The 2003 Kansas City Chiefs Saved My Life

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No matter how many times you fall, you can always climb back up, all you need is a ledge to grab on to.

No matter how many times you fall, you can always climb back up, all you need is a ledge to grab on to. 

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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.

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 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!

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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. 

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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.

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KenW
KenW

thank you for sharing Mitko… Having battled depression for most of my adult life I also was at the brink of ending it all one night a number of years ago. I was actually sitting down writing a goodbye letter to my parents when my phone rang. It was late, close to midnight and I looked at caller ID and it was my mom who typically would have been asleep and had never called me after 9:00 pm my whole life. I answered the phone and first words I hear was mom asking me if I was ok. I replied yeah i’m fine mom. she said ok that she just had a feeling she needed to call me and glad to hear I was doing ok and she hung up. That phone call stopped me in my tracks and to this day when I think about it I get goosebumps and a cold chill throughout my body. That night I swore that taking my own life was not an option as long as my parents were still alive. It was such a short call and surreal moment that the next day I had to check my caller ID to even believe it happened. While I have thought about ending it a number of times since I always remember that call and the oath I made so it has never become an option since that night. Dad’s about to turn 80 and mom is a year behind him, while he’s still healthy and doing well mom isn’t. Being an only child after my parents are gone I will have no one and very little left in this world that I care much about. The thing that scares me now is not knowing what I will do once they are gone and I am no longer bound by that oath I made all those years ago. As I sit here typing this I have no plans either way and isn’t something I think about often but your post has brought that reality back into my thoughts. I will say i’m glad to… Read more »

zulu trader
zulu trader

I banned myself from this thread

suffer from BiPolar depression. 45 years, now. Great meds on the market nowadays. We didn’t have those 30-40 years ago.

. . and I don’t want t hear anybody say “WE THOUGHT SO”

Confused Mental Health GIF by Lisa Vertudaches - Find & Share on GIPHY

gonzangkc11
gonzangkc11

No one’s here to judge 🙂 thx 4 sharing story
Somewhere it’s written. LET HE WITHOUT SIN, CAST THE 1ST STONE

Real life…
Always keep positive people around you & CUT out energy drainer, including family. Amazon audiobook…listen to positive reinforcement surrounds yourself with love, positive energy, positive, positive, positive

Coming from a man/me that- lived 100% on my own since 14. 1 of my uncle’s was biggest weed dealer in town. Other biggest coke dealer. I was surrounded with negative. I never touched that shit.

Fast forward to present…
When you have made it (be it financial, family, faith or whatever)- send the elevator back down to — lift someone UP 😉

Stay strong my Brother;)

BleedingRedAndGold

I’ve been keeping tabs on the developments, but first and foremost I’m going to say that you shouldn’t take this as a suggestion to hit the black market for some, as my understanding it that it’s part of a therapy, not a magic bullet. But today I learned (from this article) that the FDA is putting some of the research on “fast track” status. Point is that there’s work being done to improve the treatment of depression, and some of it’s very promising. Hang in there, Kingdom kindred, there’s a lot of folks working on things and progress is being made – and in the meantime you have folks you can lean on.

https://www.livescience.com/psilocybin-depression-breakthrough-therapy.html

AlaskaChief
AlaskaChief

Wow, this is a wonderful piece. You have described the feelings and struggles that I have personally tried to overcome better than I could ever put into words. Your descriptions of the feelings of self-doubt, being in a dark place, etc are exactly how I have felt. I’m not usually one to go online to talk about myself at all, but this really spoke to me today. Even though we have never met, I can specifically relate to everything that you said here. When I was 17 I had my first real bout with suicide, wrote a note and everything. I somehow got through it without professional help, which in hindsight was a mistake. I’m now 34 years old, and the depression and negative thoughts run rampant. Chiefs football is my number 1 distraction from these feelings. Even in the off-season, when I can’t sleep (every night), I put on games from the previous season to calm my mind. Over the last couple of years the struggle has been the hardest it has ever been. I have been in-and-out of counseling, but due to our terrible healthcare system, I am never able to keep a long-term relationship with my counselors. The “red tape” that you have to go through in order to get mental health coverage was extremely discouraging, and even forced me to “quit” seeking help. My wife has been a great help with my depression, and I open up to her better than anyone in my life, but there is only so much that she can do. I constantly worry that my problems will eventually overwhelm her, and she will leave. That is what depression does to people. It makes you second guess your support systems. It makes you tell yourself that the people that care about you don’t actually care. It makes you believe that people will be better off without you. Depression is the enemy of logic, because (for me at least) it makes you believe that these emotional responses ARE logical. This is a disease that I struggle with daily, and like you said, there… Read more »

fishbowl72

Brother, I’m in the same boat right now. Been battling serious demons. My girl left me Sunday. She came into town Friday, spent the weekend with her gay friend… even after I told her about my dad’s cancer, my own cancer problems, and I just got out of the hospital for diverticulitis. I asked her for a little bit of alone time because that’s a lot to deal with alone. Somehow he was more important than my problems. So I was the bad guy for being needy. So the rest of my trauma bullshit kicked in. Haven’t been able to work in 3 years, 2 years overdue for my cancer screening (necessary since I had surgery to remove a cancerous kidney), no insurance and can’t pay to treat my other health issues, still dealing with the fact my infant preemie daughter died in my arms, and other assorted fun stuff. So on the day the Lamar Hunt Trophy came back to KC I was barely hanging on. I decided to get help Monday morning. I made a 45 minute session turn into a 3 hour session. I made a shrink with a Masters degree and 20 years on the job fucking weep with my life story, and didn’t even get to the real painful shit.

MasterChief
MasterChief

All that and here you’re still are. Keep on moving, man. Try to appreciate anything good you can think of… the feeling of sun on your skin, breathing fresh air, a good meal, the Chiefs, whatever. Just try to fill your head with anything good and keep on moving. You need to stick around a while and enjoy many years of the Mahomes Era. You’ll be happy you did. Sending positive vibes your way!

gonzangkc11
gonzangkc11

I’ll keep you in prayer.
If u want pls share your- first name only – for prayer purposes

Tyrone

Dude, you are awesome.

Goddard Bolt
Goddard Bolt

Thank you for this Mitko.

As someone who has attempted suicide young it was almost impossible to deal with those feelings growing up. I was never diagnosed because my family didn’t have money to even look into it then, not to mention I kept it all bottled up inside so no one really knew. Many many years of struggling and visits to dark places that I would not wish on anyone.

The good news is I am better today. At age 41, I have a family and lots of reasons to fight and never go back to that place. But I have also gotten professional help since and continue to do so. Never be afraid to tell someone (ANYONE) that you are struggling and need help. There are plenty of people and working solutions out there to help us get by day by day.

Be kind to people and help whenever you can. You never know what kind of impact you will have on someone’s life.

Thanks again.

Go Chiefs!

Maw423
Maw423

Mental health is such a complicated animal. My hat’s off to anyone who has fought thru depression and many other mental health issues. Its men like you, willing to speak up, that become somebody else’s 2003 Chiefs. There’s nothing weak about you, brother!

ForeverRanger91
ForeverRanger91

You guys know my battle with this horrible disease and so this piece hit me deep.

BleedingRedAndGold

And I’ve made no secret of my own Psych problems here. I think one of the greatest things about AG is how many people are supportive when someone discusses their mental health struggles. It’s a shame that society in general isn’t like that, but it has to start somewhere. Why not here?

Coincidentally, there’s a piece in today’s Star talking about a couple Titans fans who came to the game being blown away by how the Kingdom in attendance treated them. So perhaps this piece of our site culture can spread, in time. I hope so, anyway.

tadream0
tadream0

Your words are strong and necessary. Thank you for this. I struggled with a deep bout of depression a few years back. I managed to get through it by forcing myself to start doing some things for others. That helped me find some worth to my own life. Eventually, I managed to come out on the other end, but truthfully, once depression comes to you, it is like a dark cloud that always looms on the horizon. Some days it moves in, others days, it drifts back almost out of view…almost, but not quite, because once you have been there, that feeling never leaves you. I also tend to be pretty OCD about things, so once something happens, I become hyper-focused on it, which means it really controls you. The only way away from it, for me, was to engage myself in other things, like helping others, so as to quit focusing on myself. And I don’t think there is anything harder in the world to do. I teach high school and am very watchful of my students. I know how hard the teen years can be as someone is growing and changing, especially if things at home are less than ideal. I tell myself that maybe my going through what I did may help me be a better person for someone going through the hardship and not feeling like they have a life line. Depression is a nasty thing. It is so much worse than just feeling down because something didn’t go the way you wanted. It is your own self-conscience beating you up because of any God-forsaken reason. You don’t just rise up out of it. I do not know what sent me there and I really don’t know how I knew I had managed to escape out of it. Also, being male, depression is not talked about because it isn’t “manly”, which makes male depression even harder. The sense of isolation and fear of losing everything seems dominant. Thankfully, now, I have ideas of what to watch for, both in myself and in others, so I choose… Read more »

4thQtrMagic

Glad you are here today. Thanks for sharing!

sydenham

Praise and thanks for you and for this community.

MasterChief
MasterChief

Mitko, thank you for this!!! It takes a lot of courage to write such personal things about yourself. I’m certainly glad and thankful to God that you’re here with us. I guarantee anyone that knows you is too.

Having lost my 2 oldest brothers to suicide, this article means so much to me. Experiencing the pain of being a “survivor”, meaning one of the ones left behind, I know it’s VERY IMPORTANT for all of us to have this conversation from time to time. We never know who might be feeling depressed and/or suicidal at any moment and those people have to know that their feelings will likely pass. There is always going to be light at the end of the tunnel; you just have to keep walking through it.

I appreciate you, Mitko! I know we all do. I also know your article might save someone else’s life like the Chiefs did for you. Thank you!!!

GO CHIEFS!!!!!!!!!!

starry1

Awesome write-up. I wish more men would bare their feelings like this instead of “manning up” cause that’s just not healthy. Hell, even a lot of women too.

sydenham

My daughter would echo this, she knows me and has similar tendencies, whereas while Mrs Syd knows me she is a forthright in-your-face type who rarely dwells on stuff because she’s incredibly positive and deals with stuff immediately and moves on. Thanks to the angels in our lives.

MidKan Chiefs Lifer
MidKan Chiefs Lifer

Thank you so much for this article. It was absolutely amazing and inspiring.

I have never struggled with depression to the extent that you have but have definitely had some lesser battles. I cant say I ever truly thought about suicide or at least didnt plan on carrying out a plan, but I often found myself thinking that others would be better if I died. I also often wondered if my parents or brother would be sad if i died. Like i said it was not to the extent of making plans to commit suicide, but i didnt like myself much as a kid. As I have gotten older and now have kids I deal with the thoughts much better than I used to. But i still have thoughts that my kids would be better without me, or my wife would be are still fairly constant in my life. I can usually work myself out of these places sometimes I lean on my wife and kiddos for the help to get back to the happy side.

Depression and suicide / mental illness seem to be the most overlooked and shunned issues in the US. It takes brave people like yourself to help bring light to the situation. Thanks again!

EAFOX

Inspirational

QuackTastic
QuackTastic

Great stuff man. You should be proud.

Caleb Durland

We love ya Pete! And what an amazing article. Probably will go down as one of my all time favorites on this site. Amazing job!

Dave

Damn. Love ya brother!