“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/

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/

 

 

The Myth that is Valentine’s Day

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

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

Jeremy in ICU, February 17, 2012.

Jeremy in ICU, February 17, 2012.

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

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

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

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

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

Jeremy's truck after the accident in 2012.

Jeremy’s truck after the accident in 2012.

Our family on Christmas Eve, 2015.

Our family on Christmas Eve, 2015.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~ Jeremy and Bailey Koch
January 16, 2016