Born when his mother was just 15, Consulmagno’s biological father hung himself when Consulmagno was only 8. He was raised by a brutal stepfather with mob connections. He remembers his life as “a living hell” when things went wrong, and was beaten sometimes just because his stepfather’s sports team lost a game. After the abuse got to be too much, his mother packed him and his brother up and moved in with his uncle. The stepfather promptly shot the uncle in the head, although his uncle survived.
Consulmagno has long wanted to help people like himself, those who may not yet have strategies of their own for dealing with PTSD.
To prove that people can make great strides in their lives, on July 2, Consulmagno, a Jersey City native, set a world record for the most standing ab wheel rollouts.
Wearing a 40-pound vest, he managed to do 244 in one hour at his favorite gym, PEAC Health and Fitness in Ewing.
This is not his first accomplishment of this kind. Consulmagno is currently the holder of three world records, one of which includes doing 1,000 standing ab wheel rollouts in two hours and 38 minutes.
Consulmagno, a five-year veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, once had the distinction of being ranked No. 1 in the world in Jiu Jitsu for his age and weight class, 46 years old and 165 pounds. He is currently rated No. 2.
He said he does these things to prove a point, to raise awareness about PTSD and to help others who are suffering from it.
PTSD is a mental health condition that's triggered by a terrifying event a person has experienced or witnessed. Those suffering from it may get flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, and experience uncontrollable thoughts about the event.
“I didn’t know how to fight it.” – Robert “Cozmo” Consulmagno
Unlike many military veterans, who return home from combat with PTSD, Consulmagno was suffering from it when he joined the Marines in the early 1990s.
He recalled the outcome of the longtime violence in his family, as a youth.
When his stepfather shot his uncle, “The bullet only grazed his skull, but it sent my stepfather into a panic. He thought he had killed him and went to hide in the strip clubs in Moonachie owned by his mobster friends,” he said. “And there, in his Pontiac, he took his own life.”
Searching for an answer
Although he graduated from Dickinson High School, Consulmagno didn’t wait around to get his diploma. He joined the Marines to escape, and served from 1991 to 1996.
“I wanted to be a Marine,” He said. “I knew I would get three meals a day and a roof over my head. When I went in I was skinny, I eventually put on weight.”
Military life wasn’t originally a good fit for him.
“I was a kid always in trouble with the authorities,” he said. “But because I was on time and worked hard, I got through it. I didn’t want to go back home to Jersey City.”
Although he was in the service during Desert Storm, he saw no combat. During his service, however, he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and PTSD.
After his discharge, he went to college. He didn’t like school, and moved to Pennsylvania. But the disorder haunted him.
“I didn’t know how to fight it,” he said.
He went to a veterans’ hospital but made no progress. He tried to run away, traveling around the country. Finally, inspired by his great grandfather, boxing Hall of Famer Mickey Taylor, he took up martial arts.
‘Super crazy Cozmo’
At 165 pounds, Consulmagno is all muscle. He is known as Super Crazy Cozmo. His mantra has become “fighting for mental health” and helping other veterans. In addition to being a world champion in Jiu Jitsu, he is also an amateur boxer and cross trainer.
Fitness and athletics became a kind of therapy for him, and as he succeeded, he found he could help others suffering with similar issues. He became a public speaker for dealing with mental health problems.
He said he’s filled with energy and trauma, and is trying to heal.
“Mental health issues are tough and they put your body through a lot of changes,” he said. “I go to the gym every day. I still feel nervous all the time, even with medication. But I’m a fighter like my grandfather.”
These days, he travels around the country talking about his struggle in the hope that he might serve as an inspiration to others.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.