past and teaches us lessons on our present.” (Smoky Mountain News) Now Dean applies that same rigorous examination of history—this time to her own past.

“This is more than just another survivor story. It is the pilgrimage of a woman who dared to go deeper, to penetrate beneath the surface, and to uncover the roots of fear, abuse, and lies. Nadia has the courage not only to identify the narcissists in her life, but to find the wisdom to forgive and move beyond self-defeating behaviors. With heartfelt passion, she challenges readers to discover the deepest truths, even when it means facing all the lies you have been telling yourself.” ~author Candy Paull

Wakeup Call


“Loneliness can be conquered only by those who can bear solitude.”

—Paul Tillich, The Eternal Now

Blaring radio scanners and bright lights rattled me awake. I felt

someone shaking me and yelling, “Nadia! Nadia! Wake up!”

Barely able to open my eyes, I could see paramedics hovering

over me. “Hey, Nadia, talk to me! What did you take?” one EMT

shouted. I remained dazed. They took my vitals, bandaged my wrist,

and strapped me to a gurney. Carrying me down the stairs and into

the ambulance, they whisked me away to the hospital.

I was only vaguely conscious when they rolled me into that cold

emergency room. The glaring lights and familiar sounds of hospital

commotion reminded me that I’d been through this before. Oh, God,

I hope they don’t pump my stomach. The cacophony of medical voices

over me blurred in confusion. I didn’t want to be there. I didn’t want

to see anyone. But after the ordeal of being questioned, poked, and

needled, a psychiatrist came to interrogate me.

“Hello, I’m Dr. Caruso. How are you feeling?” he said with a

concerned look.

“How do you think I feel? I feel like crap. My life is crap.”

“Why do you say that?” he asked.

“I can’t have kids, my husband’s a thief, my career’s going nowhere,

and I got turned down for food stamps.”

“Is that why you tried to kill yourself?”

“What? No! I just—I was just trying to relax. I was stressed out,”

I replied.

“Why did you cut yourself?” he asked.

“Because I wanted to stop hurting.”

Due to the dangers of mixing alcohol and cyclobenzaprine, the

crisis team advised that I be admitted to the ICU.

The next morning, the psychiatrist looked at me and said, “I

strongly suggest that you be admitted to Vanderbilt Psychiatric


“Why do I need to go there?” I asked.

“They can do more assessment to try to help you, but you’ll have

to agree to it,” he said.

“Okay, I’ll go, I guess.” An ambulance transferred me to Vanderbilt,

but as soon as I arrived, I began to panic inside. Another hospitalization?

The other times hadn’t worked. What makes you think this time

anything will change?

Meanwhile, Mom had been on the road since early that morning,

driving three hundred miles to get to Vanderbilt.

When she arrived I pleaded with her, fearing that she’d override

my sensibilities and convince me to be admitted.

“Mom, I can’t stay here. I just want to go home,” I told her.

“Let’s see what the doctor says,” she replied. A psychiatrist sat and

talked with Mom and me.

I told him, “Look, I’ve changed my mind about being admitted.

I just had a bad night, that’s all. I’ll be okay. My mom’s here. I’ll be


“Okay, but, your discharge evaluation from Dr. Caruso noted,”

he said as he flipped through papers, “Impression was bipolar disorder,

type II rapid cycling, axis II borderline personality traits. That’s some

serious stuff.”

“I know, but I’ll make an appointment to see Dr. Caruso. I


He glanced up at me from his reading. “Borderline Personality

Disorder is a serious illness. It says here you stopped taking your

antidepressant medication. Why?”

“I quit taking it a year ago, because I’ve been trying to get pregnant,”

I said, my voice trailing off. Looking down, I mumbled, “I

guess last night, the anguish of my infertility penetrated my heart.”

Mom spoke up. “I’ll be here in Nashville for as long as she

needs me.”

Reluctant to release me, he nevertheless agreed, saying, “Well,

you do seem to be pretty high functioning.”

On the drive home, Mom asked, “What happened last night that

things got so bad?”

“I talked to Dad yesterday, and it just made things worse.”

“Why? What did he say?”

“I told him, ‘Dad, I’m miserable with Badeel. He’s nothing but

a liar and a thief. I want a divorce,’ but then he yelled, ‘Oh no! You

married him—you stay with him!’ I guess that’s his way of saying that

I’ve made my bed and I should lie in it.” Mom had seen his blistering

remarks maintain the wall between my desperate struggle for his love

and approval and his Arab culture and tyrannical personality. Dad’s

brilliant mind helped him overcome great adversity as an immigrant

to America to achieve success in earning a PhD in his third language.

He eventually reached the top of his field as an economic advisor. But

brain power aside, he lacked an ability to be consistently nurturing.

The minute he would show any compassion or tenderness, I’d eagerly

respond by letting down my guard, only to be suddenly leveled by his

dark emotions that surfaced as quickly as his sweet side had appeared.

As I was pouring out my heart to Mom, she said, “I’m sorry. I

know how harsh he can be.”

“Yeah, I know you do,” I said in a sympathetic tone, fully realizing

that all my life she’d been the light to his darkness, and he’d been the

shadow to her light.

Strongly empathic and kindhearted, Mom continued listening as

I vented about my broken life.

“Did I tell you about the dreams I’ve been having?” I asked.

“No, I don’t think so.”

“I’ve had this same nightmare, over and over. In it, I’m getting

married, feeling so much in love, but just before walking down the

aisle, I say, ‘Oh my God, I’m already married!’ and then suddenly

wake up.”

“I’m sorry, honey. I know it’s been hard,” she said.

Mom went on to comment in her characteristically positive way,

“You’ve just finished recording your CD, so that should give you

some encouragement.”

The monumental creative effort she was referring to—years of

work that I’d just completed—should have made me joyful. But the

deep, soul-penetrating anguish of my childless, disappointing marriage

had siphoned the strength out of me. Hoping to find refuge in

Dad when I’d called him, I had instead encountered his resentment

toward me for ‘not producing me a grandchild,’ as he put it, adding

another layer of misery as I sank into a hole of engulfing despair and


“Honey, I know you’ve had a lot to deal with all at once,” she said.

“Yeah, well, on top of everything else, after that sexual harassment

nightmare at work, Badeel got angry with me because I hadn’t

reported it. When I did, my boss bullied me. So, I had to quit.”

“You did the right thing, honey. Something else will come along,”

she said.

“And you know how hard Christmas is for me. All that expectation

to be merry and bright,” I said sarcastically. “Anyhow, Badeel

stays gone a lot. I was feeling lonely. I drank a beer, but I got more

depressed and then drank a bottle of red wine. I started crying uncontrollably,

so I took a couple of muscle relaxers to calm down. I just

wanted to go to sleep. If I’d really wanted to kill myself, I would have

taken the whole bottle.”

“But, honey, why were you cutting your wrist?”

“I couldn’t stop crying. I just wanted to stop the pain. But then

the phone rang, and it was you,” I told her.

“Well, I’d been praying for you, because I felt something was

wrong,” she said in a solemn tone. “After you and I hung up, I called

for an ambulance.”

A few days later, I followed-up with Dr. Caruso, the hospital

psychiatrist. After a couple of sessions, he confirmed a diagnosis of

borderline personality disorder.

“The diagnosis is evident from your bouts of severe depression

and previous suicide attempts,” he explained.

“You also need to know that alcohol increases your risk for suicide,”

he added.

“I didn’t try to kill myself, okay? I was stressed. I just wanted to

go to sleep.” He looked like he didn’t believe me. “I also think you’ve

suffered abandonment.”

I immediately frowned and shot back, “What are you talking

about? My parents never abandoned me.”

But Dr. Caruso was on to something. In that moment, I was

unable to recall a traumatic childhood event. Years later, however, I

came to see he’d been correct. It was not until writing this memoir

that I began to see what Dr. Caruso understood: an abandonment

experience had triggered my BPD. Since the childhood trauma had

been so severe, my brain refused to recall those wounding memories.

Mom, however, would go through life, more than once telling me

her part of the story—events that I later confirmed in old letters I

found. But Mom never knew to call it abandonment, because in her

mind, she hadn’t abandoned me.

The trauma occurred after our family moved to Iraq when I was

five. The State Department appointed Dad as a Fulbright professor of

economics in the program that placed American academics in foreign

universities. We got Baghdad.

One year after that move, the four of us traveled by car from Iraq

to Lebanon to spend the summer with Dad’s family. It was the second

time in my life that I’d met any of Dad’s relatives, all of whom spoke

no English, and I, no Arabic.

One night in Beirut, a disturbance erupted. Crammed in my uncle

Nasri’s small apartment, Mom, my brother, and I were sleeping, when

suddenly, we were roused awake by a thundering uproar of shouting

that came bellowing through the walls.

“You had to marry a Christian?” one uncle demanded of Dad.

“You have to forget this nonsense of living in America and staying

married to that woman!” another one railed.

“Listen, you need to divorce this one. Send her back to America,”

another bellowed. My uncles’ treacherous scheme for our small family

included Dad marrying the Shi’ite woman they’d picked out for him

and raising my brother and me as Muslims.

That restless night spilled over into morning when a telegram

arrived for Mom.

“Oh no. Daddy’s had a massive heart attack,” Mom read to Dad.

“I need to go home, but I hate leaving you and the children. What

should I do?”

Dad told her, “The kids will be fine. Go ahead and go.” He bought

her a ticket to North Carolina.

During part of that summer, Dad was also away, so my older

brother Sami and I were left in the care of our uncle Nasri with whom

we’d previously spent very little time. A few weeks later, Sami and I

were sent to Dad’s secluded mountain village to stay with his sister

Asma, a stranger to me who spoke no English. While in her care, I

became deathly ill with a high fever that she allowed to persist for ten

days. I cried and cried for Mom, and I couldn’t understand why she

wasn’t there to care for me. Aside from being sick, having no common

language with my assumed caregivers overwhelmed me with feelings

of isolation and abandonment.

Meanwhile, in North Carolina with her family, Mom felt tormented

over leaving me and Sami in Beirut. She often woke in the

night, trembling in a cold sweat, hearing the word religion over and

over in her mind. She believed these disturbing episodes indicated a

spiritual struggle over my life and Sami’s.

Two months later, Mom came back to Lebanon. She was shocked

to see my condition. Dark circles from lack of sleep encased my eyes.

I’d lost so much weight after that ten-day spiked fever that Mom

described me as painfully thin. From the moment she returned, I

talked a blue streak, slept with her, and hardly left her side. Deeply

hurt that she hadn’t been there when I’d been so sick, I told her that

I’d felt lonesome and afraid. Mom had always lovingly cared for me.

Managing my long, naturally curly hair had been our mother-daughter

bonding ritual, but while she was away, my aunt had cut it all off.

Being six years old in a foreign country, with a language barrier,

separated from my mother and father, and becoming deathly ill created

a deep, psychic abandonment wound. The intense emotions of

abandonment and the feelings of fear and anxiety it produced triggered

adverse biochemical changes in my developing brain that set

the stage for a lifetime of feelings of deep insecurity and a constant

yearning for human connection that never quite materialized.

About the author

Nadia Dean is the author of the critically-acclaimed historical narrative A Demand of Blood: The Cherokee War of 1776. She was formerly a Washington, DC television news producer and correspondent, newspaper columnist, and radio show host. In Deep Cover, she writes about trauma and recovery. view profile

Published on November 11, 2019

Published by Author Academy Elite

50000 words

Contains explicit content ⚠️

Worked with a Reedsy professional 🏆

Genre: Biographies & Memoirs

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