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.

10411441_1005961119432671_4502101500149641068_n

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.

11034267_1027644360597680_1738854956316019431_n

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

IMG_2490

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.

11034267_1027644360597680_1738854956316019431_n

“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.

IMG_2158

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.

IMG_2106

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…

2016-01-27 09.28.36.jpg

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.

2015-07-04 08.25.33

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.

2016-01-26 19.47.04

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.

10982042_1005961112766005_6051593152443355594_n

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.

10411441_1005961119432671_4502101500149641068_n

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.

2015-08-03 01.46.01

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.

Screenshot 2016-01-05 18.12.37

Screenshot 2016-01-05 18.12.49

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.

Screenshot 2016-01-05 18.45.35.png

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

Depression Yesterday. Depression Today.

Yesterday, I wanted to kill myself.

You see, I was diagnosed with severe depression in 2009. I’ve tried so many different medications, my wife and I lost count. It wasn’t until 2012, after five failed suicide attempts and a near-death car accident, when I finally told my wife about the reality of my brain.

Each suicidal thought that creeps into my brain makes me want to just end it all. “Anywhere else has got to be better than living in this hell,” my brain tells me. “My family doesn’t deserve this. They will be so much happier if I am just gone.

Lies.

Each time I tried to kill myself, at the very last minute before I would take my last breath on this earth, I would get a vision. I always saw my boys; I am father to two young sons. Most of the time, they waved goodbye from a window as tears streaked their faces.

And that would do it.

I pressed the button on the garage door to let fresh air flow in and I gasped as the poison I had just put in my lungs began to leave me. I ripped the bag off my head just before I ran out of oxygen. I put the gun down and slammed my fists on the floor so hard my hands bruised.

But I won. In those moments, I won.

I finally told my wife about the true terror of my suicidal thoughts in a suicide note one night as she slept in September of 2012. That night was going to be the end of me on this earth. I planned how I would hang myself in our garage, just behind our back yard where our boys play with our dogs. I told my wife not to come find me, that I didn’t want her to see me that way.

I won again that night. As I typed the suicide note, I felt a demon inside of me release. I learned the power of honesty.

2015-09-08_17.59.11

I just passed another year with my family. Welcome to 2016. I still have depression. I take my medication every day. I surround myself with other believers, people who are willing to admit we need each other. We are God’s army; we in all our sinful human nature are here on this earth to support each other, to love each other, to help each other understand God is good all the time no matter our circumstances. I am not strong enough to battle this demon without support.

I learned God has not forgotten me. He has been preparing me for war.

My wife and I can laugh, most days, about the reality of my suicidal thoughts. We understand now that God was beside me every time I wanted to end my life, and He was desperately trying to get my attention. I imagine Him holding my head and placing images of my sons in my mind. I imagine Him telling my grandmother to go check on me just before she knocked on our door and caused me to pull the bag off my head. I imagine Him holding the hands of the pharmacists, scientists, and doctors as they created and prescribed medications to help me with my chemical imbalance.

So the truth we have learned to embrace is the humor even in mental illness. Finding good in this evil is our way of telling Satan to go to hell and stay there.

So either I completely suck at trying to kill myself, or God has a much greater purpose for my pain. It may be both. But either way, I refuse to live my life allowing Satan to win. 

So yesterday. Yesterday, I began having suicidal thoughts. I felt defeated. “Son of a bitch,” I thought. “They’re back. They were gone and now they’re back. Will this ever end? Will this ever go away completely? It had been so long since I felt this defeated. I had hope this would never happen. Now that hope is gone. I need to be gone. I need to end this. My family doesn’t deserve this.”

More lies.

So now came the hard part. For a few hours, I said nothing. I was quiet, empty. I had no hope. And then it happened, the first of God’s attempts to snap me back to His reality. My wife looked at me and said, “You’re quiet today. Are you okay?”

Before I would ignore it. I would have said I’m okay and I would have gone on to fight this beast within myself alone. I’m strong enough, right?

Wrong.

I made a choice. “I’m quiet because I haven’t been feeling well.”

“Suicidal thoughts?” She questioned.

I made another choice. “Yes.”

Did the suicidal thoughts immediately stop? No. But now I didn’t have to fight them alone. We’ve been through this before. Bailey knows what to ask. Did I have a plan for my death? No. Were the thoughts overwhelming or fleeting? Fleeting. Did I feel like there was any hope? No. Did I feel like I had been locked in a battle? Yes.

Who was going to win this battle this time? God.

When we went to bed together last night, we prayed as we always do. But our prayers this time did not center around fix me, make me better. Don’t get me wrong, we pray for that too. But I had just worked my way through a battle between good and evil in my own brain, and I did it with much greater success than I ever have. Now, our prayers center around allowing God to use us to help you. “Use this pain for Your good, Father. Help us reach others through our experiences and give them hope.”

I have information others need to know. I have a plan for defeating this demon of depression that lives inside so many. I can help those suffering from suicidal thoughts to understand there is hope, and you can win. How can I do this? Because I live this reality and I know life is worth living. I know God is here with us.

And this morning, my wife, the talented writer, woke up feeling inspired. Our prayer is being answered as you read. Will this post save lives? Will this post, this positive message of true healing, go viral over the negative posts that so often surround us on social media? Will this post be there to save lives of those who believe there is no hope? We believe in our message, our mission. We share our truth because you are loved.

Yesterday, I wanted to kill myself. Today, I live as an example that life does go on, that life is worth fighting for, and that God did not forget you. He has placed good everywhere in our lives. See Him.

I won again yesterday. I won because I have learned how to ask for help. My God, my wife, my sons, my medication, my family, my friends, my doctors, my church family, my counselor…the list goes on and on. There are so many who are willing to help. I know I am never alone.

11034267_1027644360597680_1738854956316019431_n

Our book, our very personal story, was published in May of 2015. It is there for the world. What do we have to hide? Nothing if it helps save lives. Link to purchase either the paperback or eBook at www.jeremyandbailey.com.

So today depression is there, but it did not win yesterday. Will my suicidal thoughts come back? They very well may. But they will not win. I know how to fight my illness. I know how to ask for help. I know how to live even when my brain tells me there is no hope. There is always hope.

Today, I don’t want to kill myself. Today, I celebrate another triumph. Today, I ask you to take a stand for the reality of depression with me. Today, we win because God has a plan, a mission if you will. I know my mission, and I will take the evil Satan intended to destroy me with and I will allow God to use it 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

Today, I am alive with my family for another day. Today, depression lost.

~ Jeremy & Bailey Koch

I watched my husband cry today. I watched my husband heal today.

Today has been a hard day, like, really hard. Today, I held my friend as she sobbed on my shoulder. We stood together next to her son lying peacefully in his casket. Barton was 34 years old, and we paid our final respects at Mount Calvary Lutheran Church in Holdrege, Nebraska. Barton had a good life and he was loved by many, but the challenges he faced on this earth were too great. He had hundreds of friends and family members who supported him and tried to help him in this life, but ultimately, a disease had a strong hold on Barton.

2015-09-08 11.53.52

We have an amazing God, and He called Barton home to give him peace. I know with all my heart that Barton is walking with our Father because God decided he had struggled with his illness for long enough. Now comes the beautiful truth that Barton is whole again. He is at peace. I know Sherry’s faith, my friend and Barton’s mother. We shared many stories of faith, healing, and signs from God in the years we shared an office as special education teachers. So today I was heartbroken when I saw the gray skies. Just what she needs, cloudy skies, I thought.  So I did what I have learned to do on so many occasions.

Heavenly Father, I know You are here with us.
I know you know Sherry and the family, so I am asking you now.

Please give them light – Your light, sunlight, light in their hearts.
Help them see through the darkness they are feeling.
Help us all see You.
In Your Son’s holy and precious name. Amen.

The pastor who spoke at this funeral withheld nothing; he discussed that those of us whom are left on this earth to try to heal without someone we loved have it the worst. Could we have done more? Would Barton have accepted help if we had shown up on his doorstep just one more time? The answer lies in understanding that we will never have answers. God places good in our lives everywhere; but we have to choose to see the good. We have to choose to live every single day. And if we can’t do that on this earth, because God sent His son for us, we can be at peace knowing that our God is all-forgiving. He is only good. And those we loved so wholly get to be whole once again.

Did you know there is no time in Heaven? When I spoke to Sherry the day after Barton passed, I shared with her what a faith mentor of mine helped me understand. I struggled when friends lost their children; I imagined that all these children in Heaven only want one thing…their parents. It’s hard to imagine a world without fear, without pain, without questions; we can’t even fathom it. So I struggled with the idea that if I lose my children, they won’t miss me? How can that be? How can my children not miss me when my heart is breaking for them?

“But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord, one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” 2 Peter 3:8 (ESV)

And I understood. When those we love walk through Heaven’s gates and meet Jesus, they may very well ask, “Where is my mom?” And I imagine that Jesus may answer something like, She will be here any minute. There. Behind you.

Barton is okay. As I sat silent next to my husband, I watched the clouds outside the enormous picture windows part. I watched the blue sky emerge as hundreds shed tears of pain and cleansing, of forgiveness and faith, and of hope. I leaned in and told my husband what I had prayed. He answered, “I noticed that too.”

But my story doesn’t end here – I know God makes good come from every situation. And even as I sat mourning for my friend midst the loss of her son, I felt healing. More importantly, I witnessed healing on behalf of my husband, who came with me to this funeral in support of Sherry and I. But he was there for a much greater purpose, and now we understand.

Jeremy has fought illness very similar to Barton’s for years. Barton struggled with alcoholism because he didn’t understand his brain, but Jeremy has suffered from severe suicidal thoughts, often not understanding why he should have to take on such a monster within himself. The Why me? is very dangerous, but it is also very common. It is a stage of grief before acceptance of mental illness is possible. After years of battling by himself because of his refusal to let anyone in, Jeremy finally began accepting help. He finally understood that God had placed good everywhere in his life to help him see Him. He survived five suicide attempts, a near-death car accident likely caused by a medication failure, and an awful lot of medication adjustments because of meds that caused him to black out or have horrible suicidal thoughts.

It seemed like hell on earth, but do you know why he fought? He fought for us.

Jeremy is a daddy. He is a husband, a son, a brother, a son-in-law, brother-in-law, nephew, grandson, cousin, friend…everything. He is everything to many. And when we walked out of that funeral and shut the door to our van, Jeremy hung his head and sobbed.

“It was like sitting at my own funeral. It was like watching the pain left behind,” Jeremy said through tears. “That could have been me. That could have been you.”

His tears dropped one after another into his lap and I joined. We tried to console each other, but mostly we just cried together. Jeremy and I had not said a word to each other as we sat there looking through the glass at a wall of windows with enormous and breathtaking crosses towering outside, but we both felt it. I shed tears as I remembered those days not knowing if I was about to begin planning my husband’s funeral. Watching hearts break on this earth because of missing someone so desperately is torture. Even with the faith in knowing our loved ones are whole again, it is still hard. And that’s okay. We can all learn from loss. We can choose to let sadness envelop us, or we can choose to see the good.

Jeremy today.

Jeremy this afternoon.

We said goodbye today and we supported Barton’s family and friends. But God helped us heal ourselves at the same time. He let us see what it would be like to lose Jeremy to his illness, to be separated on this earth, to not follow what we completely understand to be our mission in this life. We are still here together for a reason.

We are ready to dedicate ourselves to helping others understand there is hope in mental illness. It’s okay to accept help; it doesn’t make us weak. Today, we can say that Jeremy’s depression is the best thing that ever happened to us; it led us to our faith in God and our purpose in life.

Jeremy designed the cover of our book himself as this was such a personal endeavor.

Jeremy designed the cover of our book himself as this was such a personal endeavor.

Our book, “Never Alone: A Husband and Wife’s Journey with Depression and Faith”, was published this year. It tells our past story of hurt, anger, and finding faith and healing, but now we think it’s time to write more because we continue to see God at work in our lives. It’s time to keep the story moving, to explain how submitting to God’s will and embracing the past, rather than being afraid of it, continues to help us heal as we share our story – complete with tears and triumphs. We found hope and we pray we can help others find it too.

As we continued to drive home talking about our faith and our trust in knowing we are on the right path, I noticed a voice mail on my phone. Last night, I wrote a simple thank you letter to the staff and administration at Richard Young Hospital in Kearney, the place I brought my husband to on September 11, 2009 the first time he tried to take his life. I brought him there to keep him safe from himself, and it was one of the hardest days of my life. But it began our journey toward the acceptance of faith and healing. The voicemail was from a woman named Marsha at CHI Health Good Samaritan Hospital in Kearney; she received our thank you and asked if we would be willing to share our story with many at the Light Up the Night walk for mental health awareness this Friday night, September 11, 2015 in Kearney. The tears continued to fall as Jeremy said the dates are not a coincidence. The walk is six years to the day from his first mental health hospitalization. And we were already signed up to attend and support others and ourselves since Jeremy’s sister demanded our presence with her; she desperately wanted to walk in support of us and in healing herself. Watching your brother live with mental illness is not easy; supporting is not easy. But Jacqui, you are an inspiration to us all and you never would take no for an answer. We love that about you. So Friday, on the six year anniversary of the first time Jeremy fought the darkness so hard, we are humbled to speak at the Light Up the Night walk for mental health awareness in Kearney.

Healing Via Walking

Healing Via Walking

We had a breakthrough today as we said goodbye to Barton and supported his family and friends. Good has already come from this and I can’t imagine the peace Barton has now, it’s impossible to comprehend. Today, I watched my husband cry. I watched my husband heal. I watched my husband get truly fired up for his purpose while he is here on this earth with us.

To the family and friends of Barton, please take pride in knowing we feel Barton with us. We didn’t know him well, but we know his mother well. We know her desire to do anything to help others, and we imagine Barton is just like her cheering us on in Heaven. While a disease on earth held Barton back from being whole, he is whole again now and he is already doing amazing things. It’s time to help others. God bless you all.

1467309_1023004814394968_6832056052554300547_n

Learn more about us, Jeremy and Bailey Koch, on our website. There, you can find our story and even purchase our book, “Never Alone: A Husband and Wife’s Journey with Depression and Faith”, on Amazon or from us directly in paperback.

Healing Via Walking

I’ll admit it, I never really understood the point behind a bunch of people walking for a cause, no matter the purpose. For all I knew, it was about raising money, and that I understood. I believed that people wouldn’t donate unless they had something to do or to gain. I figured a walking event was the easiest thing these organizations could think of to do in order to raise needed money for therapies, finding cures, etc.; that made sense to me. So I donated, but I never walked; and I’m ashamed to admit that. Because now, I get it.

It may be about raising money, but it is also about raising hope. It is about being surrounded by others whom have fought a similar battle and won, or at least understood the pain. It is about knowing we are never alone.

We will walk this Friday, September 11, 2015...exactly six years after the first time Jeremy tried to take his life. We are healing via walking.

We will walk this Friday, September 11, 2015…exactly six years after the first time Jeremy tried to take his life. We are healing via walking.

On September 11, 2009, I arrived home from a normal day at work; except it was anything but normal. I fought myself all day that day; I didn’t believe I should have left my husband, Jeremy, at home alone. Jeremy had been diagnosed with severe depression that past May, and he seemed to be steadily losing his passion for life. There was less light in his eyes by the day, but it was easier for me to ignore my fears and believe him when he told me he was “fine.” He wasn’t fine. But what would the world think if they knew the truth? So we both ignored it, and it tore us up. But that day, we couldn’t ignore it anymore. Jeremy had been locked in an intense battle between himself and his brain all day long. His dark thoughts almost won.

2015-09-07_14.35.52

Years later, and after five suicide attempts, a near-death car accident likely caused by a medication failure, countless medications we flushed or adjusted, and a trip to California to allow Jeremy access to cutting-edge technology in order to actually see what his brain was doing to him, we are survivors. We are supporters. My husband fights depression every day, but the healing and understanding we have all found, including family, friends, and supporters, has been incredible. Jeremy’s symptoms are under control for the most part, and he readily accepts help. He understands his illness. But most importantly, Jeremy understands the fact that his illness is the best thing that ever happened to us. Depression led us to God; it led us to our purpose. Our purpose is to support and help others find the hope that we found.

I would like to share with you an excerpt from our book. We knew what we had to do, so we shared our entire truth. “Never Alone: A Husband and Wife’s Journey with Depression and Faith” was published by Jacol Publishing in April of 2015.

Jeremy designed the cover of our book himself as this was such a personal endeavor.

Jeremy and I (click that link to go straight to our website and learn more) made a commitment to withhold nothing and share our reality. These words are straight from Jeremy and detail his battle with his brain on September 11, 2009. But I must warn you, this is very graphic. It is the reality of a person who suffers from suicidal thoughts. But we know that we have to share, and I want you to understand why we will walk this Friday…

It seemed to be just another day, another struggle with my depression, when our employee showed up for work. I was beyond tired of the constant battle between myself and my brain. I could feel the walls closing in; I felt so alone, but I didn’t say a word. I went through my usual routine, giving her some tasks to complete for the day, and I went inside to continue along my path of shame and self-destruction. Nobody had any idea of what truly went on inside my head or of how low I had allowed myself to fall. Bailey had left for work because I had assured her that, yes, I was “fine.”

            I went into our bedroom and closed the blinds. I fell into bed and tried to sleep the pain away, but the suicidal thoughts quickly flooded in and intensified minute by minute. The thoughts broke in like water rushing through a shattered levee, “Drive into an oncoming semi truck…lay under a train…jump off the roof head-first. Just do something, fast! End this all!”

I remember thinking to myself, “You won’t go grab the shot gun in your gun closet.” It was as if a challenge happened within me. Making fun and putting myself down was, and still is, easy to do. I beat up on myself constantly; I’m my own bully. And this day would turn out to be a pretty tough fight.

I rose from bed and slowly walked over to the gun cabinet, feeling an extreme desire to stop the thoughts, no matter what it took. I understand now that a suicide attempt is not somebody’s desire to end his or her life, but rather an intense longing to live fully and completely. My grandfather’s hand-made, wooden gun cabinet was the “safe place” for me to store the three guns I have in my collection. I grabbed my black, twelve gauge, Benelli shotgun; the metal felt colder and heavier than it ever had before. I sat on the edge of the bed and remember feeling amazed I had the guts to make it this far.

Sitting on the edge of the bed, I felt the extreme power of the shotgun pulsing through my hands and into my body. I placed the unloaded barrel of the gun under my chin and began shaking. I jumped up and ran to put the gun back in the cabinet. I gasped and sucked in a huge breath of oxygen, relieved for what would only be seconds. I walked out into living room and quickly closed all of the blinds; I couldn’t let anyone know what was going on in our house. I fell to my knees on the floor in the middle of the living room and pounded my fists on the carpet with the intensity of an ape. I felt unfathomable rage as I took all my frustration and fear out on the carpet. Yet, at the same time, the thoughts terrified me that I just couldn’t stop. “It’s all my fault. Snap out of it!”

The voice inside my head spoke up as I lay on the floor with tears streaming down my face. “You won’t grab a shell and load it in the gun.” I needed to stop the thoughts racing in my brain. With determination I walked back into the dark bedroom, grabbed the twelve-gauge again, and popped a shell into the empty chamber. I sat on the corner of the bed and thought about where I wanted to be found. Not wanting to end my life in the bedroom I shared with my love, I walked into the office and sat in my chair at my desk. Thoughts of Bailey and the boys entered my mind long enough for me to decide they would be better off without me. I leaned the loaded gun against my desk and distracted myself with email. This might sound like a random thought; but I know now God walked with me through this terrifying ordeal. He fought to help me see my purpose. I clicked on “compose” and started an email to Bailey. I began the email with “Come home if you can” when my eyes welled up with tears and I could no longer see the computer screen.

As I sat there, the terrifying thoughts grew louder again. “You won’t hold that gun to your head and take the safety off!” I grabbed the loaded gun, more than ready to silence the thoughts, placed it under my chin and un-latched the safety. Placing my index finger on the trigger, I closed my eyes. This was it. I still struggle with this painful memory to this day and know I will forever. As tears ran down my face, I had a vision. I saw Hudson, our oldest son, standing in the white-framed window of his daycare that morning. He waved goodbye.

I dropped the gun and fell to my knees. God had to work hard to win the battle for me that day; I wasn’t strong enough without Him. But He won. He showed me my purpose with a vision that will forever be etched in my memory.

The rest of the day is a blur. I ended up putting the safety back on, unloading the gun and placing it back in the gun case. I fought through the constant onslaught of suicidal thoughts until Bailey arrived home from school. I remember sitting on the edge of the chair with my tearful head in my hands while telling Bailey the PG version of what had happened that day. She immediately recognized I needed help and drove me through the rain to the mental health hospital in Kearney; a quiet trip that went by quickly. The long day of fighting had exhausted me and I knew I needed help.

Upon arriving at the hospital, a nurse, Bailey, and I sat in a small white room with pamphlets titled things like, “So You’ve Thought of Suicide” and “When the Voices Won’t Stop.” The nurse asked me to discuss my issues. I asked Bailey to leave the room because I wanted to protect her from the wretched truth of my day. Bailey stepped out and I unloaded the real version of what had taken place. I told the nurse I would be fine and wanted to go home, but she knew that wasn’t going to happen any time soon.

Then it was official, they committed me. I was a danger to myself, and even I knew it. The staff began the intake process for new patients while Bailey sat, trying hard to be strong. But I still didn’t see her, not really anyway; this was all about me. This was happening to me. I felt all alone. Even though Bailey sat beside me and refused to leave my side until they made her. In removing my belt and shoelaces, I thought to myself, “What in the hell are you doing here? You don’t belong at a place like this!” I walked around in my socks and judged others in the hospital. I believed I was unique and didn’t need to be here; I was better than this.

Two of my first visitors were my dad and father-in-law. The two men rode together from home in complete support of one another and of what they wanted to do to support us. As they walked in, I leaned against the wall with my arms crossed. I looked at them and said, “I don’t belong here. The people here are crazy!” I terrified both of them with that statement. They knew I needed to be there for some serious help. My eyes had lost the light. But for now, because I got in the car when Bailey said it was time to get help, I was safe.

Jeremy is safe still. And while what you just read was not easy to live, we understand now there are many more who live it. Jeremy survived many more days similar to this before we found our hope; God never gave up on us. There are countless people who live in silence, in fear of being open about their own realities. So we will walk to show there is hope. We will walk to support Jeremy and all those living with mental illness or trying desperately to support someone or cope with the loss of someone. There is a lot of healing that comes in understanding the reality of the illness and especially in understanding that none of us are ever alone.

Our family. Jeremy, Bailey, Hudson (almost 9), and Asher (age 6), we support mental health awareness because we live the reality.

We support mental health awareness because we live the reality. Hudson (right, age almost 9) and Asher (left, age 6) know the reality of almost losing their daddy many times. The truth continues in our home; our boys will walk with us.

Please join us. Please walk with us in support of mental health awareness and suicide prevention. The very place, the safe place, I brought my husband to on that night six years ago is sponsoring this walk for hope. It is impossible to express my thanks to them. Richard Young Hospital was part of the good that God had placed in our lives to help Jeremy find hope in his illness. So on September 11, 2009, we felt defeated. But our journey toward hope and healing began. And this Friday, on September 11, 2015, exactly six years from the first time Jeremy tried to take his life, we will walk as living examples that life goes on and healing happens. We overcame battles we never asked to fight. We found hope. We found faith. We found out who we really are and why we are here on this earth. Please walk with us in Kearney on Friday, September 11, 2015.

Healing Via Walking

Light Up the Night for Mental Health Awareness and Break the Stigma! Registration begins at 7:00 pm on Friday, September 11 and the walk begins at 8 at Yanney Park.

Learn more about us, Jeremy and Bailey Koch, on our website. There, you will find links to purchase a signed paperback copy of Never Alone directly from us. You can also purchase the Kindle version on Amazon. Thank you so much for your never-ending support. God bless.