Former Marine Robert Consulmagno from Jersey City, New Jersey, 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 military duty. Initially, he was treated with medication for PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) 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, Robert took up Brazilian Jiu jitsu. He is now the #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. (See video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lcRMOYlqqM8)
Alternative treatments may include things like therapeutic fishing, backpacking, rafting, horse handling and riding, yoga, and interacting with service dogs or pets. Recent studies claim that alternative treatments like 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.
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.
For centuries, people have turned to prayer to heal and protect them from problems of all sorts, physical and mental. For instance, the Bible tells of three Hebrew boys who were punished for worshipping their God instead of the Babylonian king. They were thrown into a fiery furnace. But, instead of dying, they walked freely in the furnace, untouched by the flames, and were released by the king without even the smell of smoke on them. (Dan. 3:26-27)
Whether you believe this actually happened or not, the message is that knowing God and our relationship to him offers complete protection. The Hebrew boys emerged from the fire without the slightest evidence of the incident on them physically or mentally. They knew they were innocent in God’s eyes and this protected them from not only the flames but from personal trauma. And that’s what prayer can do. Prayer can erase whatever haunting memories may linger in consciousness.
That’s what happened to Ryder Stevens, a Christian Scientist, who served as a chaplain with the 82nd Airborne Division. He began to see early signs of PTSD in himself after serving in combat. “I was aggravated in crowds, I started to sweat when I was close to people, and I became ill-tempered over simple things,” he said.
As a chaplain, it was natural for him to turn to God in prayer to gain peace of mind. The Bible says, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” (Jer. 29:11)
Ryder reasoned that as a child of God, or divine intelligence, 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.
He found comfort in two ideas from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy. “Clad in the panoply of Love, human hatred cannot reach you” and “Whatever it is your duty to do, you can do without harm to yourself.”
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.
While alternative treatments maybe helpful in managing PTSD, prayer based on understanding one’s relationship to God addresses the real need of the human mind for a redeeming power outside of itself, and can bring complete healing. No matter what kind of traumatic situation one has been in, divine Love is always present to quiet fear and restore peace of mind, bringing confidence in God’s loving care. God’s child has always been safe in His care. Affirming this consistently in prayer brings mental freedom.
Valerie Minard writes regularly on the connection between consciousness, spirituality, and health. She is a Christian Science practitioner and the media and legislative spokesperson for Christian Science in New Jersey. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @valerieminard.