Mental Illness is NOT an Excuse

Hi there.

I’m about to strike a nerve in the world of mental illness. And you know what? I’m already not sorry. Because here comes the firecracker in me…

So what do I know about mental illness? Quite a bit actually. We’ll start with the professional…I’m finishing up my doctorate degree in Special Education. I’ve studied the brain, learning, disabilities, and yes, mental illness as it relates to learning. And I’m not done; I love education. I believe in its importance.

Answers come with education, and I was DESPERATE to understand what my husband was going through.

So it’s time to move onto the personal experience…my husband, Jeremy, is a five-time suicide attempt survivor. He has held a bag over his head until his grandma knocked on the door and he pulled it off – just before he lost consciousness. He has locked himself in a garage with an engine running and dashed to open the door when the fumes started burning his lungs because he got a vision of our two sons waving goodbye. It terrified him. He has put a gun to his head and thankfully didn’t pull the trigger thanks to another vision. And he has been in a car accident that nearly claimed his life in which he drove into a semi-truck at highway speeds.

And he’s still here. I thank God every day he’s still here.

But we believe there’s a reason Jeremy is still alive; and part of that reason is to be advocates for mental health. A huge part. What am I saying? That’s it…all of it. It is our personal calling to spread the truth. So there are two parts to mental illness we need you to understand…

  1. MENTAL ILLNESSES ARE REAL. AND A REAL PAIN.We get it. We 100% get it. It is hard to deal with a mental illness of any kind. Some days, even getting out of bed is challenge. Some days, the colors of the world just seem dull. Some days, the light is too bright, people talk too loud or too much about things you don’t want to hear, and others just don’t get it. Some days, it’s easier to cancel that counseling appointment. Some days, it’s easier to not take the medication the doctor prescribed. Some days, it’s easier to just stay away from everyone.

    And worse…

    Some days, alcohol or cutting seem to feel better than reality. And some days, it seems like the best idea is to just end it all. You think you’re a burden, right? You think the world will be better off without you?

    Guess what? Your brain is messing with you. It’s not your fault, but it’s also not okay.

    Am I right? Did I say something above that sounded familiar. Then you have a mental illness. It is what it is. We deal with it too, that’s why we get it and why so much of what I just wrote sounds familiar. We do understand you. You’re not alone.

    So onto my most important point…

  2. MENTAL ILLNESSES WILL NOT GO AWAY WITHOUT A FIGHT.Here’s where I may strike a nerve.

    There’s a reason I wrote “some days” above. Because I know the truth of mental illness. I know where it starts and how it progresses. I know how it goes from fleeting thoughts… What if I just drive my car off the road?

    Wait…what the heck was that? I would never do that. Too many people love me.

    …back into what we call “moments of clarity.” You wonder where those thoughts came from or why you would think them. You wonder if that’s normal? Sometimes you even try to convince yourself that it is (stop it).

    IT IS THE MOMENTS OF CLARITY THAT WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE.

    It is then, after you’ve experienced suicidal thoughts or even a profound feeling of sadness, mania, etc., and you come back to being yourself, that you NEED TO ASK FOR HELP.

    And if there are “triggers” around you, you need to learn how to deal with those. You need to accept help to the point where you are okay…truly okay. You need to learn how to reach out to your support system when you do experience those triggers. And it is absolutely possible, but it takes help from many around you. You are not alone, nor are you be expected to be.

    There is nothing…NOTHING…noble about trying to fight mental illness alone. No matter who you are. No matter what your support system consists of. We all have a support system in some way. This can consist of family, friends, counselors, doctors, nurses, churches, pastors, teachers, waitresses, librarians, meter readers…see where I’m going with this.

    I couldn’t care less who you tell. You just need to learn to say it.

    “I think my brain is lying to me. And I think I need help before it gets worse.”

    Now that’s noble.

    Mental illness is not an excuse; it’s a reason to fight harder.

    Accept help. FIGHT. And it will get better.

~ Jeremy & Bailey Koch

Purchase our books and find more about us at www.jeremyandbailey.com
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You Are Not Your Diagnosis

Hi, I’m Anxiety. I mean Bailey. And this is my husband, Depression. Well fluther mucker, I did it again. His name is Jeremy. Sorry.

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It’s just so hard to remember we have an actual identity. You know, because mental illness defines us. It dictates everything in our lives. It controls our decisions and our hopes and dreams. It decides whether we get up in the morning and socialize with people or if we choose to isolate ourselves. Mental illness determines who we are on any particular day. Yep…anxiety and depression are who we are.

Hold up…everything I just said is complete bull snot. And I’m seriously hoping you were able to read the sarcasm in my words. My diagnosis does NOT define me, and it certainly doesn’t define my husband.

We won’t hide it and we won’t lie. Jeremy has survived five suicide attempts. So while mental illness has certainly been a big part of our lives, we have learned many extremely important lessons. Are you ready for the big one?

You are NOT your diagnosis.

It’s easy for mental illness to feel like a huge weight, something that seems impossible to lift or overcome. But when we learn to reach out and accept help, whether that be through counseling, faith, a support network, a psychiatrist’s help, medication, or even diet and exercise, the heavy burden becomes less. Why? Because you alone are no longer carrying that weight.

So while mental illness used to decide whether Jeremy got up in the morning, socialized with others, or isolated himself, we learned to say, “This is a real disease…not anybody’s fault. It is what it is. Time to get up, fight, and learn how to be me again.”

Don’t allow your diagnosis to become who you are…because you are so much more.

You are loved. You are strong. You are confident. You are you, and no diagnosis can ever take that away if you don’t let it. Accepting help does not make you weak, it makes you a fighter.

So be you…not your diagnosis.

By the way, you’re amazing. Go you.

~~~

~ Jeremy & Bailey Koch (Anchoring Hope for Mental Health)

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View our website at http://www.jeremyandbailey.com

Something happens to all of us at some point in life. Something terrible. Something that makes us question everything about who we are. We all have a crisis…a turning point in our lives when we must choose to stand still, walk the left path, or take the “right” road.
At some point, we find ourselves standing at that fork in the road. We feel lost and confused…hopeless even. We feel defeated. We feel like God forgot us. That darkness and fog surrounds us. Even like He’s punishing us for something.
But we don’t understand.
We stand at the fork and watch as others walk past us. Some left. Some right. But we just stand there. Lost and confused. Searching for any signs that we should either go left or right. We stand there for what feels like an eternity. Not moving. Never looking for the signs…instead just hoping they show up.
And the wolves surround us. It’s easy to find prey when we’re not moving.
Surrounded by the pressure, we lift our head and watch someone about to take that right fork in the road. But they stop. They look back at us…surrounded by wolves and unwavering in our desire to just stand still. And they extend a hand.
No longer alone, we reach out for the hand.
No longer alone, we feel the fog begin to lift and we finally see the signs to go “right”. Why? Because we learned how to accept help. And because that person extended a hand, we can finally begin to see that the light existed just beyond the darkness…if we had only chosen to keep walking. To follow another blazing the “right” path before us.
Take the hand reaching out for you. Keep walking the right path. Keep following the One guiding you to the light. The signs surround you…you just have to be willing to take that hand.
You’re not alone. Look around you. Keep walking. There’s light beyond the darkness…you just may have to walk a little further. Through the thorns. Through the fog. Past those trying to get you to take the left path. Follow those willing to lead you and walk beyond the darkness.
And one day you’ll have the chance to lead another out of the darkness you were in.
~ Jeremy & Bailey Koch
A five-time suicide attempt survivor and wife.
Please share. Someone needs this message today. Life gets better.
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** Jeremy and Bailey Koch, along with their sons, Hudson and Asher, are extremely passionate about helping the world understand the reality of mental illness. Jeremy, diagnosed with depression in 2009 and ashamed of his brain, fought his dark thoughts alone for years. Finally, he found the strength to share his truth with Bailey. Together, they began the journey to healing. After six years filled with five attempts by Jeremy to end his life and multiple inpatient mental health facility stays as well as medication failures, Jeremy and Bailey began to embrace their truth and openly share their journey. What they found was support, healing, help, and more truth than they were prepared for. They found a world desperate to understand the truth but struggling with how to separate the person from the disease.
Follow our journey on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/jeremyandbaileykoch/.
Visit our website at http://www.jeremyandbailey.com/.

 

Walk Beyond the Darkness

Just Pray.

Being someone who truly likes to open my mouth and spew my views, it’s not easy to keep it shut in moments such as this.

The mass shooting in Las Vegas last night was the reason I cried for nearly my entire 55-minute commute to work this morning. My heart is sad; and I know I’m not alone. Our world is confused, angry, and flat out hurt.

My first thought was to go on social media and write. I have views on mental health, politics, amendment rights, voting, etc…just like everyone else does. But then I started scrolling and I saw that others had written their views. And underneath those views were more comments from more people who had their own views. And social media fights ensued. So I decided to keep my mouth shut. Now’s not the time.

I’ve learned to not read the comments anymore when I write anything that may be controversial. Writing online is an outlet for many of us, and that’s okay. It’s good to share your views; I see nothing wrong with it. In fact, it’s truly one of the reasons my husband and I are okay because we’ve been able to use social media to help others understand mental illness. Yet I’ve still been told to “shut the hell up” and “get off my religious high-horse” by some who don’t agree with our message. I’m used to it and have developed a thick skin because I know that when we share, we help many. We don’t argue when someone doesn’t agree. We know where we stand and what we believe. We know why we fight and who we fight…not people. Brains. So when someone tries to start a fight with us, we say, “Just pray.” and we don’t respond.

But we weren’t always this way; we’ve learned the hard way. So today, we pray for those in our world who are only sharing views for the sole purpose of starting a fight.

Please just pray for the victims of this senseless tragedy as well as their friends and family. Please pray for everyone in attendance who witnessed this event as the trauma of a situation such as this is absolutely terrifying. Please pray for the first responders trying desperately to help. Please pray for our world to learn how to come together instead of finding more reasons to be divided. Everyone is trying so hard to understand and it’s just not possible. We can’t understand why someone would do this. We can’t understand what happened in this man’s brain to make him believe this was okay…that this was the answer to whatever pain he was in.

Please just pray. And yes, stand up for your views. But please be sure you are standing up for the right reasons…for reasons that will help our country come together and heal. For reasons that will spread kindness, support, and love.

Just pray.

~ Bailey

Follow us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/jeremyandbaileykoch/. Our newest book, “When the House Feels Sad: Helping You Understand Depression,” is a book written for all ages to help families open up a conversation about depression and is coming soon.

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

Follow our journey on Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/jeremyandbaileykoch/

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.”

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

 

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