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.
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
My husband and I have been married for 12 years today. I’m writing this on July 24, 2016. But in February of 2012, I was writing a very different part of our story. It was then that I almost lost my husband, Jeremy, in a car accident.
I watched him fight for his life, enduring surgery after surgery, and I knew the possibility existed that Jeremy had tried to take his own life. Severe depression had run our lives for three years at that point. I prayed God would just take him. I witnessed the hell on earth that mental illness can be and I didn’t want my husband to have to endure it anymore, not if there was no hope for a cure. And I didn’t think there was, at least that’s what the world tells us over and over.
Did you read that right? She PRAYED that she would lose her husband?
Yes. I did. And for a long time I wasn’t proud of it. But for a long time, Jeremy and I lived in the dark about our reality. Why would we tell the world that Jeremy had tried to take his life five times? Why would we tell the world that I was terrified to walk in our home from work for fear that I would find my husband had finally ended his hell on earth? Why would we tell the world that suicide notes were not uncommon?
The truth is that accident happened for a reason. Jeremy survived for a reason. It was both the absolute worst and best thing that has ever happened to us. We were brought to our knees and we learned true faith. God showed me what life would be like without Jeremy. He answered my prayer. I didn’t know if Jeremy would survive; nobody knew. What I did know is that I had two little boys to raise.
So while Jeremy was fighting for his life, I was plotting how to never allow Jeremy’s death to be in vain. I plotted how I would raise our boys to know their father and to be like him.
Little did I know, God was plotting how to never allow Jeremy’s LIFE to be in vain. He was plotting how He would save my husband, turn us into warriors, and raise our boys to know their FATHER and to be like HIM.
Life changed for us. We have been married for 12 years today, and we can both honestly tell you that we do not need each other. God is our number one. He is the reason we are here together. He died for us; so we will live for Him. We share our story because so many suffer in silence. God brought us to our knees so we would learn to lean on Him.
We do have a strong marriage, but it’s not the work of us. We have learned, because God had to bring us to our knees, to live for Him, listen to the Holy Spirit to guide us, and help others through our mission. So no. I don’t need my husband, and my husband doesn’t need me. I need Jesus. Jeremy’s needs Jesus. That’s why we have a strong marriage. We choose each other over and over, day in and day out, every day. Some days are easier than others, but that’s life.
So today, on our 12th anniversary, Jeremy brought me a vase of hand-picked flowers, a beautiful card, and a hug. We made breakfast together, attended church together, and worked in the back yard together. Together. That’s what makes an anniversary perfect. I choose him, but I need Him.
As always, if our story touches you or if you know of anyone suffering from mental illness or supporting a loved one suffering, please share our story. Our “Anchoring Hope” support group meets every Sunday evening from 6:30 to 7:30 at United Way in Cozad, Nebraska. Please join us. You are never alone.
The “Anchoring Hope” support group of Cozad began in January of 2016. For the very first meeting, we had four people (including Jeremy and I). Steadily over the weeks of meetings, more and more people have joined our discussions. So now, the most common questions we are asked include:
“Who attends Anchoring Hope?”
“Is Anchoring Hope the right place for me?”
“What does an Anchoring Hope support group meeting consist of?”
“Is there a charge to attend Anchoring Hope?
“How do I stay up-to-date on meetings and any changes for Anchoring Hope?”
So I’ll start to answer your questions by telling you a bit about us. Jeremy and I (Bailey) have been together for over 15 years and have been through a lot…like A LOT. In 2009, Jeremy was diagnosed with severe depression. Since then, he has survived five suicide attempts, multiple medication failures causing him to be hospitalized in Richard Young Hospital (an inpatient mental health facility in Kearney) three times, and a near-death car accident. We have learned to find humor in our reality. Why? We tried it the other way and it didn’t work. We have learned to embrace the crazy (Haha…get it? Cause society would love to believe Jeremy’s just crazy rather than having a legitimate brain disability?). And most importantly, we have learned that we are still here on this earth together for a reason – to help others who struggle to understand mental illness the way we once did. We share our reality to help you; God has made it very clear to us that we have work to do in order to help you understand you are never alone.
Anyone is welcome to join us at Anchoring Hope. We meet every Monday evening from 6:30 to 7:30 at United Way in Cozad, 105 East Highway 30 (the train station).
Now let’s officially answer your questions:
“Who attends Anchoring Hope?”
At Anchoring Hope, you can find those who struggle with mental illness themselves, others who support loved ones struggling, some who just want to understand mental illness on a deeper level, and ones whom are suffering from the loss of a loved one to suicide. We often have individuals who visit from the healthcare field in order to get a better view of how to help their patients with mental illness and we welcome them in to our discussions as well. We have some whom have struggled with alcohol, drug abuse, or self-harm because of many of life’s difficulties, from mental illness to hardships. In short, all are welcome and none are exempt.
“Is Anchoring Hope the right place for me?”
From depression, bi-polar disorder, and schizophrenia to alcoholism, grief, and the quest for understanding, you have a seat at Anchoring Hope.
“What does an Anchoring Hope support group meeting consist of?”
When you attend an Anchoring Hope meeting, you’ll be greeted by Jeremy and/or Bailey. While we try to both attend weekly, sometimes life happens, but you’ll at least get one of us. The most important thing to understand is that Anchoring Hope is literally just a place to get together and talk. We usually start by sharing a little bit about ourselves. For example, I would share that I am Jeremy’s primary support person and I also struggle with control issues and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) as well as Celiac Disease. Jeremy would share that he is diagnosed with severe depression, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), sleep apnea, and Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and has survived multiple suicide attempts, hospitalizations, and (this just in) a paranoid schizophrenia episode. But remember Jeremy and I have grown very comfortable with sharing our reality; we also remember what it was like to not be so comfortable with it. You only have to share what you are comfortable sharing. You do not have to say a word if you are first just wanting to take it all in. In time, your comfort level with adjust. You will learn to understand we have a safe and nonjudgmental environment at Anchoring Hope. You will learn to understand your feelings, experiences, diagnoses, etc. are all very real and very okay. You will learn to be open, but it takes time. We will never push you to share anything and we will never share your name or information with anyone. Trust is key at Anchoring Hope. We just talk. As conversations continue, it’s always easy to tell who needs to talk more that week. At the end of the hour, we share what we are most looking forward to that week. It’s important to end on a positive note, and I never let that one slide. There is always, Always, ALWAYS something to be thankful for…something good.
“Is there a charge to attend Anchoring Hope?”
No. Jeremy and I began this mission out of a desire to help others who may be struggling the way we once did. I wouldn’t pay to talk about stuff I used to not want to talk about. Why should you? Additionally, we are extremely blessed by United Way as they have allowed us their facility to use as a meeting place weekly free of charge. We meet because we care about you, plain and simple.
“How do I stay up-to-date on meetings and any changes for Anchoring Hope?”
Like our Facebook pages. I’m much better at putting everything on “Jeremy & Bailey Koch: Anchoring Hope for Mental Health Ministry” than anywhere else. Also like “Anchoring Hope” specifically for group information. If we have to cancel a meeting due to weather or any other reason, you’ll find that info on both of those pages. But you can pretty much count on the fact that we will meet every Monday evening from 6:30 to 7:30 in Cozad at United Way. Join us.
You can find more information about us on our website at www.jeremyandbailey.com. On that site, you can also link to purchase our book, “Never Alone: A Husband and Wife’s Journey with Depression and Faith,” in eBook on Amazon or in paperback directly from us. Follow our blog here at www.jeremyandbaileyblog.com. I write randomly and about whatever I want so I hope you enjoy it; it’s my own therapy.
We would love to welcome you to our Anchoring Hope meetings. As always, please do not hesitate to message us on Facebook or email us at email@example.com if you have any questions at all. Remember, Anchoring Hope meets every Monday from 6:30 to 7:30 at United Way in Cozad, 105 East Highway 30 (the train station).