“I Love You and No”

Ahh summer. Summer is all about relaxing and soaking up the sun. It’s about fun and play and popsicles and sand and beverages and laughter and…ahhh.

Okay, I’m back. For a moment, I left reality and forgot I had kids. Two boys, ages 10 and 8, to be exact. So summer – time for a reality check. For me in this moment of life, summer is about sunscreen, screaming, damage control, broken arms, busted egos, more sunscreen, baseball, lack of taking responsiblity for actions, sunburns because I forgot the sunscreen, no schedules and tired kids, more baseball, no breaks from each other, broken bicycles, and a constant need to be kept entertained while mom and dad still have to work and earn that green stuff that keeps our kids fed. Oh and the food. For the love of all that is good, the food. These medium sized humans eat so. much. food.

Now please don’t get me wrong. I absolutely love being a momma. But I am NOT a stay-at-home mother. It takes an extremely special person to do that and I am clearly not special. I am a teacher, a very blessed one, and I have the opportunity to be at home with my children in the summers while I teach classes online. I absolutely love it, but I also clearly suck at it…especially the last couple of days. So today I’m on a bit of a pity party and I know I’m not alone. Why? Because parenting is hard.

So today I wanted to talk about my favorite phrase I’m reminding myself to use. “I love you and no.” Because it’s summer, I tend to fall into the trap that I have to entertain my kids at all hours or that we need to be on the go all the time. I’ve done it for almost a month now, and do you know where it’s gotten me?

It’s gotten me two very spoiled and entitled children who expect that if I can’t play with them at the moment, take them to the park all the time, go fishing right now, or supervise firework play for hours on end, then they certainly deserve to have a friend over to play with or at least an immediate ice cream to compensate for their damaged souls!

No. Just no. So I’m controlling what I can control…my own attitude. I’m using the advice of one of my besties, who masterfully yells at her kids in the most loving voice ever, to say, “I love you and no.” No, you don’t have to be entertained 24 hours a day. No, you don’t get to pit out the house and expect me to pick up after you. No, you don’t get to give me attitude every time I tell you no. No, you don’t get to argue with every statement I make. No, you don’t get to stay up late tonight. No, you don’t get to have a friend over every time I say no to something you wanted to do to entertain you. I love you, and no.

But there’s another side here. I can say yes, too. I can say yes when I can say yes. I can say yes when my children have earned rights. I can say yes when it’s possible…and often too. Because it’s summer. It’s all about balance.

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Summer on. And hang in there. This parenting ride is bumpy.

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Stop Telling Me to Cherish Every Minute

Hey, everyone. Okay, so today we are back to wearing the mom hat in my blogging world. While I write about a lot of areas, mommyhood is, by far, the nearest and dearest to my heart. See, I’m a mom of two boys, ages 10 and 8, and I cherish every minute…at least that’s what many would like me to say.

“I just cherish every minute of being a mom.”

There, I said it. Well now look what you’ve made me do…you’ve made me blatantly LIE on the Internet. And clearly, I’m the first person who has ever done that. Everything we see and read on the Internet has been true up until this point. I just broke the Internet. Congratulations to me. But you know what? I’m kind of sick of being expected to lie. I’m feeling a little frustrated today because I’m genuinely a very happy person. 99% of the time, I do cherish being a mom!

But if I say one negative word…one word saying something about being frustrated with mommyhood, somebody inevitably says, “Cherish these moments. Time goes so fast.”

This is the issue, because as my friend Leslie says, the “mommy shamers” are out in full force lately. Our society tends to believe that by saying we don’t cherish every minute of being a mom, we are somehow being completely unfair and insensitive to those who don’t have children. We are somehow robbing ourselves of the joy that comes with having children. We are somehow making time speed up even faster than it already moves.

And they’re right. Time does go fast. But this is something I already know very well. I know that I need to cherish every moment. But here’s the thing…I can’t. And you telling me to cherish these moments and reminding me of how fast time goes doesn’t help me. What I need from you is a hug, an “I’ve been there and it’ll be better tomorrow,” and a glass of wine. I need you to take my kids to play for an hour so I can remind myself of who I am and how much I love them.

So here are four things I have to say to the “mommy shamers” who don’t think I have a right to be frustrated…

  1. I am human.I didn’t magically become some supernatural being capable only of loving every minute of every day when I reproduced two humans. I get frustrated. I get tired. I get cranky. I lose my temper. And you know what? I’m allowed to. Because at the end of the day, I can teach my children how to apologize by example. Something like…”You know what, buddy, mommy lost it today. I overreacted and I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?” THAT is human. Cherishing every moment of every day with children is not.
  2. My children are human.My kids make mistakes too. Let’s imagine I have just vacuumed the entire house. It’s nice and clean and I sit down to grade some of my students’ papers for a bit. My kid opens the door and runs in from outside without thinking. He tramples across the living room, through the fireplace room, and into the kitchen. He grabs himself a glass of water and runs back out taking the same course. It’s at that moment that I see it. Mud. Everywhere. He was in and out so fast that he didn’t even notice he had his shoes on…and neither did I until it was too late. There are now muddy shoe prints throughout my house on the carpet and I have to spend the next hour or so trying to get it out.

    I don’t cherish mud on my carpet. Sometimes I can handle it well; sometimes I can parent and calmly tell my kid to come back in and help me clean it. If I’m calm, he’s calm. But sometimes I become the Hulk. I yell at my kid to get his butt back in the house and help me clean up this disaster. I make it a much bigger deal than it is, but I can’t help it. I’m about to cry. And I’m determined to help him learn respect for himself, respect for his mother, respect for his home, respect for his future family…respect for everything. All of the sudden, muddy shoe prints become a symbol of everything I have done wrong as a parent – which leads me to my next point…

  3. Parenting is hard.Dealing out consequences for bad behavior doesn’t make life fun. Making my kid cry isn’t at the top of my “cherished moments” list. However, it does happen. If my kid is being a jerk, I have to parent. And parenting isn’t easy. I don’t cherish seeing my child misbehave because when that happens, I question everything I have done as a parent. Cherish that? Really? Do you know how crappy it is to feel like you’re ruining your human’s life from time to time? If you don’t, then you are, by far, the world’s best parent…or the world’s worst. None of us know what we are doing. I’ve had to learn to accept that. And I truly believe that questioning our parenting, learning from mistakes, adjusting methods based on research, etc…that’s what makes a good parent. But it’s hard to cherish every moment of parenting.
  4. I do love being a mom, but I don’t cherish every minute of it.At the end of every day, after my children are clean and tucked in, my husband and I join them in their rooms for “thankfuls, lessons, and prayers.” We all share what we are thankful for that day as well as what lessons we learned and then we finish in a family prayer. At the end of every day, I can look back and say that I absolutely love being a mom. I can say that I made mistakes and learned lessons I didn’t expect or want. I can say that I survived another day…and so did my kids. And if that day comes when one of us does leave this earth, I know I will be able to say that we are with Jesus because I have taught my kids about Him. And that gives me peace.

    Maybe I rocked it as a mom today…maybe not. I can pray for another chance to be an awesome mom tomorrow. And right now, I can go be me while my kids sleep. I can remember that I do love being a mom, but I don’t have to cherish every minute of it.

So please stop telling moms to cherish every minute. Instead, change the words to, “Being a parent is hard sometimes. But it’s worth it. It will all be okay.”

https://www.facebook.com/jeremyandbaileykoch/

 

An Open Invitation to Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts in the Midst of Budget Cuts to Mental Health & Disability Services

Hey, Pete. What’s up?

Should I address you more formally? Well you know, Pete, I believe respect must be earned, not expected. So to me right now, you’re not Mr. Ricketts or Governor Ricketts. To me, you’re Pete. And I’m Bailey; because I haven’t earned your respect yet either. It goes both ways.

So I’d like to extend you an invitation, Pete, to meet my family and I so we can talk respect.

Oh but there are a few things you should know before you meet my husband, children, and I. Where should I begin? How about education? It’s easy for many to respect education. Well, Pete, I’m almost finished with my Doctor of Education Degree in Special Education and my husband is just beginning his Master’s Degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. You’re likely already beginning to see why we are passionate about services for mental health, individuals with disabilities, and those in need of help for behavior or addiction issues. So yes, we’re educated. Does that make it easier to read what I have to say?

But you see, Pete, the only reason I went this far with my education was to get people like you to listen to me when I speak. God made me a fighter and gave me a passion for standing up for those who can’t easily stand up for themselves. And after hearing about your proposed budget, I believe it’s time for me to stand up.

So that’s likely the end of our story, right? Wrong. You may be wondering why my husband, Jeremy, and I have worked so hard to further our education. If you’re not wondering, I’d like to tell you anyway.

You see, Pete, my husband is a five-time suicide attempt survivor. He’s a fighter, but he needed help to be. And a mental health facility, Richard Young Hospital in Kearney to be exact, is where my husband was kept safe and learned life-saving coping skills during his three times in which he stayed there inpatient. Those services kept Jeremy alive. Those services are why our children still have their dad.

You’re probably going to say, “Yes, but those services will still be there.” Will they, Pete? Will they?

Because I should also mention that for 2 1/2 years, I had to leave my job as a public school special education teacher in order to not leave my husband alone because his suicidal thoughts were so strong. I had to give up our family’s insurance, since my husband is a self-employed business owner, and rely on government assistance while I worked on my doctoral degree from home and supported my husband in his quest to learn how to live, not just stay alive. The government assistance saved our lives…literally. And we could not be more thankful for it; we are not alone. When we needed it most, it was there.

While there are some who take advantage of government assistance, please understand that those with mental illness, addiction, or disabilities are NOT in the business of stealing from the government. They just need help.

With your budget cuts, I imagine another family who walks up to the doors of a mental health hospital as we have many times…terrified and finally ready to accept help…will be turned away. Learning to accept help for mental illness isn’t easy. There’s a bit of a stigma, in case you didn’t know. I imagine that this family, because of a lack of money, insurance, options, etc., will be told that they can’t stay. I imagine this family will not even try to accept help again, will not learn coping skills, will not get the medications needed, will not be offered counseling services, will not be kept safe…I imagine this family will be ripped apart because of a mental illness they had no part in choosing.

I could go on and on about how terrifying these budget cuts are for people suffering from a mental illness, living with a disability, or trying to understand how to get away from a debilitating addiction, but I’d rather just invite you to meet my family.

I’d like you to look my husband, two boys (ages 10 and 8), and I in the eyes and tell us these budget cuts won’t negatively affect our family or anybody we fight for. I’d like you to explain to me why you believe taking funds away from arguably the most vulnerable population makes you a good leader. Because right now, Pete, I don’t see it.

I’d like you to attend one of our support groups. Did I mention we run a support group for individuals suffering from mental illness or supporting a loved one every Sunday evening? I’d love for you to meet with some of these beautiful people we have the pleasure of speaking with weekly. I’d like to invite you to spend some time with the incredible staff at Richard Young Hospital in Kearney, the people who kept my husband safe and taught him coping skills while he was in their care, who care for countless individuals suffering from mental illness and do the absolute best they can with little resources…soon to be less. You see, my husband still sees his doctor there monthly for his follow-up appointments so we know the staff well. I can’t imagine the heartache knowing that these budget cuts could cost some of these people their jobs. Jeremy learned how to live because he learned how to accept help. And because the help was there.

Please don’t take away the option to receive help from those who need it the most. Please reconsider your budget. Please take a step away from what politics has become and remember who you are and why you likely wanted to get into this position in the first place. Are you taking care of your family? So am I.

Bailey

Lies and Gravy: Ignoring Depression

I made gravy tonight…real gravy. The kind you make from scratch. Jeremy and I have been married for 12 1/2 years and together for 16, but I’ve never made real gravy before. I’ve made gravy often from packets, but I refused to make it the way my husband made it. He always made the good stuff, the kind you make on a crisp fall day or even while the snow is falling and you are inside snuggled up under a blanket drinking hot cocoa. Soul food. I refused to make “real” gravy until today, and I have a reason.

After five failed suicide attempts over a period of six years, my husband is still here with me. I’m blessed beyond words. For six years, Jeremy was physically here, but I was married to a stranger. I was a single mother who was married to my children’s father and was madly in love with the man he once was. I had faith he would be that man again one day, but I was damn good at ignoring and pretending. Every morning, Jeremy struggled to get himself out of bed even to say goodbye to our boys after I woke them, fed them, dressed them, and gave them love and reassurance that daddy was “just tired.”  Every day, I called from my workplace so many times that I lost count. Why? Because I knew Jeremy wasn’t okay by himself. I knew when I was gone, he had more and more opportunities to take his own life. I called often to be sure he was still alive, and the sound of a voicemail message left me so terrified that I regularly had to leave work to check on him.

It took us years to figure out that our faith was in each other and not where it needed to be. But trusting God would mean giving up control.  That wasn’t easy for me. It still isn’t.

Jeremy was usually better in the evenings. He would “come back” from time to time. And when he would, he would cook. Breaded pork chops, mashed potatoes, homemade gravy, and peas has always been a family favorite. We’ve had to get creative this year as I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease, but cooking incredible food gluten-free isn’t as hard as it sounds at first. I couldn’t go without this meal, but mostly because of the emotional weight it carries within my heart.

Jeremy always took the reigns on this family-favorite meal. And I pretended. I pretended that I couldn’t make the meal as good as he made it. I pretended because maybe, just maybe, if I coudn’t make this meal, Jeremy would have to stay. My boys would have to have their daddy stay alive because…who would make the gravy? Daddy made it best. Mommy would just mess it up.

Without daddy, who was mommy? My identity was wrapped up in being Jeremy’s wife.  I lied. I pretended. I needed him to be me, to be a mom, to be anyone worthy of love. I needed Jeremy to make the gravy. I couldn’t do it alone.

And then. And then I almost lost him…really almost lost him.

I documented everything I felt and we experienced during the time when Jeremy was fighting for his life on CaringBridge. Feel free to read it if you’d like. When I almost lost Jeremy, I found my own worth in Christ. I found how tough I am because of Him. I prayed prayers that most wives would never dream of praying. I was ashamed of my prayers for a long time until I realized even those prayers were meant to happen. Hundreds of times, I prayed that God would just take Jeremy. That He would end his suffering. “Jeremy doesn’t deserve to live in this Hell on Earth that is depression.”

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I found my worth in Christ when I almost lost my husband. I found my worth in Christ because I loved Jeremy so much that I didn’t want him to have to live with depression controlling his life. Jeremy, for six years, had managed to stay alive. But he hadn’t learned to live.

Not yet, anyway.

After the accident, my faith exploded. I went into fight mode and started living with faith, not just talking about it. I sought Jesus. I prayed and changed the way in which I spent time with Jesus. Jeremy watched and his faith began to grow too. We ultimately learned that embracing humor would be our saving grace in addition to taking the horrible parts of our lives and allowing God to make them good in order to help others. We wrote and published our story. “Never Alone: A Husband and Wife’s Journey with Depression and Faith” came out in 2015.

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

Jeremy and I have lived through Hell on Earth together. My prayers have changed; I don’t pray for God to take Jeremy anymore because my husband has learned to truly live with depression. No, his chemical imbalance, disability, disease, brain malfunction (call it what you want…depression is real) has not disappeared. Depression does not have a cure, but we have learned to live with it…not just stay alive. Our faith, Jeremy’s medications, and our enormous support system including doctors, counselors, family, and friends are our lifelines. Most importantly, Jeremy and I have now begun a support group called “Anchoring Hope” for those suffering from mental illness or supporting a loved one. We are there every Sunday evening and truly cherish our time together surrounded by so many who understand and are just wanting to support each other. God has brought so much good from so much pain.

I don’t need Jeremy anymore, but I do want him. I choose him every day, day in and day out, over and over. But my identity is in Christ. And tonight, I made gravy for our family. Jeremy loved every bite. Thank God for unanswered prayers.

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As always, if you feel like our story can help others, please share. God bless.

~ Jeremy and Bailey Koch

“I Do” Again

There are few things more important in the world than being surrounded by people you love and trust, especially those who return the sentiments. David and Cara have been friends of my husband and I since we were in high school. In fact, it’s quite a hilarious story that Cara actually tried to set me up with David when we were in our early high school years. Why? Because David was a genuine nice guy, and Cara wanted that for me.

What Cara didn’t tell me then, and what I know to be true now, is that she tried to set me up with David because she didn’t believe she deserved that nice guy. She believed he was too good for her, that somehow her past made her inferior to him. But alas, years passed and David made her way into Cara’s heart not long after Jeremy made his way into mine. We lost touch over the years but came back together when Jeremy and I were hired to DJ at David and Cara’s wedding on September 4, 2004. We were there to witness their union. Time would part us again, but not for long.

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Cara and I say that “the baby years” are what brought us together again. We were both younger than many of our friends when we began our families so we understood the time of life each other was in. But some things just didn’t come easy…

Cara watched and supported Jeremy and I as we navigated the choppy waters of living with mental illness. She was the first person to whom I revealed the whole truth of Jeremy’s suicide attempts. She was the person I called when I needed to cry, to be completely honest, and sometimes to just scream. Cara is, without a doubt, the most forgiving and accepting person I have ever met in my life. She was my comfort and steadfast support person always reminding me that Jesus had a plan for good in all the mess we were living.

Cara taught me so much, never realizing most of what she taught me came from how she handled her own life. The truth is Cara was fighting her own battle. Over the years of our friendship, I watched her and David struggle. I watched the reality of a blended family take its toll on their relationship. I watched priorities become confusing. I watched hurts happen and then become reasons for bigger hurts. I watched love fade, arguments turn to battles, and shots fired turn into full-blown war. But there was something else I witnessed.

I watched as two people were realizing that the people who often hurt you the most are the people who love you the most.

There are people in this world who can’t handle seeing others happy when they are unhappy themselves. These traits do not live in David or Cara. No matter what their lives consist of, they can genuinely and completely be happy for others. This is truly a trait to be admired and is certainly what I admire most about our friends. David and Cara could have pushed Jeremy and I aside long ago because our relationships had little in common. But what I love about our friendship is that none of us ever gave up on each other even when the world told us we should. And our kids…our kids adore each other.

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It’s hard to love two people so much and watch them struggle so hard. At one point, I did almost give up. I didn’t know how to help or what my place was. I said things to my friends I had no right to. I was tired of watching the hurt and part of me stopped believing in God’s ability to heal. I had started to take sides, human sides as opposed to where I had always stayed safe and steadfast before…on Jesus’ side.

And then it happened. I watched as David and Cara hit true brokenness. I had never seen either of them so low, and it was because they were finally seeing what life without the other would look like. I’ll never forget having many conversations in the past with Cara telling her the truth of why I knew my relationship with Jeremy was so strong.

I would say, “Picture your life without him. Look into the future and imagine he’s really not there. What does life look like?” It was only when I saw what life would be like without Jeremy that I truly began to appreciate everything about us. I knew the same would be true for them.

But life has a way of not allowing us to imagine situations like this in such detail until we are actually living it. I saw David and Cara truly broken and I learned an important life lesson. Sometimes, it’s actually easier to heal broken than it is to heal bent.

After being broken, David and Cara began to heal…truly heal. Cara tells me now that it took them 11 years to figure out marriage, to truly understand the sacrifice, the give-and-take, and the dedication to never let love fade. I watched them begin to have weekly date nights, something I had never seen, and to rarely allow exceptions to the date night rule. I watched them begin to understand that the marriage has to come before the children, a real and accurate rule of relationships so many young couples struggle with. I watched them begin to attend church together and truly worship Jesus knowing He is the reason that which was broken is now healing. I watched them attend marriage counseling and both be completely honest.

But you know the best part? I watched David become Cara’s best friend instead of me. I watched her run to him and not me. I watched my knowledge of their relationship become less and less. 

As Cara’s support person, I listened and did the best I knew how to try to support her. But now everything is different. Healing is happening and I get to just be the friend. Why am I writing this? For one, David and Cara told me I could. For two, the couple hopes to help other struggling marriages through their trials and triumphs. But for three, I want David and Cara to know how much respect I have for them and how proud I am of them.

So on September 4, 2016, Jeremy and I were there to witness their “I Do” again. David and Cara vowed to recommit themselves first to Jesus, second to their marriage, and third to their children. What an honor and a blessing. I could not be more proud to call them my friends. Congratulations to David and Cara. You two are an inspiration.

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David and Cara would like you to have their email address if you feel inclined to reach out to them. Perhaps you need some hope in your own marriage. Trust me, they are a great resource. Email them at carabcochran@yahoo.com

~ Bailey

http://www.jeremyandbailey.com/

Please like our page on Facebook to follow our journey and share our mission with others. https://www.facebook.com/jeremyandbaileykoch/

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.

New Year. New Me.

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
 
I’ve lost weight before – 65 pounds to be exact. In case any of you weren’t friends with me in 2009, I was up to 226 pounds on the day I delivered our youngest son. After having Asher, my body quickly lost 25…literally overnight. So…201 was the number. I’m on the right holding our oldest son, Hudson. I was visiting my friend, Angela, holding Asher, our youngest son.

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But it wasn’t the number that got me. It was the way I felt. It was the constant back pain, the zero energy, the self-confidence issues. Those are what mattered. It took me a while to find the motivation, but once I found it, the journey started. And I wouldn’t stop. At my best friend’s wedding in 2014, I weighed 140 pounds (actually too thin for me). I had worked my ass off. No sugar-coating that word; it’s true. I maintained a healthy weight at 150 for quite a while.
But it was almost April last year when I realized my weight was creeping up again. I had left my job as a special educator, one in which I walked miles every day around the school, and took up focus on my doctoral degree and working from home. You can imagine how much my exercise level had changed. But I kept pushing it off. I kept saying 160 is okay, I can stay there. But I changed no habits. All of the sudden, I was 170 and could stay there. But I changed no habits. Now here I am. Christmas is over and I weigh 184.6 pounds (well 180.6 since I started a couple days ago). My back hurts so freaking bad, I can’t sit on the floor and play games with my son. I have zero energy to do any physical exercise. And my body is literally falling apart. I now proudly (and embarrassingly) display scars from 5 knee surgeries and 1 ankle surgery. What would this have to do with weight, you ask? Everything. I have extremely weak joints, as do many people. But for those of us who do, muscles hold us together well…unless you’re me and you have no muscle. So I fall apart. I sublux (dislocate and immediately pop back in). It started in middle school with my knees. The ankle began in September and I have since undergone surgery there. And this just in…my shoulder began subluxing while I was in my boot for my ankle and I refused to do anything or tell anyone because it’s freaking embarrassing and ridiculous how damn clumsy I seem. In reality, while I am clumsy, I’m put together horrible. And I’m getting older. I have to do something, and I have to do it better than I ever have before.
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My goal is 145 pounds, but I believe the scale lies. Today, I am 181 so I have 36 pounds to go. I don’t know what my body will be like as this is the first time I will be actively trying to gain muscle. I’m basing this more off of the mirror and how I feel. I’ve started my diet and walking on the treadmill, but I start the 21 day challenge workouts on Monday. And I will do them. And I will hate them. But after a while, the workouts will get easier. I will look at myself in the mirror and smile as I will see progress. I will notice my clothes fitting different…or fitting at all.
 
I’m very blessed that after 15 years, I still look at my husband and think he’s totally a hottie. I know he feels this way about me too, but I’m ready to believe him when he tells me this. So why am I sharing? Because I know there are so many of you whom have told yourself you will lose weight before. I have been doing it for a long time, but I also have lost a lot of weight before. I know it’s not easy to lose weight. I know it’s easy to put it back on. I’ve done both. Time to lose it and keep it gone. I’m ready to get healthy. Feel free to join me. And no this isn’t just another resolution nobody keeps. This is learning to live healthy. It takes time. I will falter sometimes, but I will get back up and keep going. It’s life.
What do you have to lose? I’m looking forward to losing back pain, losing my lack of energy, losing the possibilities of more surgeries, and losing my fear of full body pictures. 🙂 So it begins…

Confessions from an Outsider

There are a lot of areas in life where I just don’t fit in. I’ve learned to accept this fact. When I was younger, I didn’t understand why I just didn’t seem to “get” normal social guidelines. Something in me never seemed to click and I didn’t understand why so many acted the way they did and covered up so much of who they really were just to abide by someone else’s set of expectations. I said the wrong things at the wrong times, I shared way more information than anyone often wanted to know, and I generally made people uncomfortable. It wasn’t hard to see, still isn’t at times. I remember saying something and immediately regretting it because it wasn’t “okay” based upon what somebody else thought. I saw so many others acting completely different for different people; personalities adjusted to the situations. And while it works for some, and may even be necessary at times for some people, I just didn’t (and don’t) get it.

There were some people who would truly turn their backs and just walk away from me. It’s not hard to see, or even feel, an awkward hello or an eye roll. While it hurt my feelings long ago, I laugh about it now. This is me. This is who I am. And it’s okay. If someone doesn’t know how to handle my personality, I don’t believe that should be my problem. I’m annoying and odd. And I’m okay with that.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized there are so many of us “outsiders” who don’t like, or don’t know how, to play by the normal rules. And my reality now is that this is who I am, and if some don’t know how to take me, they don’t have to. It’s okay. Those who truly don’t know how to talk to or handle anything out of their comfort zones are really no different from me; we just have different comfort zones. Hiding makes me uncomfortable. I know everything about my close friends and family; I can’t handle hiding.

And now I get it. I get why I am the way I am. This “weirdness” is a God-given strength, and it got my family and I out of the hell we were living in behind the scenes. My being an outsider is the best thing that ever happened to me, but it took me years to embrace it. 

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Do you know how I actually started learning to accept who I am? My husband, the show “Friends”, and the song “Firecracker” by Josh Turner. Sound strange? Get used to it; not much is normal when I’m around. One day while cooking supper, I had my favorite show playing in the background. Phoebe was getting married in the snow in the street, and her soon-to-be husband said to her, “You’re so wonderfully weird.” Jeremy turned to me and said, “You know. That’s so true. You’re my Phoebe. You’re so wonderfully weird.” Jeremy loved that about me. He always loved and appreciated the me that so many made me believe I needed to cover up. I started learning to embrace my outsider status outside of our private life because he let me.

Then there was the song. Another day, a few years later, I was driving and talking on the phone with Jeremy. Over his radio, Josh Turner started singing “Firecracker.” Jeremy turned it up so I could hear. In his wonderfully off-tune voice, he sang…

“When I light the fuse I gotta get back quick.
You gotta be careful with a dynamite stick.
Son of a gun she’s fun to handle,
and she packs a punch like a roman candle.
She’s a pack of black cats in a red paper wrapper.
My little darlin’ is a Firecracker.”

And again, my confidence started to grow. Maybe being an outsider was okay. Maybe I was good enough. And I started putting it together. Jeremy had been the reason I was learning to be okay with who I am, now it was my turn to help him be okay.

Jeremy was diagnosed with severe depression in 2009; we lived a terrible secret for more than three years because he was ashamed of what his brain would do to him. Between 2009 and 2012, Jeremy attempted suicide five times. I flushed countless medications that caused his suicidal thoughts to escalate, and he was nearly killed in a head-on collision with a semi truck.

Jeremy's truck after the accident in 2012.

Jeremy’s truck after the accident in 2012.

But it was later in 2012, after God gave him the strength to leave the suicide note on our computer for me to read even after He saved my husband yet again, when I figured it out. Unfortunately, I found the note before I found that Jeremy was still alive; that was the most terrifying night of my life. Fortunately, Jeremy finally shared the truth, the whole truth, and began healing. I realized being open and honest is what would save my husband. I realized my outsider status may just have not been an accident.

We found true faith because of two things we believed were the worst that had ever happened to us: outsider status and depression. I remember the first time I said something about Jeremy’s depression in public. We were walking around in Menards in Kearney, Nebraska and ran into some friends. They asked what we were doing in Kearney that evening. Without thinking, I said, “Jeremy suffers from depression and our support group is here in town.”

You wouldn’t believe how fast Jeremy’s head spun toward me. He gave me this look of, “I can’t believe you just told them that.” I didn’t care. It was a God moment; He put the words in my mouth. But do you know what happened next? Our friend answered, “I have depression too. It’s so hard sometimes. What support group do you go to?”

Destiny. Support. We learned to be open in every aspect of life. It was excruciating for Jeremy at first, but it didn’t take him long to realize we were helping people. We were allowing people to be honest and open about their realities too. We were allowing God to take something meant to harm us and 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 (NLT)

Now published authors, we shared our entire truth with the world. Why? Because it’s okay, and because God will use us to help people. “Never Alone: A Husband and Wife’s Journey with Depression and Faith” was our destiny. We wrote, now we want to travel the country and speak to anyone and everyone who will listen or who needs to hear the truth that there is hope in mental illness, there is hope for healing, and God gives us that hope if we learn to see Him and accept His good. We share more at www.jeremyandbailey.com and post almost daily on our Jeremy and Bailey Koch Facebook page in order to continue inspiring and providing hope.

I won’t hide who I am now. I won’t be ashamed, and I won’t hold anything back. For every person I annoy or make uncomfortable, I have two more who message me or tell me thank you for making them smile today because they needed it. My husband began healing when God showed him what it felt like to be honest. So when God puts it on my heart to say something, I’m going to say it. And while it may make some uncomfortable or even annoyed now, I know those people will know they can come to me and be completely honest when they need to, when they allow themselves.

I may be an outsider. I may have been misunderstood my entire life, but there is a reason God made me the way I am. There is a reason He made you the way you are. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. Learn to embrace who you are and find your reason. Be okay with you; I’m okay with you.

Ghandi

Be your own kind of outsider, because, let’s face it, we are all outsiders. None of us are “normal” because there is no normal. God made us so we could use who we are for His good. 

Learn more about our mission and our book at www.jeremyandbailey.com. Like our Jeremy and Bailey Koch Facebook page. Thank you for your support. Thank you for allowing us to be weird.

This Just In…And Today God Gave Me What I Needed!!!

So…yesterday I sulked that I didn’t get a full-time job at UNK. I convinced myself that all classes were likely going to be taken from me; by doing that, I prepared myself for disappointment. It won’t hurt as much if I just believe nothing is changing and I’m not getting any job. But it still hurt. By the end of the day, I was emotionally spent, but I did set my sights on what is important. I remembered that there is good in everything and I held my babies tight. I praised God while watching my boys in their Bible School concert and I prayed for strength and understanding. I prayed that God’s will be done. I prayed that I would be able to help take care of my family financially somehow.

And today, God gave me what I needed, not what I wanted yesterday.

Hi, I’m Bailey Koch, official instructor for the University of Nebraska at Kearney.

I'm a Loper again! But this time, I'm an instructor and no longer the student!

I’m a Loper again! But this time, I’m an instructor and no longer the student!

I just got off the phone with the Dean; he called me this morning. He offered me a part-time job teaching 6 credit hours in the Teacher Education and Teacher Education/Special Education Departments of UNK. I have an office. I have a computer. I only have to drive two days a week (Tuesdays and Thursdays) as they moved around schedules to accommodate my drive time; that’s why they didn’t call me yesterday. I’m not making a lot, but I’m making enough to help support our family financially. It’s exactly what our family needs, and I feel like my hours spent on this degree are finally beginning to help.

Hi, I’m Bailey Koch. And God just slapped me across the face…again. I love it when He does that to me. He gets me every time! God is good all the time. Trust that tomorrow, something more will come. It’s okay to be told “NO” by God sometimes. Because the “YES” feels oh so good.

Girls…Learn that guys don’t show love how you’ve seen in movies.

I see it everywhere I look on social media. Young girls, teens, and even women are sharing photos and fictional stories about how love should be. Usually I see pictures of movies, huge diamonds, and very planned and elaborate proposals (many staged for photos) shared with comments and boyfriends’ or husbands’ names tagged saying things like, “Soandso Babaganush…I want THIS!”

So I have this to say to you, females. Stop it. It’s time to learn that love doesn’t have to be that complicated. It’s time to support your man in reality, not in social media world. In real life, you may have one or two super romantic moments that are photograph worthy, but the reality is that you will one day marry a man, not a machine that can read your thoughts. You better start to realize that true love can be shown in so many ways, and guys show love much differently than you want. You are setting yourselves up for disappointment and relationship failure because of your expectations of people who cannot generally understand that type of display all the time.

But you will learn to love the way he shows love to you more than you could ever dream of. You just have to let yourself. Isn’t it better to let him decide how he will love you than you tell him how to do it?

But why am I giving you this advice? It is because I have a husband whom is very low-key and simple in his displays of love, but what he does, he does with incredible respect and love for me. So I’ll show you how he shows me love so you can understand my view on this. This post started because of this text this morning.

Jeremy textWhy would, “On our way back :)” mean anything to me? How does this show love? Let’s go back a few years…

On February 16, 2012, Jeremy was almost killed in a car accident. I was at work and wasn’t with him. In a room full of 8th grade students, my principal opened the door and brought another teacher in to cover my class for me. He walked me out into the hallway where I saw a policeman walking toward me. At that moment, the door of another administrator flew open and I heard the words, “The doctor is on the phone to speak with Bailey.” My principal, knowing I was extremely confused and terrified, said to me, “Jeremy was in an accident. He’s alive.”

I could keep going and turn this into an extremely long story, but I have written about it before here on this blog and in great detail in “Never Alone: A Husband and Wife’s Journey with Depression and Faith”. Jeremy did almost die and we spent a month in the hospital and then many more recovering. From medication failures, suicide attempts, and the near-death accident, we learned to understand that the person you love may be minutes away from leaving this earth. Love does not have to be so complicated. And showing love can be very simple.

So this morning, my husband hopped in the truck with our two boys to run an errand downtown. Five minutes after they left, the sirens sounded in town. Jeremy is alive and we have learned to understand that the terrible things we have been through have only made us stronger and closer to God, so from the pain we found hope and purpose. But if my husband or children are not home and those sirens sound, I physically and emotionally cannot handle it to this day; I have to call and check on my loves. Jeremy says, “Hey, we all have our stuff. After what we’ve been through together, I think you’re entitled to be a little irrational at times.”

So I heard the sirens and tried to fight my urge to call. I’m working on it. But I didn’t have to fight it…because my husband beat me to it. Instead of judging me for being worried every time I hear those sirens as I had that day the blasts were there for Jeremy, he chooses to love me instead. I received this text on my phone almost instantaneously when the sirens started blaring. Jeremy textMy husband and boys were fine, and Jeremy knew I needed to hear that. The sirens were not for them, and my husband reinforced his love and respect for me through these simple words. That is love, ladies. It’s not extravagant. It’s simple. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

So I want to share with you how my husband shows his love for me. These are my favorite ways Jeremy shows me how much he loves me. This doesn’t mean there aren’t other ways, but these ways have grown to be my favorite. You’ll notice none of them have to do with money or planned moments. This is just love…and how he shows it to me without even knowing it.

In no particular order…

1. He texts me if he is not home when the sirens blast in town so I know the rescue unit isn’t being called for him.

2. He disciplines our boys when they are being disrespectful to me, but he never uses, “You do not speak to your mother that way.” He changes it. He says, “You do not ever speak to MY WIFE like that.”

3. He seasons my steak differently than his and all the others and marks which steak on the grill is mine.

4. He always says thank you for meals, for my cleaning the house, for me helping him on jobs, etc.

5. He prays with our boys and I and is a living example of what a respectful Christian man should be.

6. He asks me for my opinion and respects it, not always using it, but respecting it.

7. He explains things to me that I don’t understand all the time (sports, mechanics, landscaping…) and has learned that I now have a good knowledge base because I have listened to him. He has trained me without meaning to and has created a fun (and hot he says) sidekick!

8. He works hard for our family. He plays hard with our family. He puts faith and family first and teaches our boys that the two go hand-in-hand. He knows that when we put God first and glorify Him through our actions and daily lives, it doesn’t matter if we are on a landscaping job or in church, we are worshiping Him and thanking Him every second for this life.

9. He tells me what I’m doing right and what he appreciates about me.

10. He rolls over, kisses me goodnight, and puts on his CPAP breathing machine when I kick him in the night for snoring instead of yelling at me like he probably wants to. 🙂

These may seem simple and strange to some, but these are my favorite ways my simple husband has shown love to me. I have been proposed to. I have been on honeymoons, vacations, and dates. But the daily ways Jeremy shows love to me mean more than any of that ever could. So ladies, learn to see the ways he loves you. They will be different than ours, but I bet they’re there.

Learn more about our journey and purchase “Never Alone: A Husband and Wife’s Journey with Depression and Faith” at www.jeremyandbailey.com.