No matter how many times you fall, you can always climb back up, all you need is a ledge to grab on to.
This is probably the hardest article I’ve ever had to write. You’d think that with over fifteen years of time and countless mental drafts I’d be prepared and ready. But I’m not. To be honest, I’m not just scared, I’m absolutely terrified to write and publish this. It’s one thing to share this story with close friends and family, but it’s another to open this up for the world to see. To post it on the internet for people to judge not just my writing, but who I was and who I am now as a person. But I made a promise to myself that if Kansas City ever reached the Super Bowl I would write it. Because I owe it to the Chiefs, and more importantly I owe it to others, who may be struggling through what happened with me, even if they don’t know or can’t express it. This is the story of how the Kansas City Chiefs saved my life.
Most Chiefs fans will associate the 2003 season with “The No-Punt game.” Another marker in the long history of Kansas City playoff failure. But for me, that season will always be marked by a different game. Probably the most meaningful Chiefs game in my entire life.
October 12, 2003: Trent Green and the (6-0) Chiefs headed to Lambeau to take on Brett Farve and the Green Bay Packers. The entire city was buzzing with excitement about the Chiefs’ undefeated start. Everyone was happy, except for me. You see, I was fourteen at the time and battling Depression and thoughts of suicide.
I just didn’t know it. I had no idea the emotions and feelings that I had weren’t natural or normal. I assumed that people my age were suppose to not want to be alive, that making plans on a daily basis to kill yourself was natural. That hating yourself and your life every waking moment was normal. I didn’t understand that Depression warps your thoughts and your cognitive functions so badly that you can’t think straight, that you can’t feel or even see yourself feeling any happiness, or really any emotion other than the darkness and despair that engulfs you for days, weeks, months, even years. You become a captive of your own thoughts, a dark and deadly voice telling you that the people closest to you, that care about you the most in secret hate you and what happens to you doesn’t matter to them. That line of thinking ends up driving you away from those you care about the most, turning those thoughts into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Depression is a slippery slope that spirals downward. One that you have to fight and claw inch by inch back up or else it will swallow you whole. And on that October Sunday I almost slipped falling into a cavern of permanence. One with no return.
If not for the Chiefs I might not be writing this now. Looking back on that day, I have no idea what the trigger for my overwhelming emotion was. Why I was feeling so much hopelessness and despair. Maybe I didn’t do as well on a test as I had hoped, maybe I wasn’t invited to a friend’s birthday party. It seems silly… no that’s not the right wording.. it seems absolutely insane that I don’t even remember why I felt like I couldn’t go on living and that dying was my only option. But that’s what Depression does; it doesn’t allow your mind to make the proper determination of situations and instead overloads your emotions. To be honest the 2003 Chiefs’ magically undefeated run was the only thing that kept me going at the time. I had to make it to each Sunday. Because each Sunday I knew the Chiefs were playing and I could salvage some excitement, some moment of happiness to escape the sadness the surrounded me every other day. Again, at the time I didn’t know that everyone else wasn’t going through this. To me everyone else seemed to be able to fight these feelings of despair with such ease and I considered myself weak for not being able to. I hated myself for it every day. Every day but Sunday.
The game against the Packers was the first time I felt my brief break from happiness slip away from my grasp. I had put all my faith, all my hope into the Chiefs winning every game that when it looked like the Chiefs might not succeed just one time, everything else in my life would fall apart. The Chiefs fell down early, 14-0 in the 1st quarter, but fought back, tying the game early in the 2nd. But then the Packers went on a run, scoring 17 unanswered points and bringing the game to the 4th quarter. That was it for me I thought, “When this game is over I’m going to end my life.” I had a method and a place all figured out. Such a foolish line of thinking I had, such a corrupted view of life on this big blue planet. But to me with Depression clouding my mind at the time, my reasoning seemed sound. “Nothing will ever get better. Any time I place my faith in something it falls apart. I’ll never really be happy. I’ll be gone and nothing in the world will change.”
But then, something crazy happened. The Chiefs started to come back. Priest Holmes scored from one yard out, Jerome Woods intercepted Farve 79 yards for a pick-six, Trent Green hit Gonzalez 67 yards and Morten Anderson kicked the field goal. The game was tied at 31 a piece. The Packers would add another 3, but Anderson would return the score with another FG, this time with only 5 seconds left in regulation. The game was headed to overtime. The way the game had gone whoever got the ball first would probably score and win. The Chiefs won the toss and drove down the field, setting up Anderson for the game winning field goal. But it was blocked! With Green Bay in excellent field position with a potent offense, the Chiefs’ incredible comeback seemed all for nought. But on the next play the Packers fumbled the ball and then Trent Green hit Eddie Kennison 51 yards for the game winning touchdown!
I was ecstatic, feeling euphoria I haven’t felt in a long time that lasted for days. More importantly I had forgotten all about my plans and the pit of despair and darkness didn’t feel so inescapable anymore. I thought, “If the Chiefs can make it out of such a dire situation against all odds, why couldn’t I?” For the first time, I felt like I had a solid grasp of something, a ledge or a stone of hope, and that I could begin my climb out of the hole of Depression. A few weeks later I finally built up the courage to talk to a family member about what I was feeling and my plans of suicide. I ended up getting help. I wish I could tell you that like in a Hollywood movie after that moment everything got better and that I cured my Depression. But that would be a lie and a disservice to the millions of people suffering from the same condition. I wish it were that similar, but Depression isn’t a black and white condition that can be cured with a simple doctor’s visit.
To be fair, I still struggle with it to this day. But the more tricks you learn the easier it is to cope with. This last year was easily the worst year of my life. Everything that I had once depended up fell apart, piece by piece. But once again the Chiefs helped me keep my world intact, and kept me from falling too far into the darkness. This time I was more prepared than before. I knew every Sunday I had the Chiefs to look forward to, but I didn’t rely on just their success to keep me going. (That’s a mistake I made when I was younger and I hope no one ever makes it again. The risks are far too great.) Instead I built a hobby of the happiness and excitement I feel watching the Chiefs play. Writing articles, recording podcasts, doing film breakdown, and most importantly becoming part of a community I trust in Arrowhead Guys, so now I don’t feel so alone, even at my worst.
Depression is a non-stop battle. But that doesn’t mean that you have to face it on your own. I hope none of you reading this have ever felt or will ever feel the way I did. But I know that’s a false hope, so instead I hope this article reaches the people who need to hear it the most. Those feeling depressed or suicidal, know that you aren’t alone. That others have and had these feelings, but that doesn’t mean they are natural or normal. Don’t give up. If someone as self-seemingly weak as me can climb out of that pit after falling in time and time again, so can you. You are so much that I am. I believe in you. I have faith in you. And no matter how many times you fall, you can always climb back up, all you need is a ledge to grab on to.
Sports are marked by many as just entertainment, a distraction from life. But that distraction, that brief euphoria you feel watching your team can break you from the worst of ruts. The distraction of sports ended up being my ledge. The Chiefs are going to the freakin Superbowl. Trust me when I say there is more than enough room for both of us here.