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home : news : news Wednesday, May 25, 2016

8/28/2013 Email this articlePrint this article 
Offering a fighting chance. Jens Pulver of the Quad Cities, the first-ever lightweight world champion in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, will be the guest speaker at the annual Walk for Hope in DeWitt Saturday, Sept. 21. Although world renowned for his success as an athlete and fierce competitor, Pulver long has battled anxiety and depression and is going to share his story in hopes of encouraging others who are suffering to keep fighting, and to bring comfort to those who have lost loved ones to suicide. Contributed photo
Seventh-annual Walk for Hope slated Saturday, Sept. 21
The MJL Foundation's seventh-annual Walk for Hope will be held Saturday, Sept. 21, at the Clinton County Fairgrounds.

Packet pick up and morning sign up will be 8-9:30 a.m. Persons may register on-line at
com> or . T-shirts will be available for those who register before Sept. 1.

Funds raised from this year's event will go to Bridgeview and its Teen Screen program. Last year's proceeds went to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and MJL Foundation organizers also are working on co-creating a DVD series on depression and suicide awareness to be viewed in schools and by small groups.

At 9:40 a.m., world-champion MMA fighter Jens Pulver will speak about his daily battle with anxiety and depression, followed by the walk at 10 a.m.

Booths will be set up to provide information on related organizations. There also will be a silent auction and a memory garden.

After the walk, participants will be able to enjoy tacos and chicken salad.

Professional fighter deems depression biggest battle of all

By Kate Howes
Staff writer

It's been said strength does not come from winning; rather, it's a person's struggles that develop his strengths.

Jens Pulver is living proof of that principle.

For those who recognize his name, it's most likely from the notoriety he has earned by becoming a world-class athlete and the Ultimate Fighting Championship's first lightweight world champion in Mixed Martial Arts (MMA).

However, when Pulver comes to DeWitt Saturday, Sept. 21, it won't be to talk about his battles in the ring.

Instead, he'll be speaking about something deeply personal that has challenged him more than any opponent he ever has faced in a fight.

Pulver is going to share the story of his ongoing battle with anxiety and depression with participants in this year's Walk For Hope.

As the selected speaker for the event, Pulver hopes revealing his own experience will help those who feel as though they're fighting a losing battle as well as those mourning the loss of people who resolved they were too weary to keep fighting.

Pulver was invited to speak by Walk for Hope organizer Michelle McKinnon, whose husband, Tim, published a book called "Never: Jens Pulver and the Wednesday Group that Will Change the World," detailing Pulver's journey through a horrific childhood and ending up at the top of his profession with a loving family and friends by his side.

After years of constant training and competing - which began with wrestling in high school and college and eventually led to MMA - Pulver admits his body isn't the finely tuned and infinitely powerful machine it once was.

Time has taken its toll and now he finds himself at a turning point.

Pulver's intent is to spend the next phase of his life helping others who have spent their lives being hounded by the same demons he faces every day.

Keep moving forward

Originally from Maple Valley, Wash., Pulver says he grew up with an abusive father; yet, it was his coaches who actually raised him.

"I had people around me who cared about me," he relates. "I have a project I'm working on called, 'Nvr Fly Solo,' and the whole idea of it is to encourage people to surround themselves with like-minded people, to hear their stories and to get things off their chest. Kids and adults need to learn how to find people just like them; people they can relate to and who understand them. Don't be alone."

Given the extent of the violence to which Pulver was subjected as a child, one would find it difficult to believe he could emerge such a success - both professionally and personally.

Yet, the message he wants to send to people is that surviving and succeeding didn't come without a lot of work, faith and trust.

At the same time, Pulver wants to encourage others if he can do it, they can do it, too.

"You just need to keep moving forward," he says. "Inch by inch, day by day you have to keep fighting. Everyone is a fighter. I tell people just what my coaches have told me, keep your chin down, hands up and come out swinging."

To those who have lost loved ones to suicide, Pulver implores them to let go of any guilt they may be holding in their hearts.

"First and foremost, they need to know it's not their fault," he notes. "The reality is, you can love somebody to the best of your abilities, but there's nothing you can do to control what's going on inside their head."

As much as he has suffered with depression over the course of his life, the 37-year-old says he never considered committing suicide.

After his 16-year-old cousin took his own life when Pulver was just 11, he saw the kind of anguish family and friends are forced to live with when someone they love has taken his or her own life.

"I remember the pain," Pulver shares. "I saw what it did to everybody around me and how everyone blamed themselves . . . that's just not the way to deal with it."

Don't close the door

As for his own pain, Pulver harnessed it and channeled it into athletics - specifically wrestling - and was fortunate to have mentors and coaches who helped him.

To this day, running, exercising and getting fresh air is a holistic way for Pulver to combat the seemingly endless cycle of feeling miserable.

"It's hard to be negative after you've gotten your blood moving," he relates. "You figure out, 'This feels pretty good.' (Depression) is like being on a roller coaster and I can't stand it. I battle it every day but I won't let it win."

Becoming a fighter is what helped keep Pulver balanced for so long. Finding something good that can at least balance out against the bad things in life is the key to surviving, he says.

Now, he finds himself having to start over and confesses he is humbled and apprehensive as to what the next chapter of his life holds.

However, with the love and support of his wife, children and friends, Pulver is moving forward and focused on helping others overcome their fears.

"You can't be afraid," he says of those who suffer with anxiety and depression. "You can't be afraid to get out of the house, to do things. You have to learn to put trust and faith in your life. Once you really start living, you realize how fragile life is and you appreciate it that much more.

"Don't close the door on the person you'll be five years from now. That person will be different. I just recently started communicating with my dad again. If you would've told me seven years ago I would be talking to him, I would've told you, 'If I see him, I'll kill him.' When I was a kid, if you told me someday I'd be a world champion, I would never have believed it. If you would've told me I'd meet someone like my wife and have three great kids, I wouldn't have believed it. Don't close that door . . . because one, five, 10 or 15 years from now, things will be different. Give yourself a fighting chance

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