Glimpses of the Man You Are Becoming

My son,

You make me so proud. You make me want to pull out my hair sometimes, but the vast majority of the time, you make me so proud. Today the pride turned to tears because I truly saw glimpses of the man you are becoming. I saw your future. And as a mother, that means two overwhelming emotions intertwined into one…joy and fear.

It’s hard on a momma. Watching you grow means every day you are one step closer to spreading your wings. I know you’ll never “leave” me. No matter what happens, my heart will never let you go. But these glimpses of the man you are becoming mean that one day you’ll hold another woman with strength, protection, and the gentle embrace of love your dad has displayed for you with your momma. You’ll be hers, and she will come before me. That’s life, and that’s the way it should be. But it’s still hard on a momma.

These two photos tell a very important story of this morning. The woman behind the camera, your mother, is currently recovering from a hysterectomy only five days ago. She is tender and sore, but she’s still trying to be superwoman because that’s who she is. She’s a fighter and your daddy’s “firecracker.” But she’s also weak sometimes. Sometimes she needs help. But she’s not great at asking for it. And this is where the glimpses of the man you are becoming came in.

When I woke up this morning, I was a bit sore from sitting up as much as I did yesterday. You came in and asked me how I was feeling. I told you I was hurting a bit but not too bad. I know you read my face and realized that “not too bad” really means Oh for the love of all that is pure, this hurts today. You disappeared behind the door and I assumed you were going outside to jump on the trampoline or play basketball, typical activities for you and your brother given you are only 10 and 8 years old. But I was wrong. When I emerged from my bathroom and made my way to the kitchen, I stopped in my tracks. There you sat with your brother, happily chatting while dividing the mountain of laundry into folded piles for each family member. I stood there stunned. Seeing you help is not uncommon; your dad does most of the laundry and I the dishes and you are expected to pull your weight. But we always ask for your help. We always gently, sometimes not-so-gently, remind you of your chores.

“Did your dad tell you to start folding?” I inquired.

“No. We just wanted to get a jump on it.”

This was a glimpse of the man you are becoming, and tears fell from my eyes. I’ll admit that I didn’t entirely believe you so called your dad to ask if he had mentioned the idea of helping. He hadn’t. So very proud. So very encouraged to know that we must be doing something right. You see, parenting involves a constant stream of self-doubt and fear. But today. Today I felt on track. And after the laundry was caught up, you bounced to the kitchen with your brother and tackled the dishes…again without being asked. Yet another glimpse of the man you are becoming.

Keep growing, my son. Keep learning. Continue being you, making mistakes, getting dirty, and growing bigger. And I’ll be here. I’ll be here cheering for you, teaching you, helping you, and encouraging you every step of the way. I’ll be here reminding myself of these glimpses during those times when it’s clear you are still a child. I’ll be here eagerly awaiting the next glimpse of the man you are becoming. Why? Because I couldn’t be more proud to be your momma.

All my love,

Mom

~ Bailey Koch

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Top 10 Hysterectomy Recovery Must-Haves

Well, I find myself in another situation in which I can choose to either be quiet, or I can choose to speak out about my own experiences in hopes that I can help others. I choose loud. Who am I kidding? I always choose loud. Sorry not sorry.

I’m 33 years old and am two days post-hysterectomy. It has been a long time coming as I’ve had issues and a lot of pain for years. My boys are 10 and 8 years old so they are old enough to be helpful during the healing process, and they sure are my little caretakers. I have quite a few friends who know a hysterectomy is likely in their future. I’ve always been kind of the leader of the pack with firsts…one of the first to get married, to have kids, to be done having kids, and now first to hysterectomy. But these issues and surgeries are quite common and I tend to handle situations better for others when I’ve already been there. And I can give tips…unsolicited advice if you will.

I found a combination of websites and blog posts from other women and put together a list of what I thought I might need for the recovery. There were so many helpful tips but I’m still adding as I go. So I’ve put together a list all in one place of my hysterectomy recovery must-haves.

So here it is…

  1. Multiple free-flowing nightgowns.Having nothing around my waste is very helpful. There is quite a bit of a bloated feeling at times, and pants just aren’t comfy. I bought 7 nightgowns at Wal-Mart for around $6 each. Super comfy and I’m living in them. Having multiple means that my hubby has time to wash before I run out of my current wardrobe.

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  2. Pain meds and rest.I get that this is kind of a given, but it has to be said. Jeremy, my hubby, has even been waking me up every four hours throughout the night so I don’t get behind on pain meds. The only time I felt super sore was when we opted to leave the hospital the same day as surgery. The 15-minute drive just took a lot out of me and I had to get caught up on pain management. But I knew I’d be able to rest better at home than in the hospital. And I was right. But take the meds and don’t overdue anything. Listen to your doctor’s instructions and stay down.
  3. Ice packs and a body pillow
    This one was unexpected but has been probably the biggest helper for pain. Ice packs on the lower abdomen feel absolutely amazing. I have a few of them so when one gets too warm, one of my boys just goes to the freezer to switch it out for me. And of course there’s the body pillow. It makes it so much easier to hold the ice pack in place and the pressure feels so much better. It’s all about comfort.
  4. Accept help
    Yes. That’s an order. From my own husband and children to so many family and friends. People have been bringing food, flowers, cards, and more. It’s been such a blessing. Having my family taken care of with visits, treats, and entertainment has been the biggest blessing. I feel incredibly blessed to be surrounded by so many beautiful and caring souls.2017-07-13 12.21.34
  5. Stool softeners, fresh fruit and veggies
    Nobody likes to talk about these things, but it’s something you’ll want to plan for. Straining to have a bowel movement after having a baby is no fun…after hysterectomy is about the same. Buy some over-the-counter colace and start taking it immediately. Mine is three times a day. Eat lots of fresh fruit and veggies in order to stay on top of that fiber and keep you regular. You’ll thank me.
  6. Cleansing bottle
    The nurse in the hospital had this idea and it has been a lifesaver! Sparing you the details, it has helped me empty my bladder and feel more clean. Especially right after surgery, emptying was a bit of a chore. Big helpers! Having a full bladder is very uncomfortable so you’ll want this little miracle bottle.
  7. Pads
    Kind of a given, but somebody else said to have adult diapers. Talk about making a woman feel un-sexy. No thanks. I’d rather be in my own comfy underwear. Bleeding has been very minimal and pads have been more than enough.
  8. Coloring books or thank-yous
    I have an adorable collection of “Creative Expressions” cards for any occassion. You color them yourself and then use them for whatever you wish. So that’s how I’ve been entertaining myself. I’ve been coloring these cards and writing thank-yous on them for my friends and family whom have been so helpful. Coloring is relaxing for me so that’s been a fun distraction.
  9. Reading material
    Again, distractions are good. There’s only so much time you can spend on social media or on staring at a TV or computer screen. Give your eyes and brain a break. I’m loving reading for fun!20170707_150650
  10. Water bottle or jug 

    This goes right along with the fruit and veggies. Stay hydrated so you don’t run into other issues. It helps with every aspect of recovery. Drink lots of water. And again, because having a full bladder is uncomfortable, be sure you empty often. It’s good for you.

So there you have it. Best wishes with your upcoming hysterectomy or for your loved one if you are passing this on as advice for someone. Many times since surgery, I have noticed the complete absence of pain. It’s a strange feeling since I’ve been dealing with severe cramping, lower back pain, and lower abdominal pressure for so long. This surgery was so worth it. God bless.

~ Bailey

Hysterectomy: There is Good in This

I firmly believe there is good in everything. I have been through an awful lot of fear and heartache in my 33 years. Having a hysterectomy next week pales in comparison. In fact, I’d take more of this over the idea of losing my husband anyday. And Jeremy is doing so well that he hasn’t had any suicidal thoughts in almost a year and a half. He says it’s his turn to take care of me. So yes, I can handle this. I’m handling it quite well, actually, because I’m really excited to get my life back. The pain has reached the point of intolerance and the uterus must go. Thank you for our two beautiful boys, now good riddens.

There are so many things I’ve been thinking about lately…how all of this was orchestrated to have so much good in it. I believe God planned it out perfectly, and I believe in the importance of focusing on the good. It’s how we survive life without bitterness and envy. It’s our secret to happiness…focus on the good and on what you can control – your own attitude. So focus on the good I will. And I write knowing others may be dealing with similar situations, so here it goes. A glimpse into my current thoughts if you will…

One month ago, I was frustrated. As a doctoral student in my fifth year and currently collecting data for my dissertation, I am possibly less than a year away from becoming Dr. Bailey Koch, Ed.D., in Special Education. I’m excited and very ready. But my research depends upon receiving surveys back from teachers. My timing wasn’t great. By the time everything fell together to begin collecting data, it was the extreme end of the school year…literally the last week. What teachers want to spend their last few hours of the school year filling out a survey? Well, I can answer that with 14 so far. But I need at least 30 back, so I’m at a standstill. I’ll have to wait until school starts again and go to more schools in order to invite teachers to participate.

Now I understand why God wanted me to have the summer off and put a stop to my data collection. There will be no doctoral stress while I’m recovering, and I’m very thankful for that. There is literally nothing I can do. This is my first true summer off…ever. Because I’m in the 25th grade (as my sons say), every summer has been full of classes for my degrees. Now is my time off. Now is my time to relax and recover.

A little over a year ago, I landed my dream job. Now a university lecturer teaching teacher candidates how to advocate for the learning of all students in the classroom, I am extremely blessed to work from home in the summers teaching online classes. I travel and teach face-to-face in the fall and spring semesters. Best of both worlds. So with a major surgery in the summer, and given the fact that I happened to teach both of my online classes in May and June, I have my July and August to relax and recover. Talk about timing.

But there’s more. Five years ago when it started to become obvious that my reproductive organs were failing, I had a procedure that would “buy me time” so hopefully my boys would grow old enough to be a help and not a burden when the time for a hysterectomy would come around. It worked. Our boys are 10 and 8 and are the biggest blessings to us in this…and always. While I wait for the procedure next week, unfortunately my uterus is extremely angry and the pain makes it hard to do much for very long. My hydrocodone and heating pad are my best friends right now. The boys are so helpful in preparing for surgery next week and in taking care of their momma. Hudson has taken an interest in learning to cook for the last year. Most of the time when I have to brown hamburger, he just does it. He knows all the steps, even seasoning the meat to perfection. Tonight we have friends visiting and I wanted to make my Mexican lasagna. I did nothing but cut up onions. Seriously. This is our 10-year-old today with mom. My husband walked in and started snapping pictures. Oh my heart.

 

And then there’s the fact that it has likely been around 13 years since I have read a book for pleasure. Don’t get me wrong, books about special education and research are great; and they’ve been my life for a lot of years. But I’m done with my doctoral courses and am now in the dissertation research stage, so I can read…like, for fun. I was so excited today when I went to our fabulous Wilson Public Library in Cozad that the women there had to believe I was crazy. However, I informed them of my situation and my likes and they guided me toward books I may just love. I’m so stinking excited to read while I recover.

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I know there’s more good. It will all be revealed in time. I’ve got this because He’s got us. The surgery is Thursday the 13th of July. I’m sure I’ll write while I recover. Who knows, maybe I’ll compile a list of “must-haves” for women preparing for and then recovering from hysterectomy. Maybe I can help someone in this. See…more good right there.

~ Bailey

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“I Love You and No”

Ahh summer. Summer is all about relaxing and soaking up the sun. It’s about fun and play and popsicles and sand and beverages and laughter and…ahhh.

Okay, I’m back. For a moment, I left reality and forgot I had kids. Two boys, ages 10 and 8, to be exact. So summer – time for a reality check. For me in this moment of life, summer is about sunscreen, screaming, damage control, broken arms, busted egos, more sunscreen, baseball, lack of taking responsiblity for actions, sunburns because I forgot the sunscreen, no schedules and tired kids, more baseball, no breaks from each other, broken bicycles, and a constant need to be kept entertained while mom and dad still have to work and earn that green stuff that keeps our kids fed. Oh and the food. For the love of all that is good, the food. These medium sized humans eat so. much. food.

Now please don’t get me wrong. I absolutely love being a momma. But I am NOT a stay-at-home mother. It takes an extremely special person to do that and I am clearly not special. I am a teacher, a very blessed one, and I have the opportunity to be at home with my children in the summers while I teach classes online. I absolutely love it, but I also clearly suck at it…especially the last couple of days. So today I’m on a bit of a pity party and I know I’m not alone. Why? Because parenting is hard.

So today I wanted to talk about my favorite phrase I’m reminding myself to use. “I love you and no.” Because it’s summer, I tend to fall into the trap that I have to entertain my kids at all hours or that we need to be on the go all the time. I’ve done it for almost a month now, and do you know where it’s gotten me?

It’s gotten me two very spoiled and entitled children who expect that if I can’t play with them at the moment, take them to the park all the time, go fishing right now, or supervise firework play for hours on end, then they certainly deserve to have a friend over to play with or at least an immediate ice cream to compensate for their damaged souls!

No. Just no. So I’m controlling what I can control…my own attitude. I’m using the advice of one of my besties, who masterfully yells at her kids in the most loving voice ever, to say, “I love you and no.” No, you don’t have to be entertained 24 hours a day. No, you don’t get to pit out the house and expect me to pick up after you. No, you don’t get to give me attitude every time I tell you no. No, you don’t get to argue with every statement I make. No, you don’t get to stay up late tonight. No, you don’t get to have a friend over every time I say no to something you wanted to do to entertain you. I love you, and no.

But there’s another side here. I can say yes, too. I can say yes when I can say yes. I can say yes when my children have earned rights. I can say yes when it’s possible…and often too. Because it’s summer. It’s all about balance.

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Summer on. And hang in there. This parenting ride is bumpy.

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Stop Telling Me to Cherish Every Minute

Hey, everyone. Okay, so today we are back to wearing the mom hat in my blogging world. While I write about a lot of areas, mommyhood is, by far, the nearest and dearest to my heart. See, I’m a mom of two boys, ages 10 and 8, and I cherish every minute…at least that’s what many would like me to say.

“I just cherish every minute of being a mom.”

There, I said it. Well now look what you’ve made me do…you’ve made me blatantly LIE on the Internet. And clearly, I’m the first person who has ever done that. Everything we see and read on the Internet has been true up until this point. I just broke the Internet. Congratulations to me. But you know what? I’m kind of sick of being expected to lie. I’m feeling a little frustrated today because I’m genuinely a very happy person. 99% of the time, I do cherish being a mom!

But if I say one negative word…one word saying something about being frustrated with mommyhood, somebody inevitably says, “Cherish these moments. Time goes so fast.”

This is the issue, because as my friend Leslie says, the “mommy shamers” are out in full force lately. Our society tends to believe that by saying we don’t cherish every minute of being a mom, we are somehow being completely unfair and insensitive to those who don’t have children. We are somehow robbing ourselves of the joy that comes with having children. We are somehow making time speed up even faster than it already moves.

And they’re right. Time does go fast. But this is something I already know very well. I know that I need to cherish every moment. But here’s the thing…I can’t. And you telling me to cherish these moments and reminding me of how fast time goes doesn’t help me. What I need from you is a hug, an “I’ve been there and it’ll be better tomorrow,” and a glass of wine. I need you to take my kids to play for an hour so I can remind myself of who I am and how much I love them.

So here are four things I have to say to the “mommy shamers” who don’t think I have a right to be frustrated…

  1. I am human.I didn’t magically become some supernatural being capable only of loving every minute of every day when I reproduced two humans. I get frustrated. I get tired. I get cranky. I lose my temper. And you know what? I’m allowed to. Because at the end of the day, I can teach my children how to apologize by example. Something like…”You know what, buddy, mommy lost it today. I overreacted and I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?” THAT is human. Cherishing every moment of every day with children is not.
  2. My children are human.My kids make mistakes too. Let’s imagine I have just vacuumed the entire house. It’s nice and clean and I sit down to grade some of my students’ papers for a bit. My kid opens the door and runs in from outside without thinking. He tramples across the living room, through the fireplace room, and into the kitchen. He grabs himself a glass of water and runs back out taking the same course. It’s at that moment that I see it. Mud. Everywhere. He was in and out so fast that he didn’t even notice he had his shoes on…and neither did I until it was too late. There are now muddy shoe prints throughout my house on the carpet and I have to spend the next hour or so trying to get it out.

    I don’t cherish mud on my carpet. Sometimes I can handle it well; sometimes I can parent and calmly tell my kid to come back in and help me clean it. If I’m calm, he’s calm. But sometimes I become the Hulk. I yell at my kid to get his butt back in the house and help me clean up this disaster. I make it a much bigger deal than it is, but I can’t help it. I’m about to cry. And I’m determined to help him learn respect for himself, respect for his mother, respect for his home, respect for his future family…respect for everything. All of the sudden, muddy shoe prints become a symbol of everything I have done wrong as a parent – which leads me to my next point…

  3. Parenting is hard.Dealing out consequences for bad behavior doesn’t make life fun. Making my kid cry isn’t at the top of my “cherished moments” list. However, it does happen. If my kid is being a jerk, I have to parent. And parenting isn’t easy. I don’t cherish seeing my child misbehave because when that happens, I question everything I have done as a parent. Cherish that? Really? Do you know how crappy it is to feel like you’re ruining your human’s life from time to time? If you don’t, then you are, by far, the world’s best parent…or the world’s worst. None of us know what we are doing. I’ve had to learn to accept that. And I truly believe that questioning our parenting, learning from mistakes, adjusting methods based on research, etc…that’s what makes a good parent. But it’s hard to cherish every moment of parenting.
  4. I do love being a mom, but I don’t cherish every minute of it.At the end of every day, after my children are clean and tucked in, my husband and I join them in their rooms for “thankfuls, lessons, and prayers.” We all share what we are thankful for that day as well as what lessons we learned and then we finish in a family prayer. At the end of every day, I can look back and say that I absolutely love being a mom. I can say that I made mistakes and learned lessons I didn’t expect or want. I can say that I survived another day…and so did my kids. And if that day comes when one of us does leave this earth, I know I will be able to say that we are with Jesus because I have taught my kids about Him. And that gives me peace.

    Maybe I rocked it as a mom today…maybe not. I can pray for another chance to be an awesome mom tomorrow. And right now, I can go be me while my kids sleep. I can remember that I do love being a mom, but I don’t have to cherish every minute of it.

So please stop telling moms to cherish every minute. Instead, change the words to, “Being a parent is hard sometimes. But it’s worth it. It will all be okay.”

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An Open Invitation to Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts in the Midst of Budget Cuts to Mental Health & Disability Services

Hey, Pete. What’s up?

Should I address you more formally? Well you know, Pete, I believe respect must be earned, not expected. So to me right now, you’re not Mr. Ricketts or Governor Ricketts. To me, you’re Pete. And I’m Bailey; because I haven’t earned your respect yet either. It goes both ways.

So I’d like to extend you an invitation, Pete, to meet my family and I so we can talk respect.

Oh but there are a few things you should know before you meet my husband, children, and I. Where should I begin? How about education? It’s easy for many to respect education. Well, Pete, I’m almost finished with my Doctor of Education Degree in Special Education and my husband is just beginning his Master’s Degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. You’re likely already beginning to see why we are passionate about services for mental health, individuals with disabilities, and those in need of help for behavior or addiction issues. So yes, we’re educated. Does that make it easier to read what I have to say?

But you see, Pete, the only reason I went this far with my education was to get people like you to listen to me when I speak. God made me a fighter and gave me a passion for standing up for those who can’t easily stand up for themselves. And after hearing about your proposed budget, I believe it’s time for me to stand up.

So that’s likely the end of our story, right? Wrong. You may be wondering why my husband, Jeremy, and I have worked so hard to further our education. If you’re not wondering, I’d like to tell you anyway.

You see, Pete, my husband is a five-time suicide attempt survivor. He’s a fighter, but he needed help to be. And a mental health facility, Richard Young Hospital in Kearney to be exact, is where my husband was kept safe and learned life-saving coping skills during his three times in which he stayed there inpatient. Those services kept Jeremy alive. Those services are why our children still have their dad.

You’re probably going to say, “Yes, but those services will still be there.” Will they, Pete? Will they?

Because I should also mention that for 2 1/2 years, I had to leave my job as a public school special education teacher in order to not leave my husband alone because his suicidal thoughts were so strong. I had to give up our family’s insurance, since my husband is a self-employed business owner, and rely on government assistance while I worked on my doctoral degree from home and supported my husband in his quest to learn how to live, not just stay alive. The government assistance saved our lives…literally. And we could not be more thankful for it; we are not alone. When we needed it most, it was there.

While there are some who take advantage of government assistance, please understand that those with mental illness, addiction, or disabilities are NOT in the business of stealing from the government. They just need help.

With your budget cuts, I imagine another family who walks up to the doors of a mental health hospital as we have many times…terrified and finally ready to accept help…will be turned away. Learning to accept help for mental illness isn’t easy. There’s a bit of a stigma, in case you didn’t know. I imagine that this family, because of a lack of money, insurance, options, etc., will be told that they can’t stay. I imagine this family will not even try to accept help again, will not learn coping skills, will not get the medications needed, will not be offered counseling services, will not be kept safe…I imagine this family will be ripped apart because of a mental illness they had no part in choosing.

I could go on and on about how terrifying these budget cuts are for people suffering from a mental illness, living with a disability, or trying to understand how to get away from a debilitating addiction, but I’d rather just invite you to meet my family.

I’d like you to look my husband, two boys (ages 10 and 8), and I in the eyes and tell us these budget cuts won’t negatively affect our family or anybody we fight for. I’d like you to explain to me why you believe taking funds away from arguably the most vulnerable population makes you a good leader. Because right now, Pete, I don’t see it.

I’d like you to attend one of our support groups. Did I mention we run a support group for individuals suffering from mental illness or supporting a loved one every Sunday evening? I’d love for you to meet with some of these beautiful people we have the pleasure of speaking with weekly. I’d like to invite you to spend some time with the incredible staff at Richard Young Hospital in Kearney, the people who kept my husband safe and taught him coping skills while he was in their care, who care for countless individuals suffering from mental illness and do the absolute best they can with little resources…soon to be less. You see, my husband still sees his doctor there monthly for his follow-up appointments so we know the staff well. I can’t imagine the heartache knowing that these budget cuts could cost some of these people their jobs. Jeremy learned how to live because he learned how to accept help. And because the help was there.

Please don’t take away the option to receive help from those who need it the most. Please reconsider your budget. Please take a step away from what politics has become and remember who you are and why you likely wanted to get into this position in the first place. Are you taking care of your family? So am I.

Bailey

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/