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From the Depths of PTSD to Business Owner of Blackout Nuts & Candies: Mark Smith’s Success Story

I was diagnosed with PTSD nearly five years ago. It was so severe that it took me a year and a half, with the help of my therapist, to slowly start making progress. When I entered therapy, I couldn’t get out of the batter’s box. Like so many other PTSD sufferers, my mind was “locked and fixated” on the events that had happened to me. The desire to run toward first base was there, however at the end of the day, I was left standing in the batter’s box with just the baseball bat and my empty bottles of beer. It was the most frightening and paralyzing experience. Days turned into weeks, months, and years.

Through therapy at Brook Lane, I have learned terms like “triggers” and being aware of my surroundings. It’s been frustrating and debilitating being a college graduate and yet sluggishly moving forward with no clear career goals. The weight of my PTSD has taken a toll on my life. I haven’t worked in almost 5 years. I’m financially surviving off of my almost depleted IRA and living in a disability apartment complex. I receive food stamps and am currently appealing my SSDI decision for a fourth time. This isn’t the life I wanted to be living. Despite my education and a rock-solid group of friends, what I do not have is family support because my family disowned me for not working. They are misinformed and feel that mental illness is a matter of personal deficiency and that only military combat experiences can cause PTSD.

My response to the cruelty of my family giving up on me has been to focus on changing the perception of PTSD and helping those who suffer from it. That is what led me to start my own business, Blackout Nuts & Candies, a candy and nut company. Blackout Candies can be found in 21 stores around the Hagerstown, MD area. More than 10,000 bags have been sold in a little over a year, with very little advertising or marketing. At the lowest point in my life, I believe my childhood friends are the reason I survived. When I was staring into darkness, hence the name Blackout Candies, I could always escape and remember the wonderful, innocent times we shared together.

My therapists, who have been first class, have successfully taken me out of the batter’s box to third base. I know I’ll have to monitor my PTSD throughout the remainder of my life, but with new life skills and resiliency, I know I can safely make it to home plate. Now I want to help others who are in the same situation and don’t have the family support they need. They deserve to touch home plate too.

If Blackout Candies is successful, the goal is to help my therapists and other health professionals develop a 12-step program for PTSD sufferers, much like the program for those battling substance use addiction. I want to make the road to recovery much easier for others. The greatest legacy I can leave is to help as many PTSD sufferers as possible. I know that will make my parents and therapists proud.

You can find a complete list of where Blackout Nuts & Candies are sold on their Facebook page.