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.
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)