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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Finding Purpose Through CrossFit by Jordan Gravatt - CrossFit Journal

In HD Videos, Medical/Injuries

December 07, 2014

Video Article

Cogen Nelson lives with post-traumatic stress disorder. The 29-year-old served in two deployments with the U.S. Marine Corps and endured experiences that have stayed with him in retirement.

“You have this feeling of guilt. You have this feeling of, ‘Can I live with some of the decisions I’ve made?’ Just that burden of the stuff you saw, the stuff you’ve been through,” Nelson explains. “You can’t sleep. You’re having horrible nightmares. … You don’t do anything. You don’t want to do anything.”

Aside from the mental scars, Nelson was left with physical ailments as well. When a vehicle he was in struck an IED, Nelson endured fractured vertebrae and a broken wrist. Today, he is left with two cysts on his brain, issues with balance and coordination, and short- and long-term memory loss.

When Nelson found CrossFit, the bond was instant, he says. Eventually, he and his wife, Sara, opened House of CrossFit—a natural progression, Sara says.

“Cogen doesn’t need to work,” Sara says. “He could stay at home and take his medicine and do nothing. … But it was like that wasn’t good enough for him, and he wanted more. Him CrossFitting and wanting to be better, it was just a natural progression, in my opinion, of him saying, ‘I want to be a better athlete, and now I want to coach and make others better athletes.’”

Admitting he’s always had an urge to serve, Cogen says owning his affiliate gives him purpose and drive.

“It’s given me a coping mechanism,” he says, “a way to help.”

He added: “For me, it’s worked better than any medication that the doctors have put me on. I can say, without a doubt, CrossFit saved my life.”

Video by Jordan Gravatt.

19min 14sec

Additional reading: “From Iraq to Kilimanjaro” by Emily Beers, published Sept. 14, 2011.

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6 Comments on “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Finding Purpose Through CrossFit”


Jim Lanier wrote …

Cogen's story of his struggle with PTSD is touching and rewarding. His personal strength to even relate his life experience shows what he is truly made of. He's a good man, and good men touch others in a very positive way. keep up the good work friend.


wrote …

All the best for the future Cogen Nelson, your story is very inspiring. CrossFit should invest in a "like" button because I like Jim Lanier's comment!


wrote …

Great story, I am glad you found your passion and drive. Having three daughters myself and an Army vet, the picture of you and your daughter was extremely touching. Good Luck to you and your "House"!!!


wrote …

I love this story!

I am a 100% disable Retired vet as well that has been saved by CrossFit. I look forward to owning my own Box Soon. God Bless You all this Season!



wrote …

Cogen thank you for your service and may you have full recovery with a full life. As a former Navy psychologist who has dealt with PTSD personally and professionally and an avid CrossFitter for 6 1/2 years, I want to add a cautionary word. I believe CrossFit can be helpful to all who do it, especially those who have PTSD and TBI. However, in "some" situations it is not the 100% "cure". PTSD, TBI and associated disorders may require more intervention than CrossFit, in spite of its enormous benefit.


wrote …

I did reach out to Cogen and Sara - and I thought I would share here.....

We do not know each other – however I want to take this time to thank you. I recently came across your YouTube video, outlining your struggles with PTSD, and how Crossfit has saved your life.
My name is Jay Doiron, and I am police officer with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Currently stationed in Moncton, New Brunswick Canada. I am currently struggling with all the issues you have outlined in your video, and each day is a true struggle. On June 4 2014, Moncton New Brunswick Canada was put on the National and International spotlight, when a deranged gun man went on a rampage in a neighbourhood, and killed 3 of my fellow friends/officers, and injured 2 more. I was dispatched to the call, and was the first officer on scene. My partner was killed 30 ft from me. When everyone was running scared and locking themselves in their house; myself and 6 other officers were running towards this coward, in attempts to stop him. Just days after this event, I found myself being a zombie, and in the dark – and I found myself at my local crossfit gym.; Crossfit YQM
Everything that you mentioned in your video, from isolating yourself, to not putting any burden on any of your friends/family; to not wanting to do anything all day; to having good and bad days……it really struck a cord with me….
Sorry for long note; but it's a message of thanks. Thank you for making me feel like I am not alone. Thank You for putting emotions and thoughts on paper. It means a lot…..
I hope this message finds you, in good health. And keep being a positive light within the Crossfit community. Cheers

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