NJ DISCOVER SPOTLIGHT: A Conversation with ROBERT COZMO CONSULMAGNO, USMC, World Ranked Jiu Jitsu Fighter, PTSD & Bi-Polar Advocate & HIS MISSION to END STIGMA OF BIPOLAR bY Calvin Schwartz 2-22-16
I constantly marvel at the exigencies and mysteries of the universe. Just the other day, Einstein was proven correct again; scientists detected gravitational waves from the violent merger (not Wall Street but perhaps some parallel) of two black holes in deep space. My excitement comes from how the universe and synchronicity bring special people into my life. There has to be a reason. Sometimes I think it’s the involvement of a special Saint. Last summer, on a warm humid night, I got a call from my friend Mike Marino, one of the funniest comedians in the country, also known as New Jersey’s Bad Boy of Comedy. He invited me to come to Rumson, where his brother Paul Marino and his band were performing. I’d meet several of Mike’s Jersey City (roots) friends from the old neighborhood. The invitation appealed to me. I love roots, colorful people and anything Mike.
At a table in the rear were Mike Marino, John Freda, (a former boxer) Joe Weber, Bob Mattis and Cozmo. From a short distance, Cozmo looked fiercely ripped and intense; you could tell he worked out or something akin. I sat next and within an hour, knew he was a special guy with a personal history that they easily make powerful dramatic movies about. Saying goodbye, I sensed a fast friendship forming. There was so much inside Cozmo that I wanted to learn about. I sensed the ticking.
Slow forward a few months. Cozmo and I stayed in touch via Facebook, Twitter and a cell phone. I learned from all his videos, television interviews and print material as well as in his own voice, his incredible painful journey from a tumultuous childhood through the Marines, into PTSD, bipolar diagnosis and a world Jiu Jitsu ranking. He fights so well; productively channels all that strife and internal energy. I’ve been watching Cozmo solely undertake a massive public relations program through social media to bring awareness to bipolar disease. Quite impressively, he enlisted multi Emmy award winning documentary film maker Glenn Holsten (OC 87 Recovery Diaries) to do a short video on Cozmo’s life roots in Jersey City called “Crazy Cozmo” — Veteran Marine With PTSD & Bipolar Disorder.” This needs to be seen.
Cozmo corralled a few high profile friends on social media also personally dealing with bipolar; Mauro Ranallo (WWE) and Carrie Fisher (yes, ‘Star Wars’). He is one of the most unrelenting, eloquent and sensitive people I’ve ever met. He swept me up into his energy field (to end the stigma of bipolar) and moved NJ Discover and me to do a short profile video interview at our studio. Cozmo is riveting in life and on camera. Before anything else here, please go watch this NJ Discover video. Take 7 minutes and a few seconds.
After the release of this video, Cozmo intensified his campaign to end the stigma of bipolar. He asked if I could do a follow-up article to our video. This was his life’s mission. I wanted to be there for him. But as a writer, my effectiveness has always been my personal involvement and commitment to a subject. Bipolar was ostensibly not in my life. It would be hard for me to dig into my intestinal lining. Then an epiphany arrived on a cumulous cloud that simultaneously covered a Middlesex County cemetery; it was a realization that a dear special unique cousin is buried (two years ago) nearby. An hour before they buried him, his son, my second cousin, told me that my cousin was bipolar. It hit me like a mallet on my cranial soft spot now hardened. The world was crystal clear and strangely painful because I never knew in the six decades we were living cousins that he suffered from bi polar. And then Cozmo’s life mission to end the stigma of bipolar really hit me hard.
Everything made sense now. The stigma of bipolar hugely affected the relationship I had with my cousin. There were times of unpredictability and erratic unexplained behavior. I was hurt, dismayed and pulled away from the cousin I loved so much; sometimes for a decade. My cousin was me. I was him. To be just like him, I changed my whole life career path. He was older and wiser and I had to do anything to be close to him. The stories I could tell. Not now. Then a few years ago, I got a call he was passing. We hadn’t seen each other in years; more unexplained behavior on his part. I visited him for the last time. It was strained and awkward but I made him laugh. I was empty, sad and never could figure him out. I loved my cousin but he always pushed away. Now I know and understand. He was bipolar and it was a stigma so he could never confide in me. I am so grateful to Cozmo for getting me to think, feel and grasp his life’s mission; to end the stigma of bipolar. I remember when Michael Corleone touched the hand of his father Don Vito (The Godfather) in the hospital and said, “I’m with you now pop.” And I said to Cozmo when I realized all this, “I’m with you now Cozmo.” If only there was no stigma, and I knew all about my cousin, what wonderful life moments we could‘ve shared with transparent understanding. I’ve taken a lot of time to develop all this stuff lining my stomach with emotion; it’s to help Cozmo’s cause.
A few weeks ago, snow was flurrying around, Cozmo came and sat around my kitchen table and we talked his mission, emotions and deep feelings. It’s my job now to harvest those words. It’s not going to be a bumpy night but a fascinating look into an intense tough guy and where this mental stuff came from.
“How and when does all this turmoil in your life begin?” I knew some of the general background. Cozmo’s voice kicked up an octave. ” My biological father commited suicide by hanging himself. I’ve seen my first step father beat my mother. They were together for many years but never married but he also forced himself on her. He even threw a TV stand at his own mother; the product of a violent environment. I’ve seen him beat a guy over a parking spot. My first stepfather shot my second stepfather with a 22. Later the same day, he drove up to Mooanchie, New Jersey and killed himself inside of a Pontiac Bonneville with the same weapon. My first stepfather was the guy when my mother yelled, “Dad wants you,” I started crying. I didn’t know what was going to happen. That’s where my problems dealing with people and authority figures came from. That’s all I knew, how to survive.”
My wife, a former teacher, and preparer of lunch, asked, “What about school.” “I actually was a good student.” I wasn’t surprised about that. His eloquence and grasp are wonderful intellectual gifts. “I was the guy that would hang out with the international students. I hate to say I felt pity but I wanted to protect them. My best friend was from Taiwan. We’d go to have lunch in a nearby cemetery to get away from the ghetto kids. He looked up to me. I was his protector. It made me feel better to help people.”
“I lived in this little cubicle. No one messed with me cause I knew who I was. Maybe that’s part of bipolar.” Cozmo talked about travelling the world. He loves castles; maybe that’s why he’s going to Prague in June. Suddenly he was talking about cutting two people out of his life because of negativity and hypocrisy. And he recently wrote President Obama in the White House three times. Cozmo wants to sit down and enlist his help to end the stigma of bipolar. He reasoned that his second term is winding down and that he’d have more time now. Yes, if anyone can accomplish that, it’d be Cozmo; I’m a believer in him. “I’m all about defying odds in life. I sent him a DVD with all my movies. Your NJ Discover interview was part of it too.”
I love his stream of consciousness thought process; rapid fire and bipolar fire; I wondered. Next Cozmo expounded on entering Guinness Records for the AB-Wheel & trying for a world record, being ranked second in the world in Jiu Jitsu. That should impress the President. It was shout out time for Cozmo’s sponsor, Scramble Martial Arts, “based in the UK, bringing me on board and sponsoring an old guy. They love my story trying to end the stigma.”
I asked Cozmo about his social media and growing friendship with WWE’s Mauro Ranallo and fellow bipolar personality. “I’m really excited to meet Mauro and do his podcast. If you think I have energy, he is unbelievable. His retweeting is a by-product of his mania. He is living his dream on overdrive. People’s twitter walls are bombarded. He flies all over the country. Vince McMahon from WWE hired him.” Since Mauro was five years old, he wanted to work with WWE. Here is that one minute You Tube ‘Smackdown’ video of his joy and excitement of Mauro’s first match as per Cozmo. Amazingly they met through twitter. When they do the podcast together, Cozmo can’t wait to see the energy when two bipolar guys get together. “He is spinning positive light, man.”
Mauro Ranallo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mZlaq_NUTWU
It was just a matter of time before Cozmo talked about his great- grandfather Mickey Taylor, who was really Michael Consulmagno, but changed his name to the Irish version in order to get paid as a fighter. “Five foot five 200 pound Italian guy; 175 fights; only got knocked out once; and mauled Max Schmeling who knocked out Joe Louis. He beat Schmeling so bad, he was sent out of the camp. He died young; heart problems.” It was a good segue to talk about racism and what his great-grandfather experienced being an Italian immigrant. “I get along with everyone but racism exists. My great-grandfather was feared in every boxing division. They ran away from him. But he had to hide his Italian heritage and blend in pretend Irish because of racism.”
“What about bipolar; Are there tell-tale signs?” “I’m not a doctor. But it’s erratic speech; going off on a tangent, trying to get so much out.” I thought to myself, how that was Cozmo but in a peculiar way, that seemed to endear him to me. “I got fired by one company three times and brought back a fourth time. They couldn’t deal with my antics. But I made them money. Maybe I have a little anger now because I’m fighting so hard.”
“No one talks about hyper sexuality and it’s hard for me to be with one woman. And going way back in my memory, there was something you could call sexual abuse. I remember my grandfather touching me inappropriately. My uncle got wind of it and we never saw him again. And no one talks about debt and erratic spending. I’ve been in debt multiple times and got out. Funny everyone talks PTSD to me but not bipolar and I can control PTSD by controlling the triggers but not bipolar. I’m pushing so hard because my story is 100% legit.” He thought for a moment then fired away trying to define his bipolar for me. “The sleeping disorder; I broke two cribs as a kid. When my step-father pushed me down the stairs, I was in a body cast and maybe that led to PTSD. When I’m in bed now, I have my head phones on and rock back and forth. Even after training, I still have energy. I don’t know if it’s the bipolar.”
Going off on a tangent, catching me by surprise, he mentioned his mother. “They used to call her the black widow. Two men committed suicide over her. When I tell this, it almost sounds like a fairytale and I’m making it up.” Cozmo chuckled sardonically for a moment. So I asked, “Did your mother try to protect you from all your abuse by your father and step-father?” “By the time she settled in with the third guy, she went after me, telling me to get out. She wasn’t like that prior.” I shook my head in disbelief. So did my wife. Cozmo picked up on the head-shaking. “My mother’s brother was a real pimp; had the big hat with the feathers and purple outfit. He looked just like the Captain Morgan guy. He got one of the hookers pregnant and he died of heroin in California.”
Swirling around sensibilities, staring at a smiling Cozmo, I marveled at his calm adjustment to such trauma while he talked to us. I again thought what an amazing driven person, devoting his life for others, trying to end the stigma, but having endured so much. I thought about the universe; being grateful to have met Cozmo; a lot of things in perspective for me. I told him there is a movie waiting to be made. I wanted to just keep talking, absorbing him; many lessons about life now knowing Robert Cozmo Consulmagno. All the while we talked, my mind wandered erratically. I remembered to ask him about meds and bipolar. He was firm, emphatic. He took meds for a short period but got permission to stop; needed his mind and body to be clear, functioning and natural as best it could be. He does counseling a lot. A special human being was sitting next to me; a new friend for the long haul. I’ve done my due diligence here, painting his picture and sharing the etiology of his dream to end the stigma of bipolar. Next was how to end this interview/article.
Here goes. “One last question for you, Cozmo; “before I leave this earth, I won’t be satisfied until I…..”” He took just a second to answer, gently smiling, “Until I am the face of PTSD and bipolar.”
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