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Author’s update 2-16-2021 —Today, it has been nine years since mental illness nearly won. We look at this truck and we no longer see pain. Now we see hope. Now we see purpose. Mental health advocacy is what we are meant to do. Today, we celebrate “Daddy Lived Day” as our boys were 5 and 2 when they nearly lost their daddy. Today, at ages 14 and 11, our boys are advocates for mental health right along with us. So please, if you are experiencing any thoughts of self-harm, in honor of my husband today, please reach out to your support system for help. Strength is understanding this is not your fault. Strength is accepting help. From our family to yours, God bless you and please fight with us. Join us on Anchoring Hope for Mental Health to follow our journey.

Depression is a b*tch, I mean, a real b*tch.

Yes, I’m a Christian. And no, there is no other way I have found to describe the hell my husband lives with severe depression when his brain overtakes everything else than to use cuss words. It’s a trap and it’s hell on Earth. It feels as though there is nothing in you. You are empty, made of nothing but a hopeless, helpless, black hole of hell. The world doesn’t make sense while your brain, well . . . 

Nobody loves you. Nobody cares if you’re dead. Your family will just be so much better off if you are just gone. They do not deserve this torture. They think about it all the time, too. Death is relief. Death is the only answer.

. . . while your brain lies to you.

Four months after Jeremy’s severe depression diagnosis in 2009, he nearly took his life for the first time. It was September 11, 2009. The following is an excerpt from our book, “Never Alone: A Husband and Wife’s Journey with Depression and Faith” and the words are straight from Jeremy:

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

Jeremy put down the gun. He had just survived one of the most painful experiences of his life. He was caught in a battle between good and evil. In this paragraph above, you can read it clearly. Satan dares my husband to take his life; he makes him believe the world is better off without him, that we are better off without him. And just before Jeremy pulled the trigger that day to end his earthly existence, he received a vision. He saw our oldest son waving goodbye to him from the window with tears streaking his face. Try to tell me God wasn’t desperately trying to get his attention, to help him make a choice. Try to tell us God doesn’t have a bigger plan, a better one than this.

But the reality is, Jeremy had to fight. He had to choose good over evil. And he continues to fight every day.

Please do not ever believe this choice is an easy one for someone suffering from depression. My husband looked that day like he had just walked through hell himself, fighting off every demon clawing and scratching at his legs as he carried chains and iron balls behind him. In reality, he had walked through just that. Depression is hell. It’s evil. It sucks. But after five suicide attempts, a near-death car accident we believe was caused by a medication failure, and now a life mission, we have learned a few things.

Screenshot 2016-01-10 14.33.27
In 2012, Jeremy was nearly killed when he went head-on into a semi truck at highway speeds. He has no memory of that day and survived with a fractured pancreas, punctured lung, brain bleed, colon reconstruction, and a broken leg in four places.

Most importantly, there is good in everything. Our favorite verse is Genesis 50:20, which says: “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.” It’s true that mental illness did not come from God, but the fact that we can use Jeremy’s depression and suicide attempts to help others understand you can live a full, healthy, and happy life with this disease is a perfect example of how God takes something meant for evil and makes it good.

RELATED: Suicide Prevention: Know the Signs

So every day, my husband gets up. Every day, even if his brain only tells him to stay in bed and sleep all day long, he gets up and gets light and sunshine in his eyes. He takes his medications faithfully two times a day.

He fights the voice inside that says You do not need doctors. You are strong enough to fight this on your own without anyone’s help. Don’t tell anyone…it will only make it worse. You do not need medication. You do not need to tell those people who love you what’s going on. You do not need . . . 

More lies.

Jeremy does need medication. And the fact that we have finally found the right combination of brain medications in addition to healthy supplements has made all the difference. Jeremy does need to talk; he sees his counselor twice a month to work through his depression and help him fight those terrible lies when they do come. Jeremy does need to see a doctor; he has been in an inpatient mental health facility, Richard Young in Kearney, Nebraska, on two different occasions to keep him safe from his own brain. Jeremy does need support from his family, he needs to be able to be open with everyone who loves him and cares for him without fear that we will judge him or tell him to “snap out of it.” Jeremy does need to be reminded that life is worth living and that he can be an example for so many suffering the way we once did; we travel, speak to anyone willing to listen, write our story, share our daily life, and run a support group for people suffering from mental illness or supporting a loved one.

In March of 2015, desperate for answers and validation of this disease, we traveled to California and Jeremy underwent a Single-Photon Emission Computed Tomography (SPECT) scan at Amen Clinic.
In March of 2015, desperate for answers and validation of this disease, we traveled to California and Jeremy underwent a Single-Photon Emission Computed Tomography (SPECT) scan at Amen Clinic. Basically, it’s an MRI on steroids because it utilizes nuclear medicine to show the active portions of the brain. This picture shows a healthy brain. The red and white highlights where brain activity is.
This image is my husband's brain.
This image is my husband’s brain. Red and white areas show activity where the healthy brain in the previous picture has none. Most importantly, Jeremy’s Deep Limbic System (DLS) is 100% white, meaning there is 100% activity when there should be none. The DLS is responsible for inward-directed sadness, feelings of guilt, blame, shame, and worthlessness, and yes, dark thoughts. We just described my husband . . . and we got to see why. Validation. Depression is a real disease that can be treated effectively. Doctors adjusted medications based on scans rather than based on throwing darts in the dark.

When you read the captions to the brain pictures above, you understand that depression is real. My husband deserved validation. He deserved to SEE what his brain was doing to him. The sad reality is we had to drive 23 hours across the country and pay for the scans out of our own pocket because mental healthcare continues to rely on by-guess and by-golly rather than on available technology. We plan to change that for Nebraska. We will work hard to help you understand the reality of your brain. You are worth our fight for truth and support.

NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) reports that approximately 61.5 million Americans experience some form of mental illness in a given year. That’s nearly 1 in 3 people. But we have found hope in this hell, and we want you to know you are not alone. You can win. So please fight.

Jeremy’s suicidal thoughts used to come near-daily. But depression does not control us anymore. Every day, Jeremy chooses to fight. It had been months since Jeremy had experienced any suicidal thoughts. And then, on January 2nd of this year, I looked at him and said, “You’re quiet. Are you OK?”

In that moment, my husband made a choice. His brain told him to be quiet, to say he’s fine and don’t worry. But Jeremy chose to fight. “No. I’m quiet because I’m not feeling well.”

This was the moment when I truly come in. As a support person, I have an obligation to my husband to help him fight this bitch that is depression. He does not have to do this alone. “Suicidal thoughts?” I questioned.

And Jeremy made another choice. He knows I worry. He knows I am terrified of losing him, but he knows lying to me helps nobody. “Yes.”

We detailed everything that happened that day in our blog post “Depression Yesterday. Depression Today.” on our blog. Why? Because we know we are not the only ones who live a reality similar to this. There are so many of us, and we have to support each other.

The suicidal thoughts did not stop immediately, but Jeremy did immediately feel the chains and iron balls break. The demons continued to claw at him, but they lost their strength as Jeremy continued to work through his thoughts out loud with his support system. He prayed. He continued to take his medication. He talked to me. He chose to live.

Later that night, after the suicidal thoughts had subsided, Jeremy said to me, “I wanted to kill myself. I didn’t.”

Read more of our story on our blog at www.jeremyandbaileyblog.com. Follow us on Facebook and view our website where you can link to our book in both eBook format on Amazon as well as a signed paperback directly from us.

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Bailey Koch

Bailey Koch is an advocate for those who can't easily advocate for themselves in every way. Married to her hottie hubby, whom has survived 5+ suicide attempts, and mom to two teenage boys, the oldest with High Functioning Autism and youngest with Epilepsy, Bailey is passionate about mental health and parenting through the messy realities. Additionally, Bailey is a Doctor of Special Education and works as an instructor at the University of Nebraska at Kearney preparing future special educators to be advocates for the learning of all. Bailey and her husband, Jeremy, have written and published two books. "Never Alone: A Husband and Wife's Journey with Depression and Faith" details their struggles with severe depression and the journey toward understanding their purpose, accepting help, and finding faith. "When the House Feels Sad: Helping You Understand Depression" is written for families, at a child's level, to open up a conversation about the reality of Depression. Follow their journey, the triumphs and the challenges, on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/anchoringhopeformentalhealth and Instagram at @anchoringhopeformentalhealth.

I Made PB&J Sandwiches, Then Got in the Car to Die

In: Faith, Living
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Trigger waring: This post contains suicidal thoughts If you or someone you know is thinking about harming themself, please call the 24-hour National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 You are not alone ❤ It was a Thursday morning, a few years ago now, when the forecasted high was below freezing, and soft tufts of snow fell from an endless gray sky. I was driving to work, late as always, knowing I wasn’t going to make it that far. Earlier that morning, I had made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, changed diapers, and asked my husband to take the kids to daycare,...

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