The New York times online has a blog section entitled 'At War: Notes from the Front Lines', and recently published an article about 28 year old Kyle Dubay, a US Army Infantry Medic who saw three tours of Iraq until he was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Dubay's story is potentially tragic, suffering from nightmares that fuelled a path of alcohol and violence back home; a diet of hard liquor and prescription drugs that left him little more than a black out drunk. By his own words, therapy helped, but it wasn't enough:
"It helped clarify things. It helped put things in order. But I was never really able to get that energy out."
As it would turn out, training in Mixed Martial Arts would be that vent and has allowed him to manage his PTSD condition:
So he started fighting again, but this time it was different.
He walked into the Spartan Academy gym in Mesa for the first time because of a brochure he picked up at Arizona State University, where he is working toward two degrees - one in kinesiology, one in biology. He had watched mixed martial arts on television. He was already a fan of what is popularly known as ultimate fighting, and he figured his hand-to-hand combat training would be an asset.
There are now 10 young veterans training with him at the gym and finding similar relief. The kind of fighting they do is called American Pankration. The goal is to get your opponent in a stranglehold until they "pass out or tap out." Two taps is how a fighter submits. Mr. Dubay admitted that it was strange that the fighting seemed to be helping - "strangely comfortable" was how he described it.
The article is well worth your read, and shows how Dubay has been able to use MMA to find more of a balance in life, and how it has helped him been able to handle situations that previously would cause him to erupt in anger or even become a victim of a flashback. It also indicates a level of hope for Dubay and many of the veterans like him in similar situations:
Anxiety lost its stranglehold. Before the deployments, he said, his soft voice cracking: "I was always the person that loved everybody. Everybody loved me. I was so happy." He’s training at the gym a few nights a week, and he’s even started to feel happiness again.
Read Sparring with Demons, Combat Medic turns to Martial Arts at the New York Times online.