Often, I am reminded how great my 20's are supposed to be. The enthusiastic ones will say, "These are the best years of your life!" or "These are your selfish years, do what you want to do." Then there are the ones who cannot let go.

"I would do anything to have my twenties back."

I have enjoyed my 20's so far — from playing college football, joining a fraternity, to finding a passion in bodybuilding, and discovering a new talent in writing. In your twenties, you find out about yourself and grow mentally as well as emotionally. I am described as a happy-go-lucky, charismatic, and funny person. This is the side of me  that people see.

I call this my poker face.

Then there is my other side.

A darker side, a side of me that not many have encountered. When I turned 19, I learned that I had  bipolar-depression and anxiety, amongst other illnesses. I never knew what it was growing up. I remember feeling on top of the world; I felt as if I could do anything and everything set out in front of me. On other days, my heart would be in my chest, my thoughts would race, my mind would never sit still,and I always felt as if I would die if I stepped outside. This led me to where I would feel "blue" on the inside. I would want to lay in bed all day, I would be toxic, I would lash out, cry, and take my pain and anger out on the unsuspecting people who cared about me.


I never knew how to deal with such crushing weight. I turned to women. This seemed like the answer; depression would subside, but as soon as the women left, the dark gray clouds would appear over my head. No matter how many women I juggled, it seemed to never be enough. I then turned to partying to try and drown the anxious thoughts from my mind. This, in fact, made it worse. I hated the crowds and the loud music. I was quickly running out of options.

I ran into cocaine and heroin.

These two found me at what I thought was my lowest point. They took me in and made me feel the way I had always wanted to feel. I thought these two were my antidotes to depression and anxiety. Inside me, they created a new normal. I was happy, so I thought. I had two near death experiences. I soon realized these two are not who they made themselves out to be.

The Early Morning Pump

A fast paced early morning workout makes for the best anti-depressant. There is something about hearing the weight clanging, feeling the lactic acid build up in your working muscle groups, and the heavy sweat that sits on your forehead that makes you feel immortal. Knowing that I am progressing from where I was a week ago, lifts that I could only do four times are now getting done six times, the finding of new veins running through my arms each time I cut down, and the sun starting to rise as I am finishing raise my endorphins like no other. To some, the gym is a place where they go to stay "healthy" three times a week as prescribes by their doctor. To me, the gym is an escape, a place where I feel invincible. For those two hours that I exert myself, I feel more alive than I have ever before.

RELATED: How Bodybuilding Changed My Life

Whether I am doing a max effort squat or a high volume, high-rep push and pull workout, it takes away those feelings of inadequacy and fear that depression and anxiety hold over my head. It is tough getting up at 4:45 and being in the gym by 5:30. It isn't the best feeling knowing you cannot stay out late with friends because you have a morning session the next day.

But once you finish, you feel alive. You feel a rush of happiness and excitement about your day you would not feel anywhere else. Early morning fast paced training session are the best and most effective antidepressants.

You got this, champ. I believe in you.

A simple seven word phrase can change someone's life. I was laying in a hospital bed when a man, who I have never seen before came to sit by me. 


We began talking to me and he asked me what led me to being in the hospital. I told him I overdosed. He looked at me, not in a judgmental way, but in a way that he had been there once before himself. While I broke eye contact with him, he continued to stare at me and said "I do not know what you have gone through. I do not know you at all. You can do this. You got this, champ. I believe in you."

I started crying. I had not cried like this since I was seven or eight years old. He said these words to me and I felt a sense of purpose, all that was racing in my head stopped, and I had a determination and drive I had not had in a long time. I said to myself, "You can stay in this hole, or you can dig yourself out." It was from that day, I felt like I could do anything, all because of the words of a stranger.

Encouragement is the key to better pumps, as well as the sword to slay depression. "Let's go, give me another!" and "Up, up, up, up, up!" are overlooked phrases — phrases heard daily in the gym from our training partners, or overheard around the gym. Repetition is key for encouragement; the more you hear these, the more you are likely to push yourself which results in getting a PR or finishing a hard set. Encouragement can push you past barriers that you never knew you had. Encouragement gives us the confidence needed to take on any and all tasks.

I need daily encouragement to stay sober. I may never overcome depression, anxiety, or the thoughts of Her(oin). With encouragement everywhere I turn, it can be done. To have daily encouragement, I suggest writing down five quotes that inspire you and make you want to change the world, as well as  a playlists of go-to songs to keep you going.

Encouragement and the Pump

Put these two together, and you have a recipe for a powerful antidepressant, one that a psychiatrist or Walgreen's cannot prescribe. This one is natural! I have been using these dosages since 2012 and my results are excellent.

Yes, I still have days where my depression is bad and my anxiety makes it impossible to want to do anything. Sometimes I have to lay in bed for an extra hour or read over my quotes, affirmations, and listen to my playlists a little extra on some days. Ambition to be the best that I can be, day in and day out, keeps me motivated. You may not be struggling with anxiety and depression as I do, you may not be in constant search of the pump as I am, either. If you can find something along with encouragement to get you through your days, then you will be successful.

As Dave Tate once told me, keep kicking ass.

If you are struggling, let this be a guide for you to make it.