My Husband Believed He Needed to Kill Me to Save Me

He’s not a murderer. But at one point, his brain told him he had to be.

This man…this loving husband and father of two boys. This son, brother, and friend who goes out of his way to help anyone and everyone. This homecoming king, college graduate, and successful small business owner.

He believed he needed to kill me in order to save me.

We’ve yet to share this part of our story. But it’s time. We’re ready.

Jeremy had been sick and his mental health medication had not been absorbing into his body. It effectively caused a psychotic break when he went back on his meds at full strength after a week of vomiting. Hindsight is 20/20.

It began slowly…my loving husband stared blankly and his eyes became dark.

He began getting “very clear” visions. He saw the words. Visually saw them. They raced across his vision and he called them out loud as they scrolled. His eyes and neck followed them. I could see he was reading them.

“God. Water. Rain. Rainbows.”

He couldn’t sleep. His mind was constantly racing and he had to write down the thoughts so he could keep up with them…knowing something was wrong.

So we chose to get help and called his doctor. She assumed the meds were absorbing too quickly after he had been sick. He needed half strength for a bit, but the damage had been done. The meds he had just taken would only get stronger in his system overnight. We assumed he could fall asleep and wake up better.

We were wrong.

As we crawled into bed, Jeremy stopped and looked at me.

Darkness. Evil.

My husband was nowhere to be found. Physically here, his brain was overtaken by med-induced psychosis.

He slowly walked toward me and I backed up against the wall. Like a scene in a movie, I picked up the phone behind my back. I was able to distract my husband with the words, “Hey Mike, it’s Bailey.” as I actually had dialed 911.

I spoke to the operator as though it was Mike, a friend of Jeremy’s, and told my husband to go unlock the door because Mike would be stopping by.

It worked. Thank God, it worked.

I was out of the corner, and police were on their way.

When they arrived, Jeremy explained how he needed to kill me in order to protect me. He couldn’t be too far from me, or he would “lose the game” and then “lose her (me) forever.”

But if he killed me…we would be together forever. Only by his hands. That was the rule.

My husband was involuntarily committed to an inpatient mental health facility that night. And frankly, I couldn’t have cared less.

I was pissed. No, not with my husband. We had been through too much for me to blame him. And I understood mental illness now more than ever.

I know my husband. And that wasn’t him.

I was angry at the power mental illness could have over a person. I was furious with a system that doesn’t protect…but rather chooses to judge. And to this day, I, along with my healthy husband and family, remain dedicated and passionate for change. My husband stayed in the hospital, became himself again, and used his experience to empathize with those we support. To this day, he practices mental health maintenance daily.

Jeremy takes his prescribed medications. He meets regularly with his doctor and talk therapist. He focuses on faith…a purpose much larger than himself. He discusses his mental health struggles openly, honestly, and without shame. He watches for warning signs. He stays active. He takes vitamins. He forces himself to be outside and in the sunshine as much as possible.

And today, my husband is over 6 years free of suicidal thoughts. (Insert clapping here.)

Yes, there is evil in this world. And I would be willing to bet you most of it stems from brain health issues. Caused by genetics. Caused by trauma. Caused by circumstances. Caused by addictions. Caused by toxins. Caused by unhealthy habits our world encourages. Caused by a lack of resources. Caused by a lack of nutrients.

When will we learn?

When will we finally force insurance companies to prioritize brain health? When will we learn to accept that our world needs to be educated and full of resources…who to call…how to get help…what to look for…how to report concerns and know they’ll be followed up on…

We need to demand change. Because it’s time we stop blaming people struggling with mental illness for the brain health crisis that is ravaging our world.

***Please share, follow our journey, and advocate with us at Anchoring Hope for Mental Health on Facebook and Instagram. Message us there if you’d like us to speak to your group or at your event. We would be honored to share our story with you and fight together for change.

Coffee On My Planner Broke Me

Look for the good,” my grandma used to say. 

I tell ya, it was hard to see the good today. 

Before I even had my coffee, my child had a seizure in the shower. It was short, just an absence seizure, but the blackout and loss of memory/time scared him. And rightfully so.

Then, I had to parent. Every part of me wanted to call in sick, let him call in sick, and just hold him. But that teaches nothing but the ability to use his Epilepsy as an excuse. And I know that. We are raising our kids to not need us, and there’s a difference between “I can’t function.” tired and “I can get through the day.” tired. 

Asher decided he was “I can do it.” tired. He made it through the school day after having experienced a seizure this morning. Proud momma, but I hated being away from him. I did call our boy’s middle school principal to check on him. I mean…I’m not that good at totally leaving him alone and had to feel like I had some eyes on him. I’m still a momma after all.

Oh but that’s not all. Today was day three of advising week at my work. I truly love seeing my students and advising in general; it’s just exhausting. I’ve had 27 advising meetings in the last three days, with more tomorrow, so I’m a little pooped. Also, my family has been sick for days, the reason a seizure popped through for Asher, so the home front feels like it’s falling apart and covered with germs. Eww.

Send all the disinfecting wipes. All of them.

On top of all that, I went to sip my afternoon cup of coffee and my arm decided to malfunction. A spasm sent my coffee cup flying…all over my life. And by my life, I mean my planner.

I lost it. Cuss words in my professional environment. Immediate tears. And my co-workers literally came running. See – we educators understand the importance of a paper planner. I once threatened my father’s life when he set his chewing tobacco spitter on top of said planner in our living room. He didn’t do that again. 

So that was it. The last straw. Coffee on my planner broke me. 

I cleaned up the mess, with the help of my colleagues, let some tears fall, and started researching vacations on my computer. Am I going? No. But the idea made me happy, and I needed to escape, even if it was just for a moment of looking at tropical places while it’s 32 and windy outside. I needed positivity and a distraction.

And while “escaping,” I heard my grandmother. “Look for the good.”

Grandma Louise passed away in 2016, but it’s amazing how much her beautiful, joyful outlook on life is still so much a part of me. She had been through a lot of heartache in her life too, but she found blessings everywhere she looked.

I glanced at the clock and realized it was nearing time for me to do my favorite thing – teach. Ahh…something good to focus on. So simple. But so good.

The lesson today was one very near and dear to my heart, weaving social emotional learning exercises into every lesson for students. You see, at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, I teach future teachers how to teach. My goal is to help these future educators support the humanity of their future students. It creates an environment of learning and respect unparalleled. We talked about things adults should already know – kids have emotions too and it’s hard to learn when your world is controlled by them. So we teach them to allow emotions and to work through them…never ignore. We support – simple as that.

It’s not hard for my passion to come through during this lesson, and I felt myself again throughout the class. We talked through the entire 55 minutes, heads nodded, and I thanked God I had been able to teach that lesson on this especially hard day.

Then, I got on the elevator and when I hit the first floor, the door refused to open. Because of course it did.

But by this point, I was laughing. I imagined my grandmother and Jesus giggling with one another, knowing how much I appreciate irony, and the continued blunders in my day actually started to make me feel better. So I looked for the good, just like grandma said. I laughed, and the door finally opened.

When I got back to my office, I had an email from a student…

“Hello Dr. Koch!

First of all, I want to commend you for doing such a great job doing what you do. I have been heavily impacted by mental health from multiple different angles throughout my life and I appreciate how much emphasis you put on it in your teachings. I have been on the edge of crying multiple times throughout the course of this unit because I genuinely want the best for the world and the students that I am going to be teaching, and I want to promote mental health awareness in my future classroom. Seeing how you’re able to implement it while not letting it get too much in the way of the curriculum is really inspiring to me, so I felt a thanks was necessary.”

So I cried again. Because of my ability to pull myself up by the bootstraps and get on with my day, just like my child with Epilepsy had done today, I got to positively impact someone else. Because I can see the good. I can always see the good.

Thanks, grandma. Love and miss you.

I saw Jesus.

They say He meets us at our worst…that He’s made strong in our weakness.

But we have to let Him.

For three years, I tried to be the reason my husband was okay. With constant suicidal thoughts, and more attempts than I knew about, Jeremy lived in a dark and terrifying brain. I knew some of his pain, but he had made it clear to me he didn’t want the world to know his reality.

So we lived in silence. Sometimes communicating. Mostly ignoring.

But to the world, we were the perfect couple. High-school sweethearts who had it all together. Two kids. A home. College grads both in careers we loved. Side note…did you know mental illness doesn’t care about all that?

Loneliness was all I knew. Independence was what I thrived on. My husband’s mental illness caused him to physically and emotionally check out, detach from the world…detach from us. I was a solo parent. Most mornings, I got our boys up, fed, ready for the day, and off to daycare without even seeing Jeremy. If he was sleeping, and I could tell he was still breathing, that was a win. If he came out of the bedroom to say goodbye to the boys, I actually worried more.

Was this him accepting suicide as his fate? Was he saying goodbye to us for good?

Turns out, on February 16, 2012, he was doing just that.

Jeremy, in suicide attempt number four, drove directly into a semi truck on the highway. No, I didn’t know how many attempts he had before that. To be honest, I wasn’t even sure this was that. Or…I didn’t want to know that truth. This was the first time I saw him…

Severely broken. This time, not only mentally. Jeremy’s leg was shattered, his femur protruding from his upper hip. His punctured lung, fractured pancreas, brain bleed, and severe colon trauma called for a medically-induced coma and for the machines to do the living for him. I remember looking at my husband in this state wondering if this was the most alive he’d felt in years…trapped in a brain that wanted nothing more than for him to die.

Under that hospital gown, Jeremy’s abdomen was open…covered by nothing more than what I assumed to be grocery store saran wrap. The surgeons assured me this was completely safe; they simply needed to be able to intervene faster than closing and reopening his abdomen over and over would allow. And it was now, the fourth surgery on February 19, 2012, that would prove to be more than I could handle alone.

We had family and friends who knew little of our reality. They knew Jeremy had Depression, some even knew he had had an inpatient mental health hospital stay, but they had no idea of the severity of his condition. And here they sat with me, lights flickering in a dark waiting room of Creighton University Medical Center in Omaha, waiting for the surgeon to explain how this most crucial surgery would go.

“Short surgery…good,” Dr. Forse explained. “That will mean the body is healing itself. A couple hours would be ideal; I should be able to tell by then if I’ll need to intervene more. But a long surgery is a bad sign; we want the body, not me, to do most of the work.”

And his disappeared behind steel doors, followed closely by six eager surgical interns. I remember imagining that Dr. McDreamy was back there somewhere, and everything would have to be okay then.

I felt more alone in that moment than I ever had. Surrounded by friends and family, I saw nothing but the absence of my husband’s surgeon, a man who now held my husband’s life in his hands. And I lost it…finally.

I screamed at God. With every negative word I could come up with, I cursed Him. “WHY?! WHY HIM? WHAT HAVE WE DONE TO DESERVE THIS?! FUCK YOU! I HATE YOU! I HATE YOU! I HATE YOU!”

Everything in my body released three years of frustration, sadness, loneliness, and confusion in one fit of anger, and I directed it at the One I needed desperately, but refused to see. When my sobs ultimately ceased, and I lifted my head to see the family who had desperately tried to support us for years, there was only One I saw.

There, on a chair in front of my crumpled body on the floor, sat my sister-in-law…nineteen years young, her face soaked with tears. The sadness was palpable. But as my teary vision cleared up, I realized that the tear-soaked face I was looking at was not Jacqui…it was Jesus.

My Light in the darkness. I saw Jesus. And He wasn’t laughing…taking pleasure in the terror and anger I was living in as I felt He must have been.

He was destroyed…His face streaked with tears knowing how badly His daughter needed her Father. But she wouldn’t turn to Him. She refused to submit. She dismissed His attempts to help her see Him. She continued to live a lonely existence.

I understood in that moment. Jesus hated this for me.

I saw Jesus. He showed Himself to me in my weakest moment. On February 19, 2012, on my knees in a surgical waiting room, I gave my life to Christ.

Remember I said a two-hour surgery would be a good sign?

Dr. Forse walked back through those steel doors 45 minutes later.

My husband’s broken body was healing itself, and this surgeon had no explanation.

But I knew.

March 2012
February 2022

Follow our journey with mental illness, a daily reality we continue to manage, @anchoringhopeformentalhealth on Facebook and Instagram. Now we live.

  • Jeremy & Bailey Koch (Hudson and Asher)

Does suicide mean hell?

No.

Let’s just get that right out there, shall we?

And I’d also like to say this is not a topic in which I’m willing to discuss and listen to dissenting opinions. While I’m someone who loves to argue, and even be in the wrong if proven so, hell is not a place we mess with. So allow me to tell you what I know to be true.

First of all, a little about me…

I’m the wife of a man who has attempted suicide multiple times. Additionally, I’m the daughter-in-law of a man who died from mental illness. I also happen to be one hell of an advocate for mental health. With a doctorate in Special Education, I thrive on fighting for those who can’t easily fight for themselves. And I fight best with research.

So let’s start with those of you who believe suicide is a sin.

Fine. I’ll listen. But where does your argument go after we learn that biblically, the only unforgivable sin is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit? You really think, just because a person didn’t have time to ask for forgiveness on this earth before death, that Jesus can’t forgive what you believe is a sin?

I don’t know about you, but I won’t limit the power of God that much. I mean, I hear He’s pretty powerful.

But let me take this one step further.

In my research and experience, we know severe mental illness can completely take over a person. Mentally, the world is dark and cloudy. No light. No hope. Physically, it’s nearly impossible to function. No energy. No ability. Emotionally, the truth is flipped. The world is better without them. They are a burden. And cognitively, the only option is to lie. Put on a fake smile as long as you can.

So when one is given a stage 4 cancer diagnosis, they are told something like, “The cancer has spread to all parts of the body. Even with treatment, this diagnosis may be fatal. Treatment must be immediate and intense, and while survival is possible, it’s difficult when the illness is this advanced.”

Now, allow me to reword this for you. “The mental illness has spread to all parts of the body. Even with treatment, this diagnosis may be fatal. Treatment must be immediate and intense, and while survival is possible, it’s difficult when the illness is this advanced.”

Mental illness, no different than any other illness, can result in death. It’s tragic, terrible, and just plain sucks, but it’s true. So again, let’s not limit the power of God.

Do you really think one who is consumed by dark thoughts every second and truly believes the world will be better off without them will be condemned to hell? Do you have such little faith in God’s all-knowing powers to actually believe He doesn’t understand mental illness?

I know Him better than that.

My God is an all-knowing God. My Jesus is an all-forgiving Jesus…you know, unless you don’t believe in Him.

So believe.

And rest knowing that any loved one you’ve lost to mental illness is rocking it with Jesus. I’ll see y’all there one day.

Dr. Bailey Koch

I Prayed For My Husband To Die

*** Trigger warning: mental illness and suicide. But also hope after hell. ***

Surrendering to God’s will looks a lot different than you might think. 

I never thought this would be possible. You know…watching my husband walk alongside his teen and pre-teen sons. I thought I would be telling these boys stories of how much their father loved them. Of how much he wanted to watch them grow up, but mental illness just wouldn’t let him. 

I fought for years to try and be the reason my husband was alive. To control his journey. To force ignorance and fake smiles. To stay awake and vigilant so as to never leave him alone…for fear suicide would claim him once and for all. But I reached a point of loss. Loss of myself. Loss of my marriage as I had known it. Loss of all joy. Loss of all hope. 

I remember yelling…screaming at God for giving this mental illness, this hell, to my husband. I cried and fell to my knees in agony. Looking back, I can see it was a moment of complete surrender. 

In that moment, I prayed for my husband to die. Suicide had to be the only answer…that’s what my husband’s brain thought. Maybe he was right. So I did it. I prayed to God to take my husband…to release him from the pain, no…the agony, of the hell he lived on this earth. I didn’t want him to suffer. He didn’t deserve this. He didn’t deserve these relentless suicidal thoughts.

I prayed for my “Plan B,” because my Plan A clearly wasn’t happening. I would be okay without my husband. I knew I would be okay. I would raise our boys to know and love their father…the man he was before mental illness took over. For the first time in years, I felt at peace.

I imagined Hudson’s birthday party. Our son was only 4 at that time, but I imagined his 13th birthday. I knelt down next to him as he forced a smile glowing behind 13 burning candles. “I just wish dad could be here, mom.” 

“I know, baby.” I would say. “He wanted to be here too.” I would hug him and tell him how proud his father would be of the man he was becoming. I knew how I would handle every conversation. I couldn’t control my husband’s mental illness, but I could control how I would raise our boys after my husband would pass. 

I surrendered to His will. All I had been doing was fight Him. All I had been doing was trying to control. So I gave in. God’s will had to be for my husband to die. Why else would we be living this? I let go and allowed God to move us. I was ready. I was exhausted. I was done.

I know now that as I prayed for my husband to die, God rejoiced.

God moved us so far beyond where I thought he was going to move us that it took me years to figure out my prayers for my husband’s death were prayers of surrender. I didn’t want my husband to die; I wanted him to be healed. And in my brain, healing could only take place in death…because mental illness had tricked my brain too.

In my heart, I wanted my husband back…but more, I wanted to be held by my Father.

Thank God, He heard the prayer of my heart and not of my brain. And He blessed us more than we ever could have imagined. He turned our story of tragedy into a story of hope. He worked on our hearts for years…that one day we would be willing to share our journey. From start to finish and everything in between. From avoidance and terror to the acceptance of help and healing.

That’s my husband in the photo. And that boy on the left with his hands in his pockets…he’s 14. And his dad was there for his 13th birthday, in mind and in body.

God can’t move unless we let Him. And when we let Him…oh wow. Just wait for the lights to light up the darkness brighter than you ever imagined.

*** If you are experiencing any of the feelings described in this post…loss of hope or the desire to end life on this earth, please know there is hope. We have been there and it can get better with the acceptance of help. Please reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, contact a counselor (we are big believers in talk therapy and continue to this day), contact a doctor (yes, we do take medications daily…not everyone needs to, but that needs to be a conversation between you and your doctor), or even go to the emergency room or nearest mental health facility if you don’t feel safe. Tell someone. You’re not alone and you are so very loved by Him. Why else would these words have made their way to you today? Who do you think may be trying to get your attention? Trust Him. Accept help.

Follow the Signs, I Won’t Always Be Here

My dear child,

Tonight, I sat next to you as you drove home in your first vehicle. You asked me questions as we drove. “Do I turn on my blinker here?” “Do I need to start slowing down yet?” “What’s the speed limit here?”

And I heard myself say it…

Follow the signs. I won’t always be here.

After those words came out of my mouth, you responded with, “That’s true.” You slowed down when you saw reduced speed warnings, you slowed down when you came to those yellow curve signs, and you set your cruise at a safe speed until you found one of those handy speed limit signs. While we were talking about driving, the words were bittersweet for so many reasons. It’s just true. I won’t always be here, and I pray you know how to follow the signs of life to help you make good decisions.

As a parent, my entire world centers around you. Teaching you how to drive is also teaching me how to let go…how to trust you in a very scary world. Most importantly, it’s teaching me to trust that I have taught you about Jesus. It’s teaching us both to trust that while I won’t always be here with you, He will be.

My child, I pray you know Him. I pray you learn more and more to trust your life with Him. I pray for your safety and for those signs He gives you thousands of times a day to be so huge, they will be impossible for you to ignore. I pray you learn how to listen to His guidance and follow the signs.

Because I won’t always be here.

I love you.

Mom

Mental Health Checks with Your Teen: “The Koch Number System”

Lately, I’ve been sharing much of our family’s reality. In 2009, my husband was diagnosed with Depression and he has since survived five suicide attempts. This just in…in 2020, our teenage son had his first suicide attempt. I pray it’s his last as he is safe. A mental health hospitalization for our 13-year-old was the last thing we expected, but it’s exactly what we needed.

That mental health hospitalization forced our family to talk. No distractions. Just us.

It’s no secret that no teenager wants a parent to be constantly asking, “How are you feeling? Any thoughts of self-harm? Do you feel safe?” So we came up with a system…one we used with my husband when he grew tired of those annoying, and quite frankly, embarrassing, questions. We laughed and said we would even name our new method for checking mental health…enter “The Koch Number System.” I know. Super creative, right?

But it’s simple. And simple is good, especially for overwhelmed teens who are learning to be open with their feelings. The Koch (pronounced “Koh” and rhymes with “Toe.”) Number System allows teens to share their feelings in as few words as possible. And it allows advocates to take the information and do what we need to help. As advocates for mental health and suicide survivors, we would like to share our method with you.

The Koch Number System

We ask our son, “What’s your number?”

He responds with one of the following…
1 = I feel like myself. I feel good.
2 = I’m sad…a little down. But no thoughts of self-harm.
3 = I’m having bad thoughts. We need to reach out to our support system.
4 = I have a plan to harm myself. It’s time to get me help to keep me safe.

We use the number system so much that I write it in my planner to remind myself to check in with my teen and yes, my husband too.

Please do mental health checks with your teen. Please help them to know that talking is good and accepting help is strong. Too many in our world fight silent battles with mental illness. But one in three will struggle with mental health in any one year alone. One in three. You are never alone, and we are all in this together. We fight mental illness and suicide by talking…even if it makes some uncomfortable.

Speak up. Positive change never happened by keeping our society comfortable.

Please join us in advocating for mental health. Follow us on Facebook at Anchoring Hope for Mental Health: Jeremy & Bailey Koch. Check out our website and published books at www.jeremyandbailey.com.

Kids Are Resilient, But They Need to Learn Adult Coping Skills

Trauma looks different for everyone. What may seem like a trivial life event to some might be a defining moment for someone else. As adults, we often find ourselves saying things like, “Kids are resilient. They’ll be okay.”

While that may be true, kids turn into adults. And if kids don’t learn coping skills while navigating through traumatic life events, those kids grow into adults who don’t understand the importance of accepting help and managing their mental health. And how do kids learn these skills? They are modeled and discussed by the influential adults in their lives.

There’s a theory out there, Erikson’s Theory of Psychosocial Development to be exact. Erikson maintained that personalities develop through eight stages of development, from infancy to adulthood. Look it up; it’s super interesting. But I’m mostly concerned with stages four and five right now. Stage four is “Industry vs. Inferiority,” typically ages 5-12 when children either are either encouraged to develop skills and to take initiative to reach goals themselves or are restricted by teachers or parents and are made to feel inferior. Then stage five is “Identity vs. Role Confusion,” between 12-18 years. In this crucial stage, adolescents search for a sense of self…they intensely explore personal values, beliefs, and goals. Essentially, they learn how to transfer from childhood to adulthood.

So if we, from parents and teachers to family and friends, don’t teach and model mental health maintenance, coping skills, and healthy boundaries during these important developmental stages, how will these developing children learn to become self-sufficient adults? Yes, kids are resilient. But they need to learn adult coping skills.

As an example, our boys, currently ages 13 and 10, have been through a lot. Beginning in 2009 when our second son was born, my husband started showing signs of severe depression. Over the course of the next six years, Jeremy was mostly emotionally absent as he learned how to live again as opposed to just staying alive. He survived five suicide attempts, one of which involved a near-fatal car accident, two life flights, six surgeries in five days, eight days in the ICU, and one month in the hospital away from our young boys.

Jeremy’s 1/2 ton Dodge Ram after having driven into a semi on the highway in February 2012.

As our boys grew older and learned how to be open and honest about our reality, we began explaining the truth of Jeremy’s mental illness. We used words they could understand and not fear. We openly talked and allowed our boys to ask questions. Sometimes, today, I feel our kids understand mental illness better than we do. So much so that our boys helped us write a book to help other families open up conversations about mental illness.

“When the House Feels Sad: Helping You Understand Depression” is written from our family to yours. Available for purchase on our website at www.jeremyandbailey.com.

I wish I could say I know exactly what we are doing as parents, but that’s not the truth. Parenting is a series of trial and error, try and try again, and hit your knees and pray over and over again. But I will say this…as Aunt Karen says, “Our kids win.” Our kids are growing up watching the struggle and the triumph with mental health. From counseling and doctor appointments to brain scans and sharing our truth in public talks and on social media, our kids are growing up unafraid to be open and to accept help. I believe they win.

Just the other day, our oldest confirmed to us that he is, in fact, understanding the importance of accepting help. You see, this past summer my husband’s father was killed by mental illness when he completed suicide. Just a few weeks before Randy died, our oldest son and I had to go through his house and remove all guns while Randy accepted help in an inpatient mental health facility. Sadly, there were guns hidden in places we didn’t know about and Randy died a few weeks after leaving treatment. My husband lost his father, our boys lost their grandfather, and I lost my father-in-law…all because Randy didn’t understand that it was okay to not be okay. He was facing an overwhelming new normal and he wanted others to be the reason he was okay; it was too much for him. And our son is struggling with feeling responsible. “Mom. I don’t understand where he got the gun. We went through that room. We went through everything.”

My husband and I knew he was struggling, so we asked if he’d like to go speak with his counselor, someone he trusts and has been speaking to off and on since he was much younger. He did. And as I entered the room for the last ten minutes of our son’s counseling appointment in order to schedule more visits and talk about what to work on at home, he looked at me and said, “Mom, I feel like I need to come every week for a while…instead of every two weeks or every month.” He’s processing his trauma, and because he has watched his dad accept help, our teenager has no problem with it. We scheduled the appointments and are already seeing a world of difference in our boy. Proud momma.

Momma and boys as we sat and waited for our mental health appointments.

So yes, kids are resilient. But we have to remember that kids grow into adults. If they don’t learn these mental health maintenance skills from an early age, they won’t be able to use them as adults. But if they do see these important issues and skills discussed and modeled, we may just help change a generation’s mind. We may just be able to stop the stigma attached to mental illness. We may just be able to lower the rates of suicide, and that’s something worth fighting for.

~ Bailey J. Koch, Ed.D. – Special Education

Learn more about us by following us on social media @jeremyandbailey on Facebook and Instagram. https://www.facebook.com/jeremyandbailey/
Purchase autographed copies of our books, “Never Alone: A Husband and Wife’s Journey with Depression and Faith,” and “When the House Feels Sad: Helping You Understand Depression” on our website at www.jeremyandbailey.com.

Meltdown Methods: Steps for Supporting Emotional Regulation in Extreme Behaviors

If you are anything like me, it can be hard to keep your cool when your child (no matter how old) is physically losing his collective mind. Growing up is hard, but throw in sensory issues or emotional regulation problems, and we don’t only get meltdowns, we get dangerous aggression. As a Special Education professional and mother to a teen with High-Functioning Autism, I have put together some information to help you.

Keep in mind that every kid is different, but I have found these methods helpful in both my professional and personal lives. From holes in the wall and doors ripped off to barstools thrown and siblings attacked, I’ve experienced it all. And I’ve found that these steps help me to keep my cool…which makes all the difference with de-escalation for my child. Try it.

Parents of extreme children have to find our own ways of de-escalating the situation…especially as our children grow. But the steps I have put together below can help any parent of any child during a meltdown. Why? Because these steps are all about supporting the Social Emotional Learning of our children…not reacting and punishing.

Keep him, and others around, safe.

Yes, this may mean you need to hold him. If you aren’t sure of safe holding methods, I recommend checking out Mandt System holds. I hold my child with his back to my chest…arms crossed in front of him (as shown below).

Staged picture used with permission from my son. With a hold like this, my child is safe…and so am I from biting, kicking, throwing the head back, etc. Notice my stance and how I am holding him. During this time, I am working on getting him to the floor while also validating his emotions (see steps below).

Get to his level.

Sit with him, hold him, lay on the floor with him, rock with him, etc. Stay at his level.

Validate.

Say phrases like…
~ “I get it.”
~ “I’m here.”
~ “I know.”
~ “Look at me. I’ve got you.”
~ “You’re safe.”

Breathe with him.

Say, “In your nose (breathe in)…out your mouth (breathe out).” Do this over and over while repeating the validating words from the previous step. He will begin to release his tension.

Staged and used with permission from my son. As your child releases tension during the validating and breathing, release your hold slightly so he realizes he has some control. The hold isn’t what de-escalates…the validation is.

Hug.

When he has de-escalated and his body has returned back to a more relaxed state, he will be exhausted. Just hold him. Repeat the words you’ve been saying, stroke his hair, kiss his head, etc. Remember that it’s likely he may not remember/process a lot of what just happened yet. If you had him in a hold, this may be when he will voluntarily turn around…depending on the child. My son always turns around and holds me in a hug while we rock, breathe, etc. He’s almost 13.

Talk later.

Wait to talk about what happened until much later…sometimes the next day. After a physical meltdown, brain activity is often equivalent/similar to what a child with Epilepsy’s brain resembles after a seizure. Body and mind are exhausted. Safety and validation are the only concerns right now.

Later is when you address what happened. From what went wrong to what went right and what worked. Talk about breathing techniques, coping strategies, and allow your child to tell you what helped or did not help. Be open to accepting that your child deserves some respect during the process of learning how to manage his own emotions.

~ Feel free to share with anyone and everyone who you feel may benefit from this information. My goal is always supporting others. I truly believe that children learning these emotional regulation skills is a huge aspect of managing mental health later in life. – Bailey Koch
~ Follow our journey on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/jeremyandbailey/. Our website is at www.jeremyandbailey.com. On social media @jeremyandbailey.

Mental illness murdered you…you didn’t take your own life.

I saw you in the clouds today. In the quiet of the morning, I felt your presence. And I know it was you.

I thank God every day since you left this place for the truth in knowing that He understands mental illness. God sends us little reminders of you…so we know you are okay. No different than any other death-causing illness, sometimes mental illness wins in this life, but He already won the war. And I get to see you again one day.

I know you are you again. Whole. Pure. Cheerful and bright. Free of the pains in this world. Free of mental illness.

I imagine you…the real you. I see you waving and cheering us on. I see you stunningly dressed in your best flashing a toothy grin. You are there and you are you again…and we are left here.

I’ve learned that God won’t cause pain, but He will use it for His greater purpose. And I just have to pray and know that will be the case. Because this type of pain, a world without you here, a world where suicide feels like the only answer, is just too much to bear without knowing there is a much greater purpose, a giant hope for healing to move from surviving with mental illness to living in mental health.

I want you to know that I understand now. I get that it wasn’t you. I get that mental illness made you believe that you were a burden. I know mental illness lied to you, tricked you, and held you so strongly in its grasp.

I know mental illness murdered you…you didn’t take your own life.

I want this world to understand. I want good to come from this pain. I want the world to learn the importance of separating the person from the mental illness. Give Jesus a high five for me. Can’t wait to see you again.

Love,

Me.

*******************

~ In loving memory of all those we’ve lost to murder by mental illness, please share and help the world understand and fight this monster.

~ Written by Jeremy & Bailey Koch. Jeremy, a five-time suicide attempt survivor, has lived to explain the reality of suicidal ideations and is now over three years free of suicidal thoughts after finding faith, medications, and a mental health support system of family, friends, counselors, pastors, and more. Bailey, his wife and primary support person, stands beside him and helps him accept help and share his story. In June of 2019, at the age of 65, Jeremy’s dad was murdered by mental illness when suicide claimed his life.

~ Follow our journey on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/jeremyandbailey/. Our website is at www.jeremyandbailey.com. On social media @jeremyandbailey.

~ If you are experiencing any thoughts of ending your life, please reach out and accept help. You are loved, wanted, and so important. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/