Seven Lessons Learned from Suicide

We never get it. Not completely. Those of us left behind, we’re always going to be in the dark. Frankly stated, it sucks. We just don’t understand. We often truly believe they didn’t care about us, that they wanted to hurt us or somehow meant to do it just to us. Who would want this for us? We thought they loved us. Why would they want us to be left behind with this pain? It was just so selfish.

Or was it?

My husband’s still here. He attempted suicide five times and every time he survived somehow. We didn’t understand it for a long time. We tried to live in the dark. We believed that if nobody knew the truth, it would all just disappear. I even prayed for him to be successful in his suicide attempts. Yep, you read that right. But I saw the agony he lived in and I fell into the trap too. I believed the only way out was for him to end his life. I wanted his pain to end; it wasn’t fair that he had to live with this darkness. We didn’t understand the reality or that we could get help…that life could get better.

The stories he can share now…it still gives me chills. The darkness that sets in, it’s like a thick cloud of smoke. It overtakes you so quickly that it feels like you’re trapped and there’s no way out. Jeremy maintains he had a way out…that he had visions of our boys and it snapped him back to reality. But when he came back, none of it made any sense. He didn’t remember a lot of details, even how he got to wherever he was sometimes. That’s how dark it was there.

But Jeremy was meant to live, and we know there was a reason. We can’t help others by being quiet; we tried that. It didn’t help us either. So now we’re loud…really loud. We now run a support group for anyone suffering from mental illness or supporting a loved one. We wrote our book, and we share with anyone who will listen. We’re learning more and more every day. We want you to know the truth. The lessons learned from suicide. So whether you attempted, are trying to support someone, lost a loved one, or just want to understand, hear us out.

P. S. You’ll notice I say, “in that moment,” a lot. There’s a reason.

Lessons learned from suicide:

  1. It’s not selfish.

    Suicide does not come from the desire to hurt another, but rather the desire to live fully and completely. The reality of what is happening in a person’s brain who is about to take his or her life is flipped from what we (with a healthy thought process in that moment) understand. They do think of you, and likely only you. But they truly and completely believe that their presence in your life is somehow hurting you or making your life more difficult. They truly believe, in that moment, that you will be better off without them. No matter how different the reality. In that moment, you are all that matters and the darkness has set in to the point where your loved one believes they are helping you, even saving you, by ending their life on this earth. I’m sorry for your pain. Suicide is not selfish. And you are loved. They didn’t want, or mean, to hurt you.

  2. You can’t save them. And you couldn’t. It’s not your fault.

    Things happen in life that you can’t change. Problems, bumps, confusion, friendships, relationships, etc. All of these can “complicate” mental illness. You see, someone with depression and suicidal thoughts, we maintain, is missing a certain coping mechanism. Some of us can develop these coping skills on our own, through life experiences and such. Some need more help. But some don’t want help. Even more so, some don’t understand how to ask for help. That’s where this gets more complicated. Were you there for your loved one? Yes. You have to understand that we can only help when someone lets us. Sometimes, the darkness sets in and it’s hard to understand how to find a way out or how to let someone lead you. Ever been looking for something you desperately wanted to find? You search and search and search and finally give up. Later, you go back and find that item was in a location you had looked over and over. You had to have looked directly at it hundreds of times. It was there right in front of you the whole time. You just couldn’t see it because your brain was so focused on what wasn’t there. That’s suicide. That’s the darkness. It overtakes you in that moment.

  3. Yes, it is mental illness. No, it’s not always diagnosed, known, seen, or even recognized.

    Yes, someone who takes their own life suffers from a mental illness. Whether that mental illness is known, long-term, situational, or brought on very quickly will likely remain a mystery. But yes, if a person believes taking his or her own life is the best, or only, option, there is a mental illness present. Help is, or was, needed. But again, refer back to number two.

  4. It happens quickly.

    Sometimes the darkness sets in so fast that suicide really does appear to be the only option. Sometimes people suffering are able to find a way out, sometimes they’re not. There may have been more attempts that you are unaware of. Again, it’s not your fault. The darkness sets in very quickly. It overtakes you.

  5. Sometimes signs are there before. Sometimes not.

    You’ll hear often after suicide that loved ones “had no idea.” And then you’ll hear talk behind their backs saying, “How could they not know?” Someone has actually said to me, “I would know if my child were suicidal.” Would you? Think about what you just said to or about another human being. Someone is suffering the loss of someone they loved deeply, and you have the nerve to say that you would know? Why? Because you love them more, or somehow better, than the person grieving? I pray it never happens to you. I truly pray you never have to know the hole that suicide leaves behind. Sometimes there are signs before. Sometimes not. Mental illness is tricky, creepy, scary, sudden, deathly, terrifying, sneaky, overwhelming, and continuous. Remember I said that there’s a reason I say “in that moment” a lot? This is why.

  6. Talking helps both before and after. Silence solves nothing.

    Like I said, we lived in the darkness for a long time. We learned, not so quickly, that silence solves nothing. Six years. For six years I was married to a stranger because mental illness had taken him. He had tried to accept help and medication adjustments were hell. He reacted so badly and so quickly that we finally traced back every single suicide attempt to within two weeks of starting a new medication. He was tired. And sick of being tired. We hadn’t found the right medication, we wouldn’t accept help, and living with the reality of mental illness was eating us alive. It took major breakdowns, and God’s patience with us trying to figure out why we were living in this hell, for Jeremy and I to learn that silence solves nothing. We learned to talk…to each other first. Then we learned to be open with the doctor prescribing the medications. Then with a counselor. Then with writing. The world came later. But talking is the reason we’re okay. Jeremy continues to see his counselor and his psychiatrist regularly. I write. And I study. We all have our own forms of therapy, but talking helps with mental illness. You learn quickly that you’re not alone. And for those left behind after suicide, there is grief counseling, support groups, and many more methods for you to know your feelings are legit.

  7. There is no cure, but there is help.

    Some beat mental illness on this earth, or at least are able to cope with the symptoms. So far, it appears that is my husband. After five suicide attempts, multiple medication failures, a near-death car accident, and a psychotic episode, Jeremy is now one year without even a suicidal thought. There was a time he couldn’t go an hour without wondering how and when he would kill himself. We got to the point when we were fed up with living that life and drove across the country for a brain scan, something not covered by insurance for mental health purposes. Shows just how broken our mental health system is; the technology is there, but it’s not being used. It was worth the money for us. We got to see Jeremy’s brain. We got to see the reality of mental illness, the medical reality of it. It’s real, you know. And in those moments when Jeremy had dark thoughts, it was his Deep Limbic System lighting up in his brain causing it all. There is no cure, but there is help. I’ll never say Jeremy will never commit suicide. I know the truth of mental illness. Refer back to number five. But he sees his doctor every month, a mental health professional. He visits with his counselor every two weeks. He has learned and uses his coping skills. He’s open with me. He holds on to hope. He has faith and he lives it out. He uses his experiences to help others. Help. That’s the key. There is no cure, but there is help.

It’s hard, and may even seem harsh, to say “it is what it is.” But that’s what we have had to do. We live a life with mental illness. Some live a life with grief. We all live some form of life. It is what it is. So we choose to try our best to help the world understand mental illness, suicide, depression, grief, loss, and especially the fact that life gets better. It does. Suicide can’t be a senseless tragedy. So turn your mess into your message. You have to hold on to that hope, and you have to live in the truth. These are seven lessons learned from suicide. Be loud and save lives.

Please share. Someone needs to read this.

~ Jeremy and Bailey

www.jeremyandbailey.com

“Never Alone: A Husband and Wife’s Journey with Depression and Faith” on Amazon

I Sucked at Parenting Today

Those days when you feel like an absolutely terrible mother – those days just flat out suck. We did not start today out well. I sent my boys off to school with attitudes flying everywhere…including and especially my own. Hudson is 10 and Asher is 7. Compound their ages, the fact that they are two brothers relatively close in age and almost the same size, and the fact that Hudson has ADHD and can be extremely impulsive and we get some pretty severe cases of sibling rivalry from time to time. Add in a tired and annoyed mom, and we get – well…today.
 
I’ve reproduced a shorter version of myself in Hudson. That boy and I can butt heads so badly at times, and it’s entirely because we are exactly the same person in different bodies. We both have to have the last word. We both have to be heard. We both have to understand the world by experiencing it ourselves. And we both have to feel respected without always understanding that we have to earn that respect. We both have a temper. We both have to walk away and think or we will put a foot in our mouths so deeply it’s impossible to breathe. We both over-react. We both struggle with admitting when we are wrong…until much later. We both easily become overstimulated and need space. We both crave truth and learning on our own terms. We both have a strong desire to prove ourselves. We both have a firecracker spirit. We both fight hard and love harder. We both don’t know when to quit. He’s me…only shorter and more male.
 
I maintain the first two years of being a parent are little more than survival mode. After that, we start navigating full-blown uncharted territory. We pray we are just going the right way and not making turns that will cause us to be forever lost in thorny woods. But we have a faulty compass when we rely on our own methods and when we refuse to turn around after making a wrong turn. Why? Because kids don’t come with a map or guidebook. Today, I took a wrong turn and I’m going to have to explain to my son that that’s okay. He can take wrong turns too, which he did. Neither of us handled today well. But as the parent, it’s my job to model how to respectfully handle mistakes.
So that’s what I’ll do. I’ll admit wrong. I’ll apologize. I’ll do better. But I also have to help my kid understand there are consequences for how he behaved today as well. He’ll argue and he’ll be mad…again. But this time, I won’t react. This time I’ll model behavior I want him to adopt. Don’t be like the me I was this morning, be like the me I’ll be tonight. Learn from mistakes and keep going.
I sucked at parenting today. But I’ll forgive myself and do better. My kids deserve that.

30 Something Somethings I’m Learning in My 30s

I’ve only been in my 30s for a couple of years now, but I’m finding it to be quite awesome. My 30s so far have come with some ground-breaking realizations. I’m feeling more free. Transformed even. I’m learning that a lot of the chains I felt were on me were put there by none other than – wait for it – me. I held myself back for a long time.

Getting old has a lot of disadvantages. I’ve stopped getting carded when I order a drink. People call me “ma’am.” And being a parent in this world of technology is a huge challenge. But I’ve found that there are a heck of a lot more benefits to getting older than setbacks. I’m learning to embrace the changes, take the bad in stride, and focus on the good whenever and wherever I can. I’m enjoying life more and more every day and embracing the moments, so it’s time to put words to what I’m realizing…

Here are 30 Something Somethings I’m Learning in My 30s:

  1. Weight is nothing more than a number. Do you feel sexy? Focus on that. If no, work hard in whatever way you need to get there. If yes, rock whatever you’ve got.
  2. Hair dye and makeup cover up my “wisdom” and “experience.” Some people call these gray hairs and wrinkles. Those people can bite me. I’m growing fond of those visual representations of the fact that life happens. I feel better when my hair is natural and I wear less makeup rather than more.
  3. My husband seems to love me even more than he did the day I married him – you know, when I was 120 pounds and had zero life experience (ah hem…and humans) showing on my body. I like that. He’s hot. I’m hot to him. Who else matters in this area?
  4. I’ve learned more from failure and tears than from success and smiles.
  5. Keeping thoughts and feelings inside is really overrated. It’s the reason every fight has ever happened. Say it. Respectfully.
  6. Continuing number 5 – Being able to respectfully disagree or not says an awful lot about who you are…and whether or not I want to be around you.
  7. There is so much power in the words, “I’m sorry.” Say it and mean it.
  8. A smile, coupled with an attitude of I’ll do better tomorrow. I’ve got this., can turn any bad day around.
  9. Jesus rocks.
  10. Being a parent is the hardest and easiest job at the same time. They are so easy to love.
  11. Attitude is everything. Think about it. A is the first letter in the alphabet. T is the 20th and so on. Add up the numbers. A=1, T=20, T=20, I=9, T=20, U=21, D=4, E=5. Got it? 100. Attitude equals 100%. (I may or may not be a teacher.)
  12. Cussing by training yourself to say words like, “BUBBLES!” will immediately change your attitude. Go ahead, just try to say “bubbles” in an angry way. I’ll wait.
  13. Listen to lots of music. Dance. Sing loudly. Be weird. You will make yourself smile and others around you. Even if they are smiling because they are laughing at you – you just made their day better. Hold your head high.
  14. I don’t know what I’m doing. Ever. I’m just doing the best I can with what I have. And that’s okay.
  15. My favorite word is, “Enough.” When feeling frustrated with financials – Do we have enough? Yes. Then trust it will all be okay.
  16. I don’t know how I feel about a lot of things. And that’s okay.
  17. Just love. Judging, hating, envying, trying to change someone…they don’t help and they don’t work. I’ve tried and failed. I’ve hurt myself and others. Just love.
  18. Sometimes keeping your mouth shut is what has to happen in the moment. Walk away. Cool down. Think of a way to be respectful. Then speak.
  19. There is something so emotionally comforting about having and loving a dog. Or really any pet. Animals have healing powers.
  20. The ONLY way to lose weight is to work hard through diet and exercise. There is no secret. Stop wasting your money.
  21. The people making decisions are usually the ones who shouldn’t be. Do the best you can with what you have.
  22. Working hard and falling flat on your face (likely multiple times) is the only respectable way to get anything. Do NOT give up on your dreams.
  23. Those who fall and get back up are so much stronger than those whom have never fallen.
  24. Suicide is not selfish. It is also not the answer. But it’s not selfish. (Side note…this is number 24 in honor of my husband. Jeremy, my love for almost 17 years, is a five-time suicide attempt survivor. Learn more on our website at www.jeremyandbailey.com and follow our journey advocating for mental health on Facebook).
  25. God doesn’t make mistakes. Period. You are who you are and where you are for a reason.
  26. There is always a way out of an uncomfortable situation. You just have to find it.
  27. Your conscience is God. Listen.
  28. Learning to train yourself to see the positive before you see the negative is a human superpower. Do it.
  29. Being thankful for what you have, as opposed to focusing on what you don’t, will change everything.
  30. It’s okay to be picky about who you choose to surround yourself with.
  31. The bad days are the days when I’m trying to control something or someone. Let it go.
  32. If you learned from it and you grew through it, it was worth it.

If you liked my list of 30 Something Somethings I’m Learning in My 30s, please share. If not, don’t. Here’s a bonus tip…be true to who you are and what you believe. Stand up for what is right. And be happy.

~ Bailey

www.jeremyandbailey.com

https://www.facebook.com/jeremyandbaileykoch/

For Me, Sexy is a Size 10

I’ve experienced many pant sizes in my 32 years of life. For most of high school and college, I was a size 6. I was what I generally call “skinny,” especially due to the fact that I am almost 5’9″. I have very long legs and no torso. Well not really, but it sure does seem that way when I’m shopping for jeans.

When I gave birth to our last son in 2009, I walked into the hospital weighing in at 226 pounds. I had gained 60 pounds during that pregnancy. When we arrived home, I found that my true body weight, now without baby and extra fluid, was 201 pounds. I was miserable. My body hurt and I had no energy. My jeans were a size 16. So I made a commitment and stuck to it.

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I’ve learned that any weight loss program will work. It’s not the program; it’s the commitment. I lost 35 pounds following the Nutrisystem program. In the picture above, I was a size 10. It fit me well, and it was comfortable. I was happy at that weight for quite a while. Then I learned that my friend was getting married and I allowed society’s pressures to overtake me. Even though my body was happy and comfortable at a size 10, I convinced myself I needed to lose more weight in order to look my “best” in my bridesmaid dress for the May 2013 wedding. I lost another 30 pounds on my own. At 5’9″, I was 140 pounds.

This is what I got…

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I get that in 2009, I was too heavy. Losing weight was needed, but I took it too far. Yes, I lost the weight and everyone told me how good I looked, except for my family…those close to me saw what a struggle I was in. They told me I looked too thin and they were genuinely worried. I didn’t want to hear it then, but you know what? They were right. They told me the truth. I knew it then too. You know how I know? Because I had to work my ass off, literally, to get to that size and then to stay at that size.

I was obsessed. I didn’t enjoy life because everything I ate made me feel horrible about myself. If I indulged even the tiniest bit, I just knew I would regret it because I would have to work so hard to over-compensate for that moment of yumminess. Every conversation turned into working out and eating right. Nobody cared but me, so essentially I was talking to hear myself. I wasn’t living life to enjoy life. I was living to stay skinny. I was taking time away from my family not only by working out constantly but also by obsessing over my weight; and these were the people I wanted to better myself for but who just wanted more of me…in quality time.

I had to focus so hard to stay at a weight my body didn’t like that it overtook me; I saw myself going down a dangerous road. Was this the life I really wanted?

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This was the picture that changed everything for me. I looked at myself and saw someone skinny…and miserable. Those sweet boys and that handsome husband deserved to have more of me. Jeremy, my husband, has always loved me completely. I remember looking at him and saying, “Do you think I look better at this weight?” I could feel the pain in his voice when he had obviously had enough of these conversations, “No. I think you look better when you allow yourself to enjoy life more.” Who was I doing this for?

In truth, I was covering up an awful lot of pain. And Jeremy knew it. My husband suffered from severe depression and had survived multiple suicide attempts; my weight was something I could control when the rest of my world felt like it was crashing around me. It took me almost losing Jeremy, really almost losing him, to remember I’m not in control. And even trying to control something as simple as my weight was turning into just another pressure in life. I was taking it too far. I had to learn to let go and let God.

This video will detail more of our life’s struggles so you understand my need to control something…

So here I am today. We’ll fast-forward quite a bit. It’s almost 2017 and everyone is talking about their desires to lose weight. I’m included in that conversation since I indulged over Christmas a bit too much. I also learned, in April of this year, that I have Celiac disease. Gluten-free products are everywhere now, so it wasn’t a super difficult change. Don’t get me wrong, it was very overwhelming at first. But I have found it’s not so bad. And I feel amazing so that helps too. After 32 years of gut problems, my body is healing. But those gluten-free products are packed full of sugar. And I’ve gained weight.

I’m a size 13-14 now and my back is starting to hurt a bit. I can tell I have a little more weight on me than my body likes because, over the years of healing, I’ve allowed myself to indulge maybe a bit more than I needed to and all that sugar is packing on the pounds. My husband is doing amazingly; it’s been almost 9 months since he’s had even a suicidal thought. He takes his medication daily, sleeps with his CPAP nightly to get more oxygen to his brain, and meets with his psychiatrist, counselor, and pastor regularly. His brain is healing because he works hard to help himself by accepting help. So I need to do it too.

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My seven-year-old snapped this picture of mommy today. I know how to lose weight because I’ve done it before. I’ll do it again, but I won’t allow it to overtake me. For me, sexy is a size 10. My body is comfortable at a size 10 and I can stay there by eating sensibly, walking regularly, and indulging occassionally.

The right weight is about your own body’s healthy, and we all have different body types and comfort zones. My body likes a size 10 and I like it there too. So that’s my realistic and healthy goal. 

I’ll let you in on a secret, you’re sexy. Find your own body’s sexy. And if someone is telling you you aren’t, no matter what your size, find someone else to have a conversation with. For me, sexy is a size 10, but my husband clearly thinks sexy is a size 13-14 right now. 😉 When I get to a size 11-12, he’ll think I’m sexy there, too.

When we learn to listen to our own bodies, we can get excited about losing weight. We can even enjoy it. I’m looking forward to losing weight in the coming months because I know I can do it. I know my goal is realistic and healthy and I know it won’t happen overnight. I won’t let it overtake me, I’ll allow myself to indulge every now and then, and I’ll lose weight slowly and on my terms.

Follow our journey advocating for mental health and raising two boys on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/jeremyandbaileykoch/. Learn our whole story at http://www.jeremyandbailey.com/

Advice For My Sons: Top Seven Things That Are Not “Okay”

I’d like to think that I gain knowledge as I get older, that the world makes more sense, and that past mistakes change from feeling like mistakes to feeling more like missed opportunities or even lessons learned. I’m past my years of having babies as our boys are currently 10 and 7 years old. Our family feels complete, and we are truly enjoying the years of helping our boys grow and learn.

I’ve been in school for a long time, and I’m a teacher, but I’ll be the first to admit that the greatest lessons I’ve learned have not come from within in a classroom or from a textbook; they have come from experience, tears, and triumphs. My greatest lessons have come from my own lessons learned, but also from watching others.

I’ll be honest that I love social media and writing in general. Mostly, I share for the fact of knowing how easy it will be for our boys and us to reminisce about our life later. The Internet knows all, sees all, and remembers all. It’s a digital yearbook that can be used for good or for evil. By sharing both the good and the bad of our lives, I like to think that I’m helping our boys remember reality and know, when they hit bad times in their lives, that life gets better when you have a positive attitude. You can get through anything when you draw strength from Him.

It’s amazing how much trash there is on the Internet; it makes me so sad to see things that others are celebrating when in reality, they are completely selfish acts. I’m a mom and a teacher, and there are some things in life that are just not okay. I’m not afraid to stand up for what’s right, even if I’m standing alone. I once read a t-shirt that said, “No more Mr. Nice Christian.” It really hit home with me.

So after seeing much more than my eyes want to see on the Internet, I’ve decided to compile a list. My husband and I won’t be around forever and we want our boys to know what we believe is right and what isn’t. It’s most important to remember that nothing is unforgivable. Nothing. Forgiveness is real, but there are still some things that are not “okay.”

  1. Playing the victim.You make your own decisions every day. Nobody forces you to do anything. You cannot control what others do, but you can control how you react to them. You do something stupid, you deal with the consequences.
  2. Living in a constant world of negativity.How you see the world says an awful lot about you. If you are living in a constant world of negativity, see number one above. You are the reason you are miserable because you are not allowing yourself to see the good that is all around you. Miserable relationship? Work on it…hard. Frustrated with your body? Change your habits. Hate your job? Work harder to find something you love.
  3. Lying.Not everyone appreciates the truth. But when it comes down to it, you’ll be thankful you were strong enough to speak it. When you speak the truth, you build trust and respect. Someday, those who don’t want to hear the truth now will appreciate that you were not afraid to speak up.
  4. Cheating.If you are in a relationship, especially if you are in a marriage, you work your butt off to make it work. If the love is gone, you try your damndest to get it back. I’ve seen it happen. God can move mountains when you let Him. If the love is truly gone after you have given your all, then you amicably part ways. You respectfully part ways. You do not ever move on to someone else while still in a relationship with another. And if you have children, you put them first. You display what adults should behave like and you show that you can be respectful without having to agree. You can be happy for each other that love will come around again.
  5. Stealing.There are so many times when “stealing” happens and our society doesn’t even notice. You already know it’s not okay to shoplift or take items or answers that aren’t yours. But I want you to know it’s also not okay to steal time or joy. I have mistakenly done this many times, and I’ve learned my lesson. When you live in negativity (see number two above), you steal time and joy not only from yourself, but from others as well.
  6. Refusing to forgive.By refusing to forgive someone, you are hurting nobody but yourself. We all make mistakes and hurt others; you will do it many times too. Refusing to forgive leads to both points one and two above.
  7. Refusing to listen to or see Him.You gave your hearts to Jesus. Whether or not you choose to follow Him every day, you are His. He will fight for you. He does it everyday in those good voices you hear and the good things you see. You see someone in need of help and hear a voice telling you to help…listen. When something good happens, thank Him. When something bad happens, pray to Him and look around. You’ll see good if you allow yourself. See Him. Listen to Him. Be ready for some to tell you you are crazy for believing the way you do. But trust me…He’s worth it. Stand strong in your faith and He will make you stronger than you could ever imagine.

Follow our journey advocating for mental health and raising two boys on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/jeremyandbaileykoch/. Learn our whole story at http://www.jeremyandbailey.com/

Lies and Gravy: Ignoring Depression

I made gravy tonight…real gravy. The kind you make from scratch. Jeremy and I have been married for 12 1/2 years and together for 16, but I’ve never made real gravy before. I’ve made gravy often from packets, but I refused to make it the way my husband made it. He always made the good stuff, the kind you make on a crisp fall day or even while the snow is falling and you are inside snuggled up under a blanket drinking hot cocoa. Soul food. I refused to make “real” gravy until today, and I have a reason.

After five failed suicide attempts over a period of six years, my husband is still here with me. I’m blessed beyond words. For six years, Jeremy was physically here, but I was married to a stranger. I was a single mother who was married to my children’s father and was madly in love with the man he once was. I had faith he would be that man again one day, but I was damn good at ignoring and pretending. Every morning, Jeremy struggled to get himself out of bed even to say goodbye to our boys after I woke them, fed them, dressed them, and gave them love and reassurance that daddy was “just tired.”  Every day, I called from my workplace so many times that I lost count. Why? Because I knew Jeremy wasn’t okay by himself. I knew when I was gone, he had more and more opportunities to take his own life. I called often to be sure he was still alive, and the sound of a voicemail message left me so terrified that I regularly had to leave work to check on him.

It took us years to figure out that our faith was in each other and not where it needed to be. But trusting God would mean giving up control.  That wasn’t easy for me. It still isn’t.

Jeremy was usually better in the evenings. He would “come back” from time to time. And when he would, he would cook. Breaded pork chops, mashed potatoes, homemade gravy, and peas has always been a family favorite. We’ve had to get creative this year as I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease, but cooking incredible food gluten-free isn’t as hard as it sounds at first. I couldn’t go without this meal, but mostly because of the emotional weight it carries within my heart.

Jeremy always took the reigns on this family-favorite meal. And I pretended. I pretended that I couldn’t make the meal as good as he made it. I pretended because maybe, just maybe, if I coudn’t make this meal, Jeremy would have to stay. My boys would have to have their daddy stay alive because…who would make the gravy? Daddy made it best. Mommy would just mess it up.

Without daddy, who was mommy? My identity was wrapped up in being Jeremy’s wife.  I lied. I pretended. I needed him to be me, to be a mom, to be anyone worthy of love. I needed Jeremy to make the gravy. I couldn’t do it alone.

And then. And then I almost lost him…really almost lost him.

I documented everything I felt and we experienced during the time when Jeremy was fighting for his life on CaringBridge. Feel free to read it if you’d like. When I almost lost Jeremy, I found my own worth in Christ. I found how tough I am because of Him. I prayed prayers that most wives would never dream of praying. I was ashamed of my prayers for a long time until I realized even those prayers were meant to happen. Hundreds of times, I prayed that God would just take Jeremy. That He would end his suffering. “Jeremy doesn’t deserve to live in this Hell on Earth that is depression.”

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I found my worth in Christ when I almost lost my husband. I found my worth in Christ because I loved Jeremy so much that I didn’t want him to have to live with depression controlling his life. Jeremy, for six years, had managed to stay alive. But he hadn’t learned to live.

Not yet, anyway.

After the accident, my faith exploded. I went into fight mode and started living with faith, not just talking about it. I sought Jesus. I prayed and changed the way in which I spent time with Jesus. Jeremy watched and his faith began to grow too. We ultimately learned that embracing humor would be our saving grace in addition to taking the horrible parts of our lives and allowing God to make them good in order to help others. We wrote and published our story. “Never Alone: A Husband and Wife’s Journey with Depression and Faith” came out in 2015.

Jeremy designed the cover of our book himself as this was such a personal endeavor.

Jeremy and I have lived through Hell on Earth together. My prayers have changed; I don’t pray for God to take Jeremy anymore because my husband has learned to truly live with depression. No, his chemical imbalance, disability, disease, brain malfunction (call it what you want…depression is real) has not disappeared. Depression does not have a cure, but we have learned to live with it…not just stay alive. Our faith, Jeremy’s medications, and our enormous support system including doctors, counselors, family, and friends are our lifelines. Most importantly, Jeremy and I have now begun a support group called “Anchoring Hope” for those suffering from mental illness or supporting a loved one. We are there every Sunday evening and truly cherish our time together surrounded by so many who understand and are just wanting to support each other. God has brought so much good from so much pain.

I don’t need Jeremy anymore, but I do want him. I choose him every day, day in and day out, over and over. But my identity is in Christ. And tonight, I made gravy for our family. Jeremy loved every bite. Thank God for unanswered prayers.

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As always, if you feel like our story can help others, please share. God bless.

~ Jeremy and Bailey Koch

“I Do” Again

There are few things more important in the world than being surrounded by people you love and trust, especially those who return the sentiments. David and Cara have been friends of my husband and I since we were in high school. In fact, it’s quite a hilarious story that Cara actually tried to set me up with David when we were in our early high school years. Why? Because David was a genuine nice guy, and Cara wanted that for me.

What Cara didn’t tell me then, and what I know to be true now, is that she tried to set me up with David because she didn’t believe she deserved that nice guy. She believed he was too good for her, that somehow her past made her inferior to him. But alas, years passed and David made her way into Cara’s heart not long after Jeremy made his way into mine. We lost touch over the years but came back together when Jeremy and I were hired to DJ at David and Cara’s wedding on September 4, 2004. We were there to witness their union. Time would part us again, but not for long.

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Cara and I say that “the baby years” are what brought us together again. We were both younger than many of our friends when we began our families so we understood the time of life each other was in. But some things just didn’t come easy…

Cara watched and supported Jeremy and I as we navigated the choppy waters of living with mental illness. She was the first person to whom I revealed the whole truth of Jeremy’s suicide attempts. She was the person I called when I needed to cry, to be completely honest, and sometimes to just scream. Cara is, without a doubt, the most forgiving and accepting person I have ever met in my life. She was my comfort and steadfast support person always reminding me that Jesus had a plan for good in all the mess we were living.

Cara taught me so much, never realizing most of what she taught me came from how she handled her own life. The truth is Cara was fighting her own battle. Over the years of our friendship, I watched her and David struggle. I watched the reality of a blended family take its toll on their relationship. I watched priorities become confusing. I watched hurts happen and then become reasons for bigger hurts. I watched love fade, arguments turn to battles, and shots fired turn into full-blown war. But there was something else I witnessed.

I watched as two people were realizing that the people who often hurt you the most are the people who love you the most.

There are people in this world who can’t handle seeing others happy when they are unhappy themselves. These traits do not live in David or Cara. No matter what their lives consist of, they can genuinely and completely be happy for others. This is truly a trait to be admired and is certainly what I admire most about our friends. David and Cara could have pushed Jeremy and I aside long ago because our relationships had little in common. But what I love about our friendship is that none of us ever gave up on each other even when the world told us we should. And our kids…our kids adore each other.

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It’s hard to love two people so much and watch them struggle so hard. At one point, I did almost give up. I didn’t know how to help or what my place was. I said things to my friends I had no right to. I was tired of watching the hurt and part of me stopped believing in God’s ability to heal. I had started to take sides, human sides as opposed to where I had always stayed safe and steadfast before…on Jesus’ side.

And then it happened. I watched as David and Cara hit true brokenness. I had never seen either of them so low, and it was because they were finally seeing what life without the other would look like. I’ll never forget having many conversations in the past with Cara telling her the truth of why I knew my relationship with Jeremy was so strong.

I would say, “Picture your life without him. Look into the future and imagine he’s really not there. What does life look like?” It was only when I saw what life would be like without Jeremy that I truly began to appreciate everything about us. I knew the same would be true for them.

But life has a way of not allowing us to imagine situations like this in such detail until we are actually living it. I saw David and Cara truly broken and I learned an important life lesson. Sometimes, it’s actually easier to heal broken than it is to heal bent.

After being broken, David and Cara began to heal…truly heal. Cara tells me now that it took them 11 years to figure out marriage, to truly understand the sacrifice, the give-and-take, and the dedication to never let love fade. I watched them begin to have weekly date nights, something I had never seen, and to rarely allow exceptions to the date night rule. I watched them begin to understand that the marriage has to come before the children, a real and accurate rule of relationships so many young couples struggle with. I watched them begin to attend church together and truly worship Jesus knowing He is the reason that which was broken is now healing. I watched them attend marriage counseling and both be completely honest.

But you know the best part? I watched David become Cara’s best friend instead of me. I watched her run to him and not me. I watched my knowledge of their relationship become less and less. 

As Cara’s support person, I listened and did the best I knew how to try to support her. But now everything is different. Healing is happening and I get to just be the friend. Why am I writing this? For one, David and Cara told me I could. For two, the couple hopes to help other struggling marriages through their trials and triumphs. But for three, I want David and Cara to know how much respect I have for them and how proud I am of them.

So on September 4, 2016, Jeremy and I were there to witness their “I Do” again. David and Cara vowed to recommit themselves first to Jesus, second to their marriage, and third to their children. What an honor and a blessing. I could not be more proud to call them my friends. Congratulations to David and Cara. You two are an inspiration.

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David and Cara would like you to have their email address if you feel inclined to reach out to them. Perhaps you need some hope in your own marriage. Trust me, they are a great resource. Email them at carabcochran@yahoo.com

~ Bailey

http://www.jeremyandbailey.com/

Please like our page on Facebook to follow our journey and share our mission with others. https://www.facebook.com/jeremyandbaileykoch/

Real Advice to My Children As You Head Back to School

Back to school.

A few months ago, the words seemed forever away. Excitement filled the air as kids were dreaming of what fun adventures their summers would hold. Well…the time has come. Summer is coming to an end as it tends to do. School shopping has commenced and the air is now filled with a mixture of excitement and terror (depending on who you talk to of course) with the impending first day of school just around the corner.

Myself…I’m an educator. I’ve always looked forward to back to school. I love the excitement in the halls and the promise of lessons learned. I have one son who absolutely loves school…just like his momma. Hudson will be in the fourth grade this year and is extremely social. He loves being around his friends all day and having similar experiences as them. He can’t wait. And then there’s Asher. Our youngest son will be entering the first grade this year, and he’s a ball of nerves. He’ll do fine, but the initial shock and adjustment is always a bit of a challenge.

But no matter what your child’s mood is concerning the unavoidable, school is starting. Words of wisdom don’t come to me when my kids are leaving with backpacks loaded to the brim. They don’t enter my mind as we are in the car on the way to school. And they certainly don’t come as I watch my boys jump out of the car and run to eagerly pull open the door of knowledge.

What does come to me? Tears. Always tears.

I’m not one to want my babies to stay babies forever. I am truly loving every minute of them growing and establishing their own personalities, likes, and dislikes. But every year I am overcome with emotion as soon as their little bodies leave my line of sight. Why? Every year, I marvel at how proud I am becoming of my humans.

So here is my real advice to my children as you head back to school. This is what is most important to this momma:

  1. Show your Christ-filled heart in everything you do.

    This is something I’m still learning as I get older. People will know you by what you say and do, not what you say you are going to do. Do not be afraid to show your heart, the heart your momma knows, to everyone you come in contact with. Open doors for your friends and say, “Good morning!” as you all flood in. Imagine how many of these kids are just as nervous as you are. Your smile may be their comfort and hope of a great school year. Give high-fives and hugs to your friends (old, new, and future). Visit your teachers. Your smile, positivity, and excitement will be contagious.

  2. Be you. No worse and no better than them. Just you.

    Equality. It was 1954 (yes, before I was here) when segregation was finally considered illegal in public schools across our country. But watch the news today and you will see it everywhere. It’s as though our world is digressing and it’s shameful. You, no matter what color you are, what your social status is, how much money you have, or who your family is, are just you. Just be you, the you who Jesus loves the same as the person you are standing next to. Stand up for you and for others. If it’s wrong, it’s wrong.

  3. Wrong is wrong. Take a stand.

    This one requires some more explanation and is a perfect continuation from point number two. Wrong is wrong. It does not matter if you are white, black, brown, purple, blue, orange, rich, poor, somewhere in-between…wrong is wrong. You, my children, know right from wrong. I will never…NEVER…punish you for standing up for what is right. But you know what the consequences will be if you choose to make bad decisions and treat others, any others, with disrespect.

  4. Stand up for those who can’t easily stand up for themselves.

    To me, my sweethearts, this is most important. There are some people in this world who choose to take advantage of others, some who are just plain mean. Sometimes standing up for others is as simple as putting your arm around another, extending a hand, or offering to play and be a friend. Others will follow you. Be a leader, one who helps and doesn’t hurt.

  5. Encourage others.

    Someone has to win and it won’t always be you. In fact, most times it will be someone else. Learn to give a high-five to the winner and say “awesome job” to everyone else. Change the definition and help yourself and all others understand that a winner is also someone who can win and lose with grace. One day, the one who lost will win. Help everyone remember that.

  6. Be honest.

    Remember what I said about others knowing you for what you do and say, not for what you say you are going to do. It becomes all too easy to tell fibs in life. And then those fibs turn into lies, and the lies turn into deceit. Learn now to be honest and it will come easier and easier as you get older. Listen to that little voice inside of you telling you to tell the truth. Sometimes, honesty will get you in trouble; this is true and something I know all too well. But the reality is that the trouble you will be in will be far less than the trouble that a fib, lie, or deceit will cause. Just tell the truth.

  7. You make a mistake. You fix a mistake.

    Yes. Stumbles will happen. You will make bad decisions from time to time. There is a lot to be said for being able to say, “I was wrong, and I’m sorry.” There is a lot to be said for “doing your time.” You won’t always be forgiven right away by whomever you hurt, but healing will happen in time. Forgive yourself. Forgive others. If you make a mistake, you fix a mistake. You learn, you move on, and you try not to let it happen again.

  8. Believe in yourself and work hard.

    You are so smart and so capable. I truly believe nothing…NOTHING…is out of your reach if you learn to truly believe in your abilities and work hard for whatever your goal is. Success is what you make it.

  9. Be a gentleman.

    Yes, this one is specifically geared toward my sons. I understand the push toward gender equality and I fully support it, but I also am extremely old-fashioned when it comes to the role of men in society. I do believe you, my boys, need to understand the importance of growing into a man who can lovingly and faithfully lead a wife and family one day. Open doors for girls and women, tell them they look nice (not hot and not sexy), offer your jacket if someone is cold, encourage them to achieve their goals, stop negative or inappropriate talk if you hear it or are being part of it…the list goes on and on. Help females see themselves as you see them…beautiful and capable, strong and worthy.

  10. Be the good.

    We say in our house all the time that God will make all things good, and it’s so true. Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” If we don’t understand the bad, then we must work to show others that good exists. It’s not as hard as it sounds when we remember to give the credit where it should go. God is the good. God is all things good, and He made you. Be the good.

Have a wonderful school year, my sweethearts. I will shed some tears as you jump out of our van and run to open that door for others, but they are tears of joy. They are tears of excitement at the promise of lessons learned and more opportunities to spread good. I love you so very much and am so proud to be your momma.

All my love,

Mom
***

http://www.jeremyandbailey.com/

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We Don’t “Need” Each Other

My husband and I have been married for 12 years today. I’m writing this on July 24, 2016. But in February of 2012, I was writing a very different part of our story. It was then that I almost lost my husband, Jeremy, in a car accident.

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Jeremy in ICU at Creighton University Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska after two life flights. He suffered a leg broken in four places and repaired with titanium rods, fractured pancreas, punctured lung, brain bleed, face laceration, and a bruised colon that required complete reconstruction. Six intense surgeries in five days. Jeremy survived for a reason. You.

I watched him fight for his life, enduring surgery after surgery, and I knew the possibility existed that Jeremy had tried to take his own life. Severe depression had run our lives for three years at that point. I prayed God would just take him. I witnessed the hell on earth that mental illness can be and I didn’t want my husband to have to endure it anymore, not if there was no hope for a cure. And I didn’t think there was, at least that’s what the world tells us over and over.

Did you read that right? She PRAYED that she would lose her husband? 

Yes. I did. And for a long time I wasn’t proud of it. But for a long time, Jeremy and I lived in the dark about our reality. Why would we tell the world that Jeremy had tried to take his life five times? Why would we tell the world that I was terrified to walk in our home from work for fear that I would find my husband had finally ended his hell on earth? Why would we tell the world that suicide notes were not uncommon?

The truth is that accident happened for a reason. Jeremy survived for a reason. It was both the absolute worst and best thing that has ever happened to us. We were brought to our knees and we learned true faith. God showed me what life would be like without Jeremy. He answered my prayer. I didn’t know if Jeremy would survive; nobody knew. What I did know is that I had two little boys to raise.

So while Jeremy was fighting for his life, I was plotting how to never allow Jeremy’s death to be in vain. I plotted how I would raise our boys to know their father and to be like him.

Little did I know, God was plotting how to never allow Jeremy’s LIFE to be in vain. He was plotting how He would save my husband, turn us into warriors, and raise our boys to know their FATHER and to be like HIM.

Life changed for us. We have been married for 12 years today, and we can both honestly tell you that we do not need each other. God is our number one. He is the reason we are here together. He died for us; so we will live for Him. We share our story because so many suffer in silence. God brought us to our knees so we would learn to lean on Him.

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Jeremy and I wrote our story because we knew God would take what was meant to destroy us and make it good. Sharing our reality and helping others living with mental illness or supporting a loved one is our mission, our passion, and our purpose. You are the reason we are still here together on this Earth.

We do have a strong marriage, but it’s not the work of us. We have learned, because God had to bring us to our knees, to live for Him, listen to the Holy Spirit to guide us, and help others through our mission. So no. I don’t need my husband, and my husband doesn’t need me. I need Jesus. Jeremy’s needs Jesus. That’s why we have a strong marriage. We choose each other over and over, day in and day out, every day. Some days are easier than others, but that’s life.

So today, on our 12th anniversary, Jeremy brought me a vase of hand-picked flowers, a beautiful card, and a hug. We made breakfast together, attended church together, and worked in the back yard together. Together. That’s what makes an anniversary perfect. I choose him, but I need Him.

http://www.jeremyandbailey.com/

As always, if our story touches you or if you know of anyone suffering from mental illness or supporting a loved one suffering, please share our story. Our “Anchoring Hope” support group meets every Sunday evening from 6:30 to 7:30 at United Way in Cozad, Nebraska. Please join us. You are never alone.

And if you don’t live near us, please like our page on Facebook to follow our journey and share our mission with others. https://www.facebook.com/jeremyandbaileykoch/

I’m Not Stuck in a Small Town. I Chose It.

One of my former students recently shared an article and said something about being thankful to not be “stuck” in a small town. So this is my rebuttal, because let’s face it, I’m not exactly a quiet person. And bagging on my small town life? Now it’s personal.

What I want to say is this…

You’re kidding me right? You think we’re stuck? Oh, honey. Life is what you make it. I’m not stuck in a small town; I chose it.

Choosing to come back to our simple hometown life after college was, by far, the best decision we have ever made. And you know what? We’re not alone. So are you going to tell me that those who choose to leave and head to the bigger city are better than the thousands of us whom have chosen to raise our families in a small town?

When we came back, we began a family business that has contributed to our small town economy for over 10 years. We are business owners and we are as successful as we want to be. Do we have loads of cash? No. But we have a roof and food. We have enough.

So if you’re too good for this small town life, there’s a lot you’re too good for. Here’s a little list for you…

  1. You’re too good for the teachers who stayed in that small town you grew up in in order to help you further your education and go for your dreams.
  2. You’re too good for your own family. You know…those people who raised you, fed you, and picked you up every time you fell in that small town.
  3. You’re too good for the job your mother and/or father had, the job that provided for you to be able to get “unstuck.”
  4. You’re too good for the cooks who fed you, the librarian who provided enriching activities, the guidance counselor who led you, and the principal who disciplined you when you were showing your disrespectful attitude.
  5. You’re too good for the doctors who saw you through every sniffle and hospital stay.
  6. You’re too good for the nurses who comforted you and knew you by name when they saw you in the grocery store.
  7. You’re too good for the secretaries, teachers, and role models who made sure you were where you were supposed to be and not where you wanted to be.
  8. You’re too good for unlocked doors and friendly highway waves.
  9. You’re too good for cruising with your friends on country roads until all hours of the night.
  10. You’re too good for the fundraisers your hometown puts on for every person ever suffering from anything.
  11. You’re too good for playing until the street lights come on without fear.
  12. You’re too good for those people who run the swimming pool every summer and somehow manage to babysit half the town every day.
  13. You’re too good for the volunteer firefighters and EMTs who saved your friend or family member.
  14. You’re too good for raising your family with the help of 3,000 others.
  15. You’re too good for Friday night lights and prom parties, for your coaches and teammates, and for your memories.
  16. You’re too good for the mechanic who fixes your car, the vet who takes care of your dog, the convenience store clerk who knows you by name, and the pastor who prays for you.
  17. You’re too good for the radio stations you jammed out to while you dreamed of a different life.
  18. You’re too good for the safe and comfortable home you grew up in and for the volunteers who saw you through every youth event you were ever a part of.
  19. You’re too good for the farmers who grew the food you eat every day.
  20. You’re too good for me and all of your friends who want to raise their families in a small town.

So go for your dreams, but remember all these people are living their dreams, too. We chose small town life. It doesn’t mean we’re stuck; it means we chose differently than you. You’re not wrong for wanting to leave, but don’t assume we’re wrong for wanting to stay.

Life is what you make it.

~

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