Teddy G. remembers the day it happened. “It was September 4, 2014,” he recalled. “I responded to an unresponsive infant, and we tried to work on him all the way to the hospital, but he didn’t survive. My son was the same age, had the same red hair, same diapers. That set my world on fire.”
Living with Untreated PTSD and Major Depressive Disorder
In the coming weeks and months, Teddy, a police officer—and before that, a member of the U.S. Army stationed in Iraq—would begin to experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He could only sleep for 20 minutes at a time, had “horrible nightmares, constant anger, couldn’t think straight or focus,” and would intentionally put himself in “really risky situations on the job that could kill me.”
Unlike some people who self-medicate PTSD with drugs or alcohol, Teddy “self-medicated with anger and pushed people away.”
“I’m blessed to have a great family that stepped up to support me and stayed with me,” the father of four said.
Teddy spent seven years living with symptoms of untreated PTSD and major depressive disorder. When asked why he waited that long to seek treatment, he said that he thought he could “fix it myself,” explaining that members of law enforcement “struggle with big egos, because everywhere we go, we have to control the situation. My ego wouldn’t allow me to go to therapy.”
How Therapy and Treatment Were Road to Healing
Eventually, in April 2019, Teddy began to see a local therapist specializing in law enforcement. “From that point forward, I lost the ability to compartmentalize my issues,” he said, describing the next months “as a slow progression,” until by November he had “a massive panic attack” in his driveway. (He thought he was having a massive heart attack.) “That was the day that I said, ‘Enough was enough.’”
Teddy was 36 when he started treatment at FHE Health in FHE’s “Shatterproof” program for first responders. He had been policing since the age of 26. He stayed at FHE for seven weeks. During that time, he received various therapies for trauma and major depression, including breathwork, a form of mind-body therapy that helps people process unresolved traumas using a specific deep breathing technique.
The Therapeutic Benefits of Breathwork for Unresolved Trauma
“Breathwork allowed me to be vulnerable,” Teddy said. During one session, he revisited “a really traumatic experience in Iraq that I hadn’t thought about since that day.” With the guidance of the breathwork therapist, he was able to breathe through the event, process it “from a third-person point of view,” and find some resolution.
The therapeutic benefit of breathwork, as Teddy experienced it, was that “it helped me organize the events from my past in a way that I hadn’t done before.” In contrast, he used to “not be able to access these things without being extremely triggered.” (For many years, the trauma that Teddy had experienced lay buried in his subconscious mind, even though his body still remembered it.)
Teddy did about 15 breathwork sessions, which he said changed his life—so much so that when he came back to his home state of Indiana, he trained to become a breathwork therapist and started an organization, “Rescue Through Breath,” that serves first responders and their spouses and family members. As part of this service to the community, Teddy continues to receive breathwork therapy and administer it; and he says he continues to experience healing from watching other people with similar experiences find release and freedom through breathwork.
Other Ingredients of Recovery for PTSD and Major Depressive Disorder
In addition to breathwork therapy, “being in a controlled environment and pushing away all the requirements of daily life … to focus on you and get the help you need” was a key ingredient of recovery. Other key ingredients:
- “Access to different forms of therapy, which allows you to figure out what works and hit it from different angles.”
- Being in therapy with his peers, namely other police officers and first responders—”to be able to relate to other guys is massive for recovery.”
How Life After Treatment Is “Not Perfect” But Much Better
Today life looks quite different for Teddy and is much more manageable. Life’s “not perfect,” but Teddy says he now has “the tools to recognize and deal with” his issues when they arise. And he’s getting a full eight hours of sleep every night.
He continues to see his original therapist, whom he credits with saving his life. “She confronted me and told me I needed help,” he said. “And it took me six months to say ‘yes.’”
Teddy also takes medication. Prior to coming to FHE, he had been on different medications and none of them had worked. During inpatient treatment, his doctors were able to closely monitor his progress on various medications and determine which worked best.
Teddy is also in a totally different line of work. “Getting out of law enforcement was one of the most difficult things I’ve done,” he said. Now he’s a special education teacher and working on a Master’s in the field.
Meanwhile, he’s excited to soon be receiving a service dog as another source of support. He hopes the dog will help him cope with his fear of being at public events like football games and concerts—a fear triggered by the experience of having to respond to an active shooter at his son’s own school. (The dog is a gift from the local organization Heroes Family Outreach, which raised $25,000 to train and provide the dog.)
Words for Anyone Struggling with PTSD/Major Depression
What would Teddy say to someone who is struggling with PTSD and major depression?
“The first step is the hardest in allowing yourself to tell somebody about your issues. Allowing yourself to tell somebody about your issues is the key to starting down that road [of healing].
You’re not alone.”
There’s no shame in getting help for an addiction or mental health disorder. That’s the message of our “No More Shame” campaign, which seeks to reduce the stigma of addiction and mental illness. In continuation of that theme, this story is part of a monthly series featuring the true stories of people who asked for help and found hope and healing.
Are you feeling like there’s no way out of an addiction? Learn how you can find healing. Call our 24/7 helpline at 1-844-335-8506.