My Re­cov­ery: Mark Welch

Cecil Whig - - FRONT PAGE -

— I have al­ways been a strong and hope­ful per­son full of faith. I faced many ob­sta­cles in my life, al­ways get­ting back up and kicked the dust off my feet and moved on. I re­lied on one of my fa­vorite Bi­ble verses, Ro­mans 8:28, which says, “God causes all things to work to­gether for good to those who love God, to those who are called ac­cord­ing to His pur­pose.”

In 1988, I took a leap of faith and opened my own health club. Any­one who has started their own busi­ness knows the fi­nan­cial and stress­ful pres­sures you are un­der. Dur­ing the next 12 years, our busi­ness had many suc­cesses and sur­vived many ob­sta­cles. Also at that time, I added four more chil­dren to my fam­ily, be­came a cer­ti­fied per­sonal trainer and nu­tri­tion coun­selor, pro­vided for my fam­ily, tried to be an ac­tive fa­ther and hus­band, worked with Spe­cial Olympics and even helped in the start up of a few churches.

Even though life was very stress­ful, I was al­ways pos­i­tive about the fu­ture. In a three­year pe­riod when a se­ries of dra­matic and life chang­ing events oc­curred, how­ever, it seemed like my life was spin­ning out of con­trol.

Hur­ri­cane Floyd de­stroyed our busi­ness, leav­ing us in hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars in debt. We lost an in­vest­ment prop­erty that had our life sav­ings tied up in it. And then, hard­est of all, we lost our old­est daugh­ter in a car ac­ci­dent in Fe­bru­ary 2003.

The next 10 years is a “blur,” as my life be­gan to rapidly spi­ral down. For those par­ents who have ex­pe­ri­enced this loss, you know that no par­ent wants to out­live their chil­dren. Need­less to say, I was dev­as­tated, with­out hope or pur­pose. As time went on, I sepa-

ELK­TON

rated my­self from loved ones, stopped at­tend­ing church, slept ex­ces­sively, stopped ex­er­cis­ing, de­vel­oped aw­ful eat­ing habits, and even­tu­ally turned to recre­ational drug use to take away the pain.

So you ask your­self: How does a cer­ti­fied per­sonal trainer, nu­tri­tion coach, fam­ily man, provider, born-again Chris­tian be­come se­verely de­pressed and ad­dicted to recre­ational drugs?

Trauma, both phys­i­cal and emo­tional.

We all have ex­pe­ri­enced it and we all suf­fer from it in some way. And re­search has shown it does af­fect our brains.

Dur­ing that 14-year pe­riod of my down­ward spi­ral, I did seek med­i­cal at­ten­tion, a lot of it. For any­one who ex­pe­ri­ences that tight­ness in their chest, up­set stom­ach and rest­less thoughts, they know first­hand what anx­i­ety feels like. Anx­i­ety is real.

First I started on an anti-anx­i­ety medicine, which helped take away all those symp­toms, but it also took away my drive for suc­cess. I be­came numb, noth­ing both­ered me. At times I was a walk­ing “zom­bie.” I vis­ited psy­chi­a­trists and coun­selors, and even went so far as to have 11 elec­tro­con­vul­sive ther­apy ses­sions to try and zap my brain back into bal­ance. If you don’t know what ECT treat­ments are, watch the movie “One Flew Over the Cukoos Nest” with Jack Ni­chol­son. It is a pro­ce­dure where your brain is hooked up to elec­tri­cal cur­rents, caus­ing seizures to try to “re-ig­nite” neu­ro­trans­mit­ters in your brain.

This just con­tin­ued my hope­less trail. They zapped my per­son­al­ity right out of me. The ECT treat­ments took away my abil­ity to re­mem­ber cur­rent things along with events that hap­pened in the past. Once again, I lost more of my­self. The doc­tors didn’t know what to do, they just kept in­creas­ing dosages of my med­i­ca­tion, and adding new ones. I was now at the point where ev­ery­day tasks such as tak­ing a shower be­came a strug­gle.

It was af­ter this that I de­cided my fam­ily would be bet­ter off with­out me. I had no hope for a fu­ture. I could not find any pur­pose for me but con­tin­ued pain and suf­fer­ing for my fam­ily. I was worth more dead than alive — so I thought. I still be­lieved in God, but I thought he had turned His back on me.

Through a se­ries of events that I cre­ated, my in­ten­tion was to end my fam­ily’s bur­den. I loved my wife and seven chil­dren so much, and I would never want to do any­thing to hurt them. But I thought I could cause a sit­u­a­tion that some­one could end my pain. Lit­tle did I know that there were lots of peo­ple pray­ing for me — es­pe­cially my wife! They prayed for God’s in­ter­ven­tion from my hor­rific plan. Then one day when life be­came too un­bear­able, God an­swered their prayers.

God in­ter­vened by send- ing me to the Ce­cil County De­ten­tion Cen­ter for seven months, then seven weeks at the Depart­ment of Cor­rec­tion in Baltimore City and fi­nally seven months at Po­plar Hill pre-re­lease unit in Sal­is­bury. It was dur­ing that time that I started to heal by com­ing off the in­cor­rect med­i­ca­tions that were de­stroy­ing my life. Again, I had a will to live and a pur­pose in my life. My fam­ily still loved me and needed me. God was not done with me yet.

On Sept. 26, 2014, I was re­leased from Po­plar Hill pre­re­lease unit and re­united with my lov­ing fam­ily, es­pe­cially my wife who had dili­gently prayed and sup­ported me through­out this time. It was af­ter my re­lease that I fi­nally searched for some real an­swers to my prob­lems.

In Oc­to­ber 2014, I had my first SPECT scan. A SPECT scan shows the over and un­der-ac­tive lev­els in your brain. I learned when deal­ing with the brain and trauma, psy­chi­a­trists are the only doc­tors who do not look at the or­gan be­fore mak­ing a di­ag­no­sis. They still use the same tech­niques they were us­ing 100 years ago.

With a new fo­cus, my physi­cian could im­me­di­ately see the ac­tual prob­lem. My new di­ag­no­sis was a head in­jury from fall­ing down a flight of stairs when I was a teen, which frac­tured my skull and left me in a coma for three days, com­bined with sev­eral foot­ball con­cus­sions, box­ing and post-trau­matic stress dis­or­der. Ev­i­dently, it was a deadly com­bi­na­tion.

I was pre­scribed an anti-seizure med­i­ca­tion that ac­tu­ally “put the fire out in my brain,” as my physi­cian de­scribed. I’m sure there are many of you read­ing this to­day that un­der­stand that feel­ing.

I found that the med­i­ca­tions that were pre­scribed to me over the past 10 years caused more harm than good. In six months time, I no longer strug­gle with de­pres­sion. I still have some anx­i­ety, but it is anx­i­ety that keeps me mo­ti­vated to be suc­cess­ful. I feel all my feel­ings, good and bad. I am not a zom­bie. I have gone back to ex­er­cis­ing, tak­ing care of my­self and restor­ing bro­ken re­la­tion­ships. I have also suc­cess­fully be­come a li­censed in­sur­ance bro­ker and have picked up where I left off 16 years ago, re­sum­ing my well­ness coach­ing prac­tice. I have a de­sire and will to live and de­sire to help other peo­ple. I con­tinue to strive to be the fam­ily man I once was (even bet­ter), and I at­tend church faith­fully. My wife and I will be cel­e­brat­ing our 27th an­niver­sary this year!

Look­ing back fol­low­ing my daugh­ter’s death I wish I had un­der­stood what ac­tu­ally hap­pens to your brain when faced with tragedy. I would have sought men­tal health pro­fes­sion­als with elite knowl­edge of the brain in­stead of seek­ing out drugs, both le­gal and il­le­gal, to numb my pain. In­stead it took me down the wrong road.

To any­one read­ing who has ex­pe­ri­enced trauma, de­pres­sion or ad­dic­tion, or may just feel they have a men­tal health is­sue, or know some­one who does, I want to of­fer a word of hope. Men­tal health is just as im­por­tant as heart health. If you don’t take care of ei­ther of these or­gans, it can be deadly.

The good news is that it is cur­able when di­ag­nosed and treated prop­erly. You must look at the brain in or­der to know what area is out of bal­ance, why is it out of bal­ance, and know how to get it back in bal­ance. And med­i­ca­tion alone is not the only cure. There are other fac­tors just as im­por­tant to keep your brain healthy: get the junk food out of your diet, ex­er­cise to in­crease dopamine lev­els in your brain and uti­lize real nu­tri­tional sup­ple­ments that can prove the qual­ity of their prod­uct.

Un­for­tu­nately, so­ci­ety to­day judges peo­ple with men­tal health is­sues un­fairly. I do carry shame for the things that I have done, the peo­ple that I have hurt, and for that I am truly sorry. Some peo­ple have for­given, and some have not. I can­not change that.

What I do be­lieve is quoted in Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, de­clares the Lord, plans for wel­fare and not for evil to give you a fu­ture and a hope.”

One of the ex­cel­lent pro­grams I highly rec­om­mend is Cel­e­brate Re­cov­ery. It is a faith­based re­cov­ery pro­gram for peo­ple who have ex­pe­ri­enced trauma, ad­dic­tion and fam­i­lies with men­tal health is­sues. For more in­for­ma­tion on Cel­e­brate Re­cov­ery, call 443-350-6694.

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY JA­COB OWENS

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