I held a funeral for my husband. Now, he brings me flowers.

I held a funeral for my husband, but I was the only one there.

It was 2012, and I watched as he walked past me in the kitchen. A shell of his former self. No light in his eyes. Emotionally gone. I accepted that mental illness had won. I knew he would never come back. So I held a funeral in my mind.

You see, just like so many others do, I believed in the lies. The lies that told me there was no hope. The lies that told me not to accept help, to hide, and to deal with all that mental illness gave to us on our own. Behind closed doors. Shhh. Keep it secret.

But it didn’t work. And I had to hold a funeral for my husband. My husband who was physically still there. Heart beating. Healthy body. I learned how to live without him…that I didn’t need him. Oh how I still wanted him. But he was not the man I had married. Mental illness had taken him from me.

Till death do us part, right?

I had prayed to God over and over. I had prayed that He would heal Jeremy. All the while, I continued to live in complete silence about our reality. And God wasn’t answering my prayers.  Where was He? Why had He given this to my husband?

That day, I gave up on the life I had wanted. I watched that shell of a man he once was walk past me and I changed my prayer. I changed my attitude. I would be okay. I didn’t need my husband. I could still do everything I always wanted to do, be everything I wanted to be. But I would do it on my own.

I prayed that God would take him…that my husband would just finally be successful in his suicide attempts. I screamed and cried and grieved and slammed my fists on our shared bathroom counter. But he had been gone long before I held this funeral.

I sound horrible; I get that. And I don’t judge you for judging me. It’s devastating today to hear myself talk about the reality of my prayers at that time in my life. But it’s the truth. And I lived in the dark and in silence for too long. No more. So this is me. Take it or leave it.

I took my vows seriously. I knew Jeremy was physicaly still there. The thought of physically leaving him never entered my mind. In my mind, I was a widow. I still loved who he once was. But I truly believed he was gone and would never come back. I had to have a funeral to move on…to be there for our kids. They didn’t have their dad anymore – not their real dad. They had mental illness.

But from time to time, I would see light in my husband’s eyes. I held on to that hope as tightly as I could. And that hope is why I never wanted to leave. But I had to hold the funeral. I had to free myself of the life I was living. So I pictured the life that I would lead from that point forward. I would be a single mother. I would raise our boys…never EVER letting them believe the lies in our society. I would never let them believe their dad chose this life. I would never let them believe their dad was the one who had done this.

They needed to understand how to separate the mental illness from the person. This was Depression…not dad.

I understood. I was angry. Oh so angry. But I had to keep going. So I held a funeral for my husband. Now, he brings me flowers.

God changed my prayer after I gave up the control. I tell our boys He “One-upped” us. Boy, did He. Jeremy is now 2 1/2 years years free of suicidal thoughts. My husband learned to accept help. He learned how to fight. He tells his story to anyone who will listen. He talks to his counselor, psychiatrist, and pastor. He turns to his support system when he realizes the dark thoughts are on the verge of breaking through. He takes his medications and thanks God even for the hard times. Jeremy says, “If I can help just one person understand they’re not alone…that it can get better, then it’s worth it.” It’s not the power of the curse…it’s the power you give the curse.

He’s the strongest person I know. And now, he brings me flowers.

Follow our journey on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jeremyandbailey/
@jeremyandbailey on Instagram & Twitter
Purchase our books and find more about us at www.jeremyandbailey.com

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/.

 

Just Pray.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just pray.

~ Bailey

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

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/

Secret to a Healthy Marriage? Playing and More.

Well, I guess I can just stop typing. I already gave away the secret. But I guess I could tell you why I believe this is true. Remember, I’m a blogger; I’m not a journalist bound to report facts. I report opinion. And my opinion is this…

The secret to a healthy marriage is the ability to play with each other (take that however you want), to laugh with each other, to stay immature sometimes, and to find the humor in the horrible.

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This is my hubby and me this evening, and this is the post I put on our Facebook page. This is us, folks. Take it or leave it. And this is why we are okay even though a big part of our lives involves walking through Hell on Earth. Today, we bit the bullet and bought a dual reclining loveseat from our local Furniture Mart here in our favorite hometown of Cozad, Nebraska. Why? Because we didn’t like being far apart from each other (you know…like 10 feet) in our separate recliners every evening.

The bottom line is we don’t like to be apart. We like to mess with each other and share funny stories. We like to find jokes on the Internet and immediately share to invoke gut-hurting laughter. It’s a goal. And it’s a good one…one we fully believe keeps our relationship healthy. We are business owners and often (like always) work late into the evening on ordering, inventory updates, advertising, etc. It’s a heck of a lot easier to work well together if we are right next to each other. So this will be fun, right? Right.

So while I’m not telling you the secret is to buy a dual recliner, I am telling you it really has brought a lot to my attention about what makes our marriage healthy (in our view). So I’m gonna make you a list. Why? Because I’ve learned in my blogging world that humans like lists. Lists get attention and I may be able to help some realize you just may be taking your relationship and life in general way too seriously. So fine, I’ll make you a list.

Now remember, Jeremy’s and my relationship has been anything but easy. We’ve certainly had our ups and downs, but we have found the humor in the horrible. Jeremy was diagnosed with severe depression in 2009 and has survived multiple suicide attempts, medication failures, inpatient mental health hospital stays, and a near-death car accident. We’ve been through a lot together and we’ve learned not to take each other for granted, so that is the main reason we still like each other; we know what life looks like without each other. I was a single parent for many years; Jeremy was here, but he also wasn’t. Physically he was here, but mentally he was gone. Her View From Home made a wonderful video of us telling our story, just so you know where we are coming from.

Our website is www.jeremyandbailey.com and you can go there to learn more about our whole story and even purchase our book in eBook on Amazon or in paperback directly from us. “Never Alone: A Husband and Wife’s Journey with Depression and Faith” was officially published in 2015 and is our whole reality. We share because we have a lot to thank God for, especially for keeping Jeremy here on this Earth with us after so many times of depression telling him otherwise. We are survivors. Together we refuse to let depression win.

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“#projectsemicolon is a global, nonprofit movement dedicated to presenting hope and love for those who are struggling with mental illness, suicide, addiction, and self-injury.” – http://www.projectsemicolon.org. A semicolon represents a place in a sentence when a writer could have chosen to end the sentence, but chose instead to continue it. God placed Himself so strongly in front of Jeremy during suicide attempts that Jeremy ultimately decided to live. In thanks to Him, these are our matching tattoos designed by Jeremy.

So now you know what we have fought, and continue to fight, as mental illness doesn’t just disappear. We either learn to laugh and deal with life, or we cry, curl up in a ball, and live in a world of lies. We’ve done the second, and it doesn’t work. Somewhere during the trip down that road, somebody cracks. If you don’t grow together, you don’t grow at all. So in marriage you learn to embrace the good, deal with the bad, and find hope in everything…all together as one. United. Marriage take three.

So here is our list for a healthy marriage for you. This is what we have figured out. This is why we are okay, more than okay. This is why we are happy. This is why we are still together even though mental illness wants only to make us miserable.

  1. Fight for each other.

    We all have challenges that come in so many forms. Mental illness is ours. Yours may be financial, parenting, blended family troubles, etc. It. Doesn’t. Matter. Deal with it…together. Counseling is good. Counseling has saved us over and over.But you have to learn you are both dealing with issues because of challenges. You both deserve to be heard, to be respected, and to heal. Just do it together and don’t allow your challenges to tear to you apart. Be honest. Be open.

  2. Talk.

    Tell the truth…the whole truth. Jeremy lived because he wrote me a suicide note. It was going to be the end of him, but something happened he didn’t expect. He healed while he shared. For the first time, he was completely honest with me. I could have freaked out learning the truth of Jeremy’s suicidal thoughts, but I didn’t. Why? That was God and only God. He gave me strength to know Jeremy needed my full support. Talk everything over together. You are put on this Earth together for a reason. Who do you trust more in the world? I hope it’s him (or her). Your “person” is your spouse. Your God is your God.

  3. Put God first and spouse second…children third.

    Yep. By far the hardest one, but also the most important. Think of the best gift you could possibly give your children. Got it? I pray it’s the chance to truly understand faith and love by seeing the example every day. Enough said.

  4. Play.

    You knew I was going to get to it. Because, yes, I believe this is key to keeping our marriage healthy and vibrant. We have not stopped dating each other. We crack jokes. We find time to play, even if it is a trip to Menards. Do you know how much fun you can have with items in Menards? Sure, some may look at you like you are crazy. But I’d much rather be looked at as crazy than completely unaware of my husband’s needs and desires. We love to play. We love to share jokes and laugh.

    Just yesterday, I brought home a sign for Jeremy for our sign wall that says, “Embrace the crazy.” We laughed so hard because Jeremy literally got out of our favorite mental health hospital, Richard Young in Kearney, Nebraska, a couple weeks ago. We know how the world wants to see us sometimes. A medication failure caused Jeremy to believe he was God, I was God, water was the reason we were together as a couple (you know, because I like to do dishes and he likes to do laundry and they have water in common) and unicorns and rainbows were everywhere. Jeremy lost his collective mind for a while until our favorite professionals straightened out his medications again. We can either laugh about it or be bitter. We choose laughter.
    Then I came home yesterday and Jeremy had bought me this sign.

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    Lol. That’s funny right there. It’s a sign that’s funny, and it also shows his respect for me as an equal partner in this house.

    And tonight, our son (a third grader) had a little girl clearly flirting with him, so I text my husband to tell him. And this is what our conversation turned into…

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    Give and take, right? Lol. Jeremy was too shy to ask me out when we were in high school, so I did it. And he still hasn’t lived it down almost 16 years later. But in all fairness, he did ask me to marry him. 😉 And that leads me to my next point…

  5. Share words of affection.

    Knowing your spouse still loves you, appreciates you, and even still thinks you’re hot never gets old. In that text, I told Jeremy I would say yes again. Knowing everything we were going to deal with, every challenge we would be handed, I still wouldn’t change a thing. Jeremy needs, and deserves, to know that. And I deserve to know Jeremy doesn’t think I’m only here to cook him food and clean his dishes. He sees me as an equal and makes it clear, especially since he does all the laundry! And again…that goes to the next point.

  6. Share responsibililities.

    I do the dishes and cleaning for the most part. He does the laundry for the most part. We both talk about how we will discipline, or more so how we will try (key word) to go toward proactive positive reinforcement before having to discipline. We do it all together. Kids will try (this may be a shocker) to separate you so they get their way. Be proactive. Talk and share responsibilities. Show your kids, and the world, that you have respect for one another and that you are in this together. Life will be a lot easier.

  7. Pray together.

    This changed our world. It changed our relationship. It changed everything. I know it can feel uncomfortable at first. But just trust me (well, technically trust Him). In bed at night, hold hands and pray. We learned fears, anxieties, desires, and so much more. We learned to pray for each other, for our marriage, our kids, and our families. We learned to be here for Him first, for us second, for our kids third, and for our mission, work, and families after.

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We also work together while we play. So I’ll leave you with this. That’s Jeremy driving the fun loader while I got stuck with the rake; he doesn’t live that down either. It’s all fun and games kids. Be happy. Enjoy marriage. It’s a pretty awesome gig. ~ Bailey

www.jeremyandbailey.com

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.