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
Follow our journey on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jeremyandbailey/
@jeremyandbailey on Instagram & Twitter

 

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)

Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, & Twitter @jeremyandbailey

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

Walk Beyond the Darkness

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/.

 

Seven Lessons Learned from Suicide

We never get it. Not completely. Those of us left behind, we’re always going to be in the dark. Frankly stated, it sucks. We just don’t understand. We often truly believe they didn’t care about us, that they wanted to hurt us or somehow meant to do it just to us. Who would want this for us? We thought they loved us. Why would they want us to be left behind with this pain? It was just so selfish.

Or was it?

My husband’s still here. He attempted suicide five times and every time he survived somehow. We didn’t understand it for a long time. We tried to live in the dark. We believed that if nobody knew the truth, it would all just disappear. I even prayed for him to be successful in his suicide attempts. Yep, you read that right. But I saw the agony he lived in and I fell into the trap too. I believed the only way out was for him to end his life. I wanted his pain to end; it wasn’t fair that he had to live with this darkness. We didn’t understand the reality or that we could get help…that life could get better.

The stories he can share now…it still gives me chills. The darkness that sets in, it’s like a thick cloud of smoke. It overtakes you so quickly that it feels like you’re trapped and there’s no way out. Jeremy maintains he had a way out…that he had visions of our boys and it snapped him back to reality. But when he came back, none of it made any sense. He didn’t remember a lot of details, even how he got to wherever he was sometimes. That’s how dark it was there.

But Jeremy was meant to live, and we know there was a reason. We can’t help others by being quiet; we tried that. It didn’t help us either. So now we’re loud…really loud. We now run a support group for anyone suffering from mental illness or supporting a loved one. We wrote our book, and we share with anyone who will listen. We’re learning more and more every day. We want you to know the truth. The lessons learned from suicide. So whether you attempted, are trying to support someone, lost a loved one, or just want to understand, hear us out.

P. S. You’ll notice I say, “in that moment,” a lot. There’s a reason.

Lessons learned from suicide:

  1. It’s not selfish.Suicide does not come from the desire to hurt another, but rather the desire to live fully and completely. The reality of what is happening in a person’s brain who is about to take his or her life is flipped from what we (with a healthy thought process in that moment) understand. They do think of you, and likely only you. But they truly and completely believe that their presence in your life is somehow hurting you or making your life more difficult. They truly believe, in that moment, that you will be better off without them. No matter how different the reality. In that moment, you are all that matters and the darkness has set in to the point where your loved one believes they are helping you, even saving you, by ending their life on this earth. I’m sorry for your pain. Suicide is not selfish. And you are loved. They didn’t want, or mean, to hurt you.
  2. You can’t save them. And you couldn’t. It’s not your fault.Things happen in life that you can’t change. Problems, bumps, confusion, friendships, relationships, etc. All of these can “complicate” mental illness. You see, someone with depression and suicidal thoughts, we maintain, is missing a certain coping mechanism. Some of us can develop these coping skills on our own, through life experiences and such. Some need more help. But some don’t want help. Even more so, some don’t understand how to ask for help. That’s where this gets more complicated. Were you there for your loved one? Yes. You have to understand that we can only help when someone lets us. Sometimes, the darkness sets in and it’s hard to understand how to find a way out or how to let someone lead you. Ever been looking for something you desperately wanted to find? You search and search and search and finally give up. Later, you go back and find that item was in a location you had looked over and over. You had to have looked directly at it hundreds of times. It was there right in front of you the whole time. You just couldn’t see it because your brain was so focused on what wasn’t there. That’s suicide. That’s the darkness. It overtakes you in that moment.
  3. Yes, it is mental illness. No, it’s not always diagnosed, known, seen, or even recognized.Yes, someone who takes their own life suffers from a mental illness. Whether that mental illness is known, long-term, situational, or brought on very quickly will likely remain a mystery. But yes, if a person believes taking his or her own life is the best, or only, option, there is a mental illness present. Help is, or was, needed. But again, refer back to number two.
  4. It happens quickly.Sometimes the darkness sets in so fast that suicide really does appear to be the only option. Sometimes people suffering are able to find a way out, sometimes they’re not. There may have been more attempts that you are unaware of. Again, it’s not your fault. The darkness sets in very quickly. It overtakes you.
  5. Sometimes signs are there before. Sometimes not.You’ll hear often after suicide that loved ones “had no idea.” And then you’ll hear talk behind their backs saying, “How could they not know?” Someone has actually said to me, “I would know if my child were suicidal.” Would you? Think about what you just said to or about another human being. Someone is suffering the loss of someone they loved deeply, and you have the nerve to say that you would know? Why? Because you love them more, or somehow better, than the person grieving? I pray it never happens to you. I truly pray you never have to know the hole that suicide leaves behind. Sometimes there are signs before. Sometimes not. Mental illness is tricky, creepy, scary, sudden, deathly, terrifying, sneaky, overwhelming, and continuous. Remember I said that there’s a reason I say “in that moment” a lot? This is why.
  6. Talking helps both before and after. Silence solves nothing.Like I said, we lived in the darkness for a long time. We learned, not so quickly, that silence solves nothing. Six years. For six years I was married to a stranger because mental illness had taken him. He had tried to accept help and medication adjustments were hell. He reacted so badly and so quickly that we finally traced back every single suicide attempt to within two weeks of starting a new medication. He was tired. And sick of being tired. We hadn’t found the right medication, we wouldn’t accept help, and living with the reality of mental illness was eating us alive. It took major breakdowns, and God’s patience with us trying to figure out why we were living in this hell, for Jeremy and I to learn that silence solves nothing. We learned to talk…to each other first. Then we learned to be open with the doctor prescribing the medications. Then with a counselor. Then with writing. The world came later. But talking is the reason we’re okay. Jeremy continues to see his counselor and his psychiatrist regularly. I write. And I study. We all have our own forms of therapy, but talking helps with mental illness. You learn quickly that you’re not alone. And for those left behind after suicide, there is grief counseling, support groups, and many more methods for you to know your feelings are legit.
  7. There is no cure, but there is help.Some beat mental illness on this earth, or at least are able to cope with the symptoms. So far, it appears that is my husband. After five suicide attempts, multiple medication failures, a near-death car accident, and a psychotic episode, Jeremy is now one year without even a suicidal thought. There was a time he couldn’t go an hour without wondering how and when he would kill himself. We got to the point when we were fed up with living that life and drove across the country for a brain scan, something not covered by insurance for mental health purposes. Shows just how broken our mental health system is; the technology is there, but it’s not being used. It was worth the money for us. We got to see Jeremy’s brain. We got to see the reality of mental illness, the medical reality of it. It’s real, you know. And in those moments when Jeremy had dark thoughts, it was his Deep Limbic System lighting up in his brain causing it all. There is no cure, but there is help. I’ll never say Jeremy will never commit suicide. I know the truth of mental illness. Refer back to number five. But he sees his doctor every month, a mental health professional. He visits with his counselor every two weeks. He has learned and uses his coping skills. He’s open with me. He holds on to hope. He has faith and he lives it out. He uses his experiences to help others. Help. That’s the key. There is no cure, but there is help.

It’s hard, and may even seem harsh, to say “it is what it is.” But that’s what we have had to do. We live a life with mental illness. Some live a life with grief. We all live some form of life. It is what it is. So we choose to try our best to help the world understand mental illness, suicide, depression, grief, loss, and especially the fact that life gets better. It does. Suicide can’t be a senseless tragedy. So turn your mess into your message. You have to hold on to that hope, and you have to live in the truth. These are seven lessons learned from suicide. Be loud and save lives.

Please share. Someone needs to read this.

~ Jeremy and Bailey

www.jeremyandbailey.com

“Never Alone: A Husband and Wife’s Journey with Depression and Faith” on Amazon

We Don’t “Need” Each Other

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.

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Jeremy in ICU at Creighton University Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska after two life flights. He suffered a leg broken in four places and repaired with titanium rods, fractured pancreas, punctured lung, brain bleed, face laceration, and a bruised colon that required complete reconstruction. Six intense surgeries in five days. Jeremy survived for a reason. You.

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.

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Jeremy and I wrote our story because we knew God would take what was meant to destroy us and make it good. Sharing our reality and helping others living with mental illness or supporting a loved one is our mission, our passion, and our purpose. You are the reason we are still here together on this Earth.

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.

http://www.jeremyandbailey.com/

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.

And if you don’t live near us, please like our page on Facebook to follow our journey and share our mission with others. https://www.facebook.com/jeremyandbaileykoch/

What does an “Anchoring Hope” support group meeting consist of?

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 jeremyandbaileykoch@yahoo.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).

Learning to Live for Others

I’ve learned sometimes we have to suffer. Sometimes we have to truly believe there is no hope. Sometimes we have to hit rock bottom.

I do not know who said, “Out of the ashes we rise.” But now, I understand it completely. For years, I prayed God would just take Jeremy. I prayed He would allow him an escape from the misery he lived in caused by his severe depression and suicidal thoughts and attempts. After I truly began to understand the reality of Jeremy’s brain, God gave me more strength than I could have ever imagined possible. I came to the conclusion, and total understanding, that I had zero control over the possiblity that Jeremy may take his life. I received the strength to know that I would be okay; I would become a single mom and I would raise our boys by myself with the help of family and friends. I would never remarry. Why? Because there was no way, no conceivable way, any man could love me as Jeremy did. There was no way I could give myself in that way to another man. Jeremy was my soul mate. I said till death do us part and I meant it, both of us.

Yes, I had to embrace this truth and this reality. And I still do. I do not have any control over my husband’s brain. I cannot be where his hope of healing lies. Hope lies far beyond me, but it took us many years to understand.

True hope lies in Christ. True hope lies in understanding that God will take what was meant to be evil and He will use it for His good. True hope lies in learning to live for others.

I could tell you our whole story again, but I’m not going to today. Today, I’m going to tell you to read more of our story in past posts (I will place links at the bottom of this post). From suicidal thoughts to attempts. From a medication failure resulting in a blackout at the wheel of a truck going 60 mph straight into a semi on the highway to a medication failure resulting is paranoid schizophrenia. From believing all hope was lost to learning God’s plan was so much better than we ever could have dreamed. Our story is worth hearing; I promise you. It’s true. It’s real. It’s raw. It’s full of self-destruction and power struggles. But most importantly, our story is full of hope for healing and two people who God placed together with a strong love and for a beautiful purpose. Jeremy and I are learning to live for others; we are learning to take our experiences to never shut up.

So today. Today, I focus on hope. Today, I tell you to go back and read our story. Today, I tell you to truly let it sink in and relate it to your own life. In some way, we are connected. In some way, our story will help you. I know this because God put it on my heart to write this. My therapy is writing; He heals me as I type, as I release the truth about our reality. But my husband’s therapy is different, yet the same. Jeremy’s therapy comes in being open, in sharing his experiences to help others.

We discovered it in a suicide note Jeremy left me in 2012. He had every intention of ending his life for good that night. He opened my laptop and typed in our book, “Never Alone: A Husband and Wife’s Journey with Depression and Faith.” He typed this…

I can’t do it anymore. I live with this day in and day out and I don’t know what to do. This is what goes through my mind and I can’t stop it. I changed my career. I can’t stop it. I love my wife and my kids. I can’t stop it. I have an amazing life. I can’t stop it. Is my roof high enough? What if I jump off? Would it kill me fast enough? I don’t want to be paralyzed and make Bailey take care of me for the rest of her life. What if I lit the garage on fire? Would they find me? And what if Bailey really knew about the other times? The time I put the bag over my head…that felt weird. But grandma showed up just in time and I put it away. Then there was the time I locked myself in the garage with the diesel loader running…the exhaust burned my lungs. But God entered my mind and I began saying a prayer. I jumped off the loader and hit the garage door opener with such force I could feel the pain come out my fingers. I rushed into the open air and gasped, God had saved me again. But why? Why does He keep saving me? But this is it.

I love you with all my heart.

I just don’t understand this.

Have them find me in the garage, please don’t come in there.

Love, Me.

Powerful, right? It’s powerful because it’s real. These words are straight from Jeremy and straight from our book. Who can we help if we aren’t open? Both fortunately and unfortunately, I found this note before I found that God had saved Jeremy’s life yet again. After moments of terror and panic, I tripped over a pile of laundry in our home and found Jeremy sleeping on the couch. We embraced and we made a commitment that night. We were done living in this fear. Something was going to change. And you know what? It did.

We began learning to share in an effort to help others. Jeremy writing that note brought him out of his severe suicidal thoughts. It was word vomit. It came out and he was better. For the first time, Jeremy told me the truth and no longer took his whole reality on himself. He learned he was not alone and that many others suffered just like he did. It took us three years after that night to finish writing and publish our book. Setbacks happened, as they continue to today due to this little thing called life. We began writing and sharing. And you know what? We began healing.

Watch our interview with Her View From Home here and learn more about our back story.

And last night, we learned yet again why we have been through what we have. After years of figuring out our mission and purpose, we began a support group, Anchoring Hope, in Cozad, Nebraska for anyone suffering from mental illness, supporting a loved one suffering, mourning a loss from suicide, or even just needing to understand the reality of mental illness on a deeper level. The following are words from a Facebook post I wrote last night on our Jeremy & Bailey Koch: Anchoring Hope for Mental Illness page.

“I have both a praise and a prayer request to share with you. This evening, during our Anchoring Hope support group, one individual whom has attended three times felt comfortable sharing with us that she is having horrible suicidal thoughts, is not eating, and generally is feeling unsafe in her own body and going home alone tonight after group would end. We are so very proud of her for sharing, and especially for accepting help. Jeremy and two others in the group are currently on their way to take this individual to get help. And Jeremy is in the role of the support person. That’s huge. She understands she is not alone because Jeremy is with her and has been there.

Support. No blame. Accepting the good God is placing in your life. Understanding mental illness is not your fault. This woman graciously accepted help and got in the car. So. Very. Proud. So humbled. So thankful. I’m so overwhelmed with feelings of gratitude that God used this group to get one of His children help tonight. Please praise God and pray for her as she fights with the help of many helping her to stay safe. God bless you all and praise God!”

Jeremy and I, when we began sharing, made a commitment to each other to give this our whole hearts. We knew God wanted to use us because this verse kept popping up everywhere…

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.” Genesis 50:20

Jeremy knew God had chosen him to suffer in order to help others. He believed, for the first time, that there was hope for healing, that living with this beast was possible. Jeremy would begin learning how to truly live, not just stay alive. We began learning how to live for others, and it has saved our lives over and over in multiple ways. In learning how to submit to God’s will, find good in this evil, and share our whole reality, we have begun healing ourselves. The power that comes in seeing others heal and accept help because of our story and now through our support group is immeasurable. It’s humbling. It’s beautiful. It’s what life is about. It’s God’s work; we are solely a method for Him to help others see Him and we feel beyond honored and blessed.

Depression, suicide, and suffering from a complete loss of hope are the best things that have ever happened to us. They are what led us to begin learning how to live for others. They are what led us to our faith. What was once believed to be a horrible fate in life became an enormous blessing.

“To all who mourn in Israel, He will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for His own glory.” Isaiah 61:3

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Below is our brochure for our Anchoring Hope ministry, especially our support group that meets Monday evenings from 6:30 to 7:30 at United Way in Cozad, Nebraska.

Follow us on Facebook for our daily journey.

Visit our website to learn more about our story and link to purchase our book in paperback or eBook format.

What Makes a Strong Man?

I see these “relationship goals” all over the Internet. Pictures of men carrying their women or even bench-pressing them. Pictures of “the perfect date” when you come walking in to a room filled with roses and your man is some high-paid financial wonder. Well, nothing against your relationship goals, but after 15 1/2 years together with the love of my life, I can tell you my true prayer for your relationship.

I pray you find a man who loves God first and you second. I pray you find a man who loves you and his purpose so much that he will fight every single day just to be here with you on this earth. That’s it. That’s all. Relationship goals.

I sit here next to my husband in the hospital today; we’ve been here a lot. To be honest, it never gets any easier. But the reality is that we understand God is good, even when circumstances are not. We are so unbelievably blessed; we found our mission in life and we get to fight for our purpose every single day. We are Christian co-authors and motivational speakers, and our mission is to provide hope for mental health anchored in Jesus’ promise of eternal life. Why? Because we know what it feels like to not have any hope and to not understand why God allowed so much hurt.

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“Never Alone: A Husband and Wife’s Journey with Depression and Faith” was just a first step toward our mission. We began by sharing our story, our reality, struggles, fears, triumphs…truth.

Finding our mission has been far from easy. But to truly understand the truth that by sharing our reality with the world, we are helping many find hope in Christ…does it get any better than that? We don’t think so.

So here we are. Jeremy is stuck in the hospital with an NG (nasogastric) tube shoved up his nose, through his esophagus, and down into his stomach. The tube intermittently empties the contents of the stomach to allow the intestines and stomach to rest and heal. Truth be told, the tube sucks (pun intended). Jeremy’s nose and throat hurt horribly, but his stomach pain has decreased from a pain level 7 down to a 1. So the NG tube is doing its job. And this hospital stay is a direct result of a previous month hospital stay. Like I said, we’ve been here a lot.

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Jeremy’s truck after the accident in 2012.

In 2012, Jeremy was in a near-fatal car accident when his truck went head-on into a semi truck at highway speeds. Throughout the healing process, my husband underwent two flight for life helicopter rides on to larger hospitals equipped to handle his injuries, a leg severely broken in four places and repaired with metal rods, a punctured lung, brain bleed, and fractured pancreas. But the surgery causing the issues now was the complete colon reconstruction he endured. Doctors had to take his intestines apart, cut out all the bad, and piece them back together like a jigsaw puzzle. There was a lot of surgical intervention needed there. I never met anyone during that time of our lives who understood how on earth Jeremy could survive that accident…surgeons included.

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Jeremy in ICU, February 17, 2012.

We get it now.

Because you know what? This wasn’t the first of our struggles. Jeremy was diagnosed with severe depression in 2009. He has survived five suicide attempts, the near-death car accident, multiple medication failures, and a heart attack the day before he turned 33. Most importantly, Jeremy has survived to understand there is hope even when it feels all is lost, even when you are fighting your hardest against your own body just to stay alive, even when life just seems to keep beating you down to the ground.

You get the freak back up. You fight back. Because this life is worth living. Helping others who suffer to understand there is hope is an enormous push for us to keep sharing, keep healing, keep fighting. Every day.

So this is my husband right now…

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The scar tissue from his previous surgeries has built up and caused a bowel obstruction. He is in a tremendous amount of pain. His NG tube is doing its job (allowing the stomach and intestines to rest), but having a tube shoved up your nose, down your esophagus, and into your stomach is anything but pleasant. It’s especially lovely because the tube is clear and Jeremy can see the junk going out from the suction. Yummy. Perhaps you can’t see our invention in the picture? Jeremy’s tube right by his nose where his eyes can see the crud moving is now covered with a handy-dandy gum wrapper and tape. Problem solved. But no, he’s not enjoying it. No, he’s not super pumped to be going through yet another trial. Yes, he knows it’s temporary. But sometimes life just plain sucks.

The reality is we are likely not done with this fight. We are likely not done with hospital stays and surgeries to remove scar tissue and build-up. Jeremy heals; and he does it really well. He is currently over-healing. The scar tissue in his intestines has created a belt and is not allowing anything through. Over time, it will get to the point where he will need surgery again to remove that portion of his bowel. It may be now…we don’t know yet. Surgeons referred to him as the “patchwork colon man” because of how much surgery was needed to repair the damage from the accident. It’s a part of our life, and it’s not easy. Depression is a part of our life, and it’s not easy. Suicidal thoughts and attempts are a part of our life, and it’s not easy. Knee and ankle surgeries (those are me) are a part of our life, and it’s not easy. Possible complications from previous surgeries (like now) are a part of our life, and it’s not easy. Heart attacks are a part of our life, and it’s not easy.

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Yep. On July 4, 2015, Jeremy had a heart attack at age 32 and 364 days. That challenge revealed a heart spasm now controlled with daily heart medication.

Life is not easy…for anyone. We all have different challenges, different battles we are fighting. The key is to understand it is a heck of a lot easier to get through them when you accept help, accept support and prayers from those who love you, and accept the reality that God is good all the time. He will take what was meant to harm and He will make it work for His good.

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.” Genesis 50:20

This, too, shall pass. Jeremy will heal. We are so blessed to understand this is just another bump in the road. We can help so many, ourselves included. God has entrusted us with an incredible gift, with an incredible mission. We know Jesus. We have a relationship with God. We will spend eternity with our King, and we want to help as many as possible understand what we know to be true.

God is real. There is hope. You have a purpose. Life is not easy, but it is worth the fight. Healing happens. While we are here, though, we have to fight. We have to choose to see Him when surrounded by darkness. We have to fight to see the light.

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This is a strong man, ladies. This is a man who loves God so much that he fights every day to continue his mission on this earth before eternity begins. This is a man who works his butt off to provide for his family. This is a man who is allowed to struggle, allowed to need help, allowed to be angry that life isn’t easy all the time. Why? Because this is also a man who is man enough to understand he needs help. He needs God. He needs support and prayers. He needs hope…and hope he has found in Christ. THIS is strong. My relationship goals consist of this and only this. I would not change a thing.

Our struggles are what brought us to the true understanding that we are never alone. Pain and frustration are eased with trials when we learn to give everything to God, ask for prayers, and accept help.

I’ll leave you with this…

I want you to imagine a rope. You are holding one end of this rope with your fist. You are hanging on for dear life and you cannot see the end of this rope. There is no end. It goes on forever. You look toward where you believe the end of the rope should be and all you can see is that the rope continues far off into an orange and yellow sunset. It continues far beyond our human potential allows us to see…eternity. Now slowly loosen your grip and look at this tiny part of the rope you hold in your hand. This part of the rope is your time on earth. It is such a tiny, insignificant piece of the rope, yet it consumes us. Loosen your grip and allow Him to control this part of your life, too.

Choose to consume yourself with the rest of the rope. Choose to understand this is our time to fight, but the fight is more than worth the reward…eternity.

Purchase our book either in eBook format on Amazon or directly from us in paperback at www.jeremyandbailey.com. Follow our daily journey by liking Jeremy & Bailey Koch on Facebook. As always, thank you so much for your never-ending support. God bless.

The Myth that is Valentine’s Day

“Beep. Swoosh. Beep. Swoosh. Beep. Swoosh.”

I sat next to my husband as I stared out the window of the ICU on the third floor at Creighton University Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska. I listened as the machines breathed for him and closely monitored his heart. He had made it through one surgery, but many more were to come. His abdomen lay open with only a clear plastic covering over it; I was told this was necessary to continue draining his body of the toxins leaking from his fractured pancreas and to allow surgeons “easy access” should my husband code.

Jeremy in ICU, February 17, 2012.

Jeremy in ICU, February 17, 2012.

I asked the same question over and over. “Is he going to live through this?” Nobody would give any answer other than, “We are going to do everything we can.” They gently handed the papers to me to sign; I knew Jeremy would want to donate his organs if anything could be saved. I signed them wondering if Hudson, age 5, and Asher, age 2, would remember their daddy. That’s the hardest memory, the one that makes me look like this today, January 16, 2016, as I write this post for you. I believe in honesty, I believe in being open with our story for the world to hear, but it’s never easy to relive all the details.

2016-01-16 09.24.19It was February 16, 2012, when I got the call that Jeremy had been in a car accident. We had no idea how bad it was at that time. Jeremy was life-flighted from Cozad, Nebraska to Kearney, Nebraska and then on again to Omaha when doctors discovered the severity of his internal injuries.

Truth be told, I immediately began questioning if Jeremy had done it, if he had succeeded in a suicide attempt.

After being diagnosed with depression in 2009, Jeremy’s mental health continued to deteriorate. To this day, Jeremy has survived five suicide attempts and the near-death car accident in 2012 directly after he began a new depression medication that caused him to black out at the wheel. He went straight into a semi-truck at 60 miles per hour. Yes, I said near-death. Jeremy survived. I’ll never forget his surgeon coming to me after the last surgery; he looked me in the eyes and said, “Aren’t you going to ask me the question?”

I couldn’t breathe anymore. Through gasps and uncontrollable tears, I managed to say, “Is he going to live?” one last time. Dr. Forse smiled and winked. “Yes.”

Jeremy's truck after the accident in 2012.

Jeremy’s truck after the accident in 2012.

Our family on Christmas Eve, 2015.

Our family on Christmas Eve, 2015.

At this point, you are likely wondering what this post has to do with the myth that is Valentine’s Day. You may or may not have noticed the date of Jeremy’s accident, February 16, 2012 – two days after Valentine’s Day.

As I sat in the ICU listening to the machines keep my husband alive, I stared at the last picture of Jeremy and I on my phone.

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It was Valentine’s Day, and it was a reason to tell each other we still love each other, to have a glass of wine together, and to actually get a babysitter and go out for an hour-long meal…just us, just to talk, just to have an excuse to be husband and wife without other distractions. Why? Because it was Valentine’s Day. Isn’t that what we are supposed to do one time a year?

I can’t tell you how disgusted I was staring at this picture as I sat next to my husband while he fought for his life. I remembered taking it over and over because I wanted my nails to look nice. I remembered Jeremy politely going along with my orders as I struggled to get it just right. I wanted the perfect picture to put on social media. My focus wasn’t on enjoying time with my husband, it wasn’t on truly showing him how much he means to me, it was on the world and how they believed our relationship should be.

I listened to the beeps and swooshes as they mocked me. I had become that wife. I had allowed life’s distractions to come before my marriage. I had used Valentine’s Day, one day a year, to make a big deal about my marriage. And even then, I failed miserably. I still didn’t focus on Jeremy, I focused on the fact that it was Valentine’s Day and society told me I was supposed to act a certain way, do a certain thing, and say certain words.

And two days later, two days after I behaved as Valentine’s Day told me I should, I was about to be a widow. This man. This man who had changed everything about me, loved every part of me, even and especially the parts of me I hated, was fighting for his life. Not only that, he fought every single day before this. I just refused to see it. I refused to see the callus, landscaper hands that worked so hard to plant trees and provide for our family. I refused to see the gentle man he became when he sat next to our boys and said bedtime prayers or held a beautiful baby boy in his arms, one he created with me. I refused to put him first, before our children, before our other family members, before our friends. I refused to show him every single day how much he means to me, that my world would stop turning without him. I refused. I had a choice, and I didn’t do it.

But what hurt the most is the fact that I refused to see how hard he fought his depression. Every day, no matter what, he tried with everything he had to get up when his brain told him to stay in bed. He fought his dark thoughts as best he could and chose to believe there had to be some reason, something good about living with depression and suicidal thoughts. There had to be a reason God continued to keep him here on this earth. Every day he fought his brain to still be here and be the man he knew we needed him to be. I realized I’ve never met anyone stronger, anyone with more love or passion in his heart. And I made a big deal over him on one day of the year.

My thoughts overtook me as my sight shifted from staring out the window to the beeping machines and back to my husband.

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Why didn’t I do this every day? Why didn’t I get a babysitter once a week and take time to just be together? Why didn’t I hold him and tell him how proud of him I am, how much I love him for how hard he fights? Why didn’t I hold him and tell him we would get through this hell that is depression together? Why did I let him believe he had to fight this demon alone? He’s human just like me, he needs to know how much I care and that he’s not alone just as much as I do.

I believe Valentine’s Day is a myth. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad thing to have a day when you celebrate how much you love someone, but to only do it because society tells you to, that’s where the myth comes in. I learned a lesson I was not ready for, I did not want, but I desperately needed. I learned to love my husband. It took me nearly losing him many times to understand, and I pray you will learn from my mistakes. Love each other every day. Take time together. Put your marriage before your children; trust me, it’s the best gift you can give to your children. They will grow to understand love and to know how to love their spouse. Pray together. It is true that we never know when the last “See you later.” on this Earth will be.

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After Jeremy survived five suicide attempts and the accident, we learned we had work to do. We learned the world needed to hear our story. Many need to understand there is hope even in mental illness. Our mission is to provide hope for mental health anchored in Jesus’ promise of eternal life. We will spend our lives thanking God for allowing us the chance to continue being a family. Jeremy continues to fight his depression daily, but we have learned how to take what Satan meant for evil and use it for God’s good. Read our story in “Never Alone: A Husband and Wife’s Journey with Depression and Faith” by Jeremy and Bailey Koch. Follow us by liking Jeremy and Bailey Koch on Facebook. We share our life because we live a reality so similar to so many. We have found hope and healing, and we pray the same for you. We have learned to live, not just stay alive.

~ Jeremy and Bailey Koch
January 16, 2016

Cozad, NE Mental Health Support Group “Anchoring Hope” Officially Began

We believe there is a time for everything, and everything has to come in His time, not ours. For years, we have wanted to begin a support group in Central Nebraska for those suffering from mental illness or supporting a loved one. We drove to Kearney on Monday nights for a long time, as Kearney had the closest support group. But we stopped going when the drive and time away from our boys started making advocating for our mental health that much harder.

But we missed it terribly. Being surrounded by others who truly understand your reality is liberating, healing, and needed.

The support group was one of the first times we truly opened up. We said it out loud…

“Hi, my name is Jeremy and I have severe depression. I have been hospitalized inpatient twice and I have attempted suicide five times. I was nearly killed in a car accident we believe was caused by a depression medication failure.”

“Hi, my name is Bailey and I’m Jeremy’s wife. Being the primary support person is hard. It’s hard not to take the symptoms personal. I also have ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperativity Disorder).”

It still feels good to say it out loud, to truly own it. We laugh about our reality often. We joke that either Jeremy really sucks at trying to kill himself, or we are still here together on this Earth for a reason. It may be both.

“But finding good in this evil is our way of telling Satan to go to hell and stay there.” – from our “Depression Yesterday. Depression Today.” blog post.

So nearly seven years after the initial depression diagnosis, it’s time to advocate for mental health. It’s time to help others understand you are not alone. It’s time for us to take what we have learned and show those suffering or supporting that there is hope, that life is worth living, and that God is good, even when circumstances aren’t.

The first “Anchoring Hope” support group is officially created. And its home is right here in Central Nebraska, Cozad to be exact.

The brochure pictures below have a lot of information on them about who we are, why we want to help, and what we believe about mental health.

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We hope this is the first support group of many. We hope to expand support groups one day. But a journey of a thousand miles begins with a first step. Thank you for being a part of our first step.

If you would like to join us, please do. If you are struggling with mental illness or trying to support a loved one, please come. Please know you are not alone. Please know we are all in this together and God wants us to fight. We are stronger together.

The “Anchoring Hope” for mental health support group of Cozad will meet every Monday evening from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at United Way (105 East Hwy 30) just south of the 100th Meridian sign.

Be sure to like “Anchoring Hope” on Facebook to stay up to date on support group information (weather and holiday cancellations included) as well as “Jeremy & Bailey Koch: Anchoring Hope for Mental Health Ministry” to follow our personal story and journey.

We are blessed and beyond thrilled to be finally be taking another step toward doing what we know God has planned for our lives. Mental health advocacy is our passion and our purpose. You are the reason we are here and we pray we can help each other.

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We would especially like to thank United Way for providing us a place to meet free of charge; you are such a blessing to us and many. Additionally, we plan to have a middle or high school student there during meetings to provide care for children in a separate room…just another way we would like you to know your priorities are important, but advocating for your mental health keeps you around for your family. If you do bring your children, we suggest a $2.50 donation per child to the person watching kids for the hour, but of course there is absolutely no cost for attending the support group and if you cannot afford a child care donation, your mental health comes first. We understand.

Please share with anyone who you may feel would benefit from attending the “Anchoring Hope” for mental health support group in Cozad, Nebraska on Monday nights from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at United Way (105 East Hwy 30) just south of the 100th Meridian sign. The first meeting will take place Monday, January 11, 2016 and will continue weekly pending no weather or holidays (watch Facebook for any cancellations).

Thank you for support and God bless. We are so excited to be taking this step in our mental health ministry.

Our links:

Anchoring Hope on Facebook

Jeremy & Bailey Koch: Anchoring Hope for Mental Health Ministry on Facebook

www.jeremyandbailey.com

www.jeremyandbaileyblog.com

“Never Alone” in eBook format on Amazon