Meeting Justin Marsh in late 2012 would have been a lot different than meeting him now.
In November of that year, Marsh, 35, of Bellevue, was suffering from depression, had gained weight and suffered a mental breakdown.
Today, he’s working to overcome his challenges, manage his depression and get his life back.
All that is sometimes difficult to quantify in our results-driven world, but Marsh was able to physically show some of the progress he’s made when, in June, he took part in something called the Hope and Possibility Race in New York City, a 5-mile run sponsored by Achilles International, a nonprofit helping people with disabilities be active, achieve goals and make long-term improvements on their health and fitness.
Now, Marsh is on his way toward serving as a model for what people even in the direst straits emotionally or physically can overcome.
“Being around all those people, it felt good to be around people like me,” Marsh said of taking part in the run with other participants whose experience reflected his own. “We all have different disabilities but we are all connected in that.”
In the depths of his depression, Marsh lost his commercial driver’s license — the lifeblood of his profession as as a driver for Waste Management, a waste and recycling firm. He was able to stay on as an employee but he couldn’t do the job and was put on long-term disability.
That’s when Marsh reached a breaking point and a representative from Cigna, the health insurance company used by Marsh’s employer, contacted him after his breakdown to help him get better. Finally, after months of suffering, he got the help he needed.
Wesley Lund, a Cigna representative who specializes in helping clients with their depression, called Marsh and offered the company’s services.
Marsh said Lund and Cigna provided him with the tools he needed to get into better physical and mental shape and over time, the aches and pains went away in his lower back and he is healing after the breakdown.
Marsh is now helping himself get focused on working out, going to school and working on feeling better emotionally.
After two months of training, Marsh was doing so much better that he was able to compete in the fifth annual Hope and Possibility Race.
The race attracts thousands of runners — able-bodied and disabled runners, along with dozens of celebrities who lend their support to the cause embedded in the run — and Marsh said with help from counselors and trainers, he found himself ready to take to the trails of New York’s Central Park.
Victoria Baker, his vocational counselor, was the one who told him about the 5-mile run.
Baker introduced Marsh to an online trainer who sent him links and ideas for different workouts. He trained five days a week working on strengthening his back by walking and doing stairs for 30-minute durations.
“Wes kept me motivated with keeping me on my meds,” Marsh said. “Fitness-wise, they kept me going when I didn’t have the motivation and they encouraged the motivation. It was pushing you without really rushing you.”
Marsh said the race gave him an opportunity to connect with people who were like him and it was a chance to heal over what he went through. Marsh still isn’t able to drive, but he anticipates being back at work soon.
His message to other people who are in the condition he was in, is to get help.
“It’s OK to take care of yourself, and to retrain yourself into taking care of yourself,” Marsh said.