SAN ANTONIO — There is a new approach to treating Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) among veterans that involves no prescriptions or pills.
Robert Torres, 35, a father of three, and combat veteran who gave 13 years of service to the U.S. made it out safely, but his mind was still on the battlefield.
"I missed the camaraderie, the marines," Torres said. "I missed the brotherhood that was there and I really struggled."
He survived three deployments with the marine corp in Iraq, Fallujah and Afghanistan.
"You feel like you're being watched or you feel like you're being followed or you're constantly looking for exit routes so you're really not able to be in that moment," Torres said. "You're lonely, you're feeling like you lost your sense of purpose."
Robert Torres is fighting the debilitating symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder and a traumatic brain injury. He said he started seeing a psychiatrist and right away, they pushed pharmaceuticals. However, the pills, he said, only numbed the pain and isolated him from the present.
"Not only were those things personally affecting me, it was also affecting people around me," Torres said. "Pharmaceutical therapy only puts a band-aid over what you're dealing with."
Simultaneously, he said he didn't know there were other options.
"I didn't know how to deal with it, didn't know how to handle it," Torres said. "I didn't know how to take care of it so I was in a denial stage for quite a long time."
And in 2014, he almost gave up.
"When I attempted suicide, I had drove myself to the hospital but sat in the parking lot because I couldn't get myself to go in because I couldn't accept the fact that I was dealing with post traumatic stress disorder," Torres said.
Instead of letting his painful experience consume him, Torres said he hopes to show other veterans how he got help through a life-changing gift.
"There was a gift certificate given to me around that time that brought me to Float SA," Torres said. "It was amazing. I'ts almost feels like you become a new person - from the aches and pains that your body normally has to you're more mindful, you're more aware of your feelings, your emotions.
The water is saturated in Epsom salt, creating a zero gravity float experience in a calming private pod. Float owner Jeremy Jacob said the goal is to achieve sensory deprivation.
"When you remove all sensory input that's coming into the mind and especially the nervous system because we're constantly taking in stimulus that allows you to shut down amydala, the fight or flight part of your brain," Jacob said. "Lowering the stress hormones, increasing the happy hormones."
After Jacob realized the impact it had on mental health, he started a PTSD program for veterans.
"In the research that's been done on floating, they found that when you float consecutively and constantly, you get a lot more benefits so our program for combat veterans with PTSD is 10 floats, over 10 weeks," Jacob said
As a result, Jacob has seen so much success among veterans like torres that he's trying to work with Veteran Affairs. He says right now, float therapy isn't a treatment option covered by the v-a.. Although some military bases already have the tanks for training...
"It's not something they're able to prescribe," Jacob said. "So there's no payment options to support them so that kind of falls on float centers."
Torres says the natural healing remedy combined with fitness and exercise gave him the hope he needed to keep going..
"I've had back surgery, I've had hip surgery, I almost lost my foot in 2015 in Iraq so I live in chronic pain but when I come out of a float tank, I can't feel any of those," Torres said. "I'm able to do those things with my kids which is huge to me because they're a big part of who I am."
In other words, Torres thinks this device could widen the gap between life or death for some people.
"I would encourage veterans to give alternative treatments because something like float therapy can be life-changing," Torres said.
To learn more about Float therapy, click HERE.