Former Marine Robert Consulmagno of Jersey City served honorably for five years in the military. But when he came home, he wanted to find peace of mind not only from the trauma of an abusive childhood but from his time in military service. Initially, he was treated with medication for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and bi-polar disorder. But he eventually stopped taking the medication.
“When I was on it I was more depressed, suicidal, and hospitalized,” he said. ”Once I got off it, my life began to change.”
About four years ago, Consumagno took up Brazilian Jiu jitsu. He is now the No. 2 ranking purple belt in the world, using the intense physical training as his therapy. His story is motivating other vets, and he hopes to encourage them to seek alternative treatments like he did. “I’m trying to help save lives without medicating,” he said.
Alternative treatments may include things such as therapeutic fishing, backpacking, rafting, horse handling and riding, yoga, and interacting with service dogs or pets. Recent studies claim that alternative treatments such as yoga and interacting with animals can be just as effective as drugs without the harmful side effects. And some doctors are beginning to incorporate them into the treatments they prescribe. In spite of that, most experts believe that there is no cure for PTSD and that it can only be managed.
As a chaplain, it was natural for him to turn to God in prayer to gain peace of mind. Ryder reasoned that as a child of God, he could only be given peaceful thoughts, not harmful memories. If they weren’t good thoughts, they weren’t from God and he could reject them. Ryder prayed to understand that in serving others he was “doing his duty,” and therefore he was actually protected from rather than exposed to trauma, and that he had always been safe in God’s love.
He began to see that warfare couldn’t define or limit him, or keep him from expressing his God-given peace, buoyancy, and resilience. He didn’t need to be affected by the “human hatred” of combat or harmed for having served. He could live his life fully and claim his mental freedom. In a few days, he was back to his old self. Three years later, the symptoms returned when he was in combat again, helping wounded and dying soldiers. However, he went back to that same prayer as before, trusting that God was caring for him and that he couldn’t be harmed in serving others. And this time, the symptoms left for good.
But the question remains, why are alternative treatments better at managing PTSD than drugs? Do they point to the need for a more thoughtful, even spiritual, dimension in treatment? If so, perhaps the most powerful treatment of all would be something purely spiritual — prayer to infinite Spirit or divine Love.