High school for me was hell, but not for the “usual” reasons. I was never picked on and had many friends. I got straight A’s and graduated salutatorian of my class. My home life was great. My parents gave me everything I needed and most of the things I wanted. I was prom and homecoming king. And I was a three sport athlete. I don’t say this to brag, but to show how seemingly perfect my life was. But here’s what others didn’t see. Depression consumed my life and had from a fairly young age. I started going to a therapist my junior year, but quickly stopped when people began to notice my absences from class. From that point forward, I put on a face for show and silently battled demons that even my closest friends didn’t know I had. I learned some coping mechanisms, but I was far from well. And when it came time for me to head away to college, my mom was hesitant to let me leave. She didn’t know how I would react to this huge change. I would have never told her this at the time, but she was right to be concerned. Enter the college lifestyle, quite possibly the worst method imaginable for coping with depression. I was in constant flux between manic euphoria and utter hopelessness. At one moment I was on top of the world, the next I had lost all desire to live. In times when I was void of all positive sensation, I sought pain just to make sure that I was still capable of feeling human emotion. These periods void of positivity became increasingly frequent, and the search for pain became more intense. I began to isolate myself from any and all relationships. I also frequently lost my appetite, losing 15 pounds during my first year and becoming medically underweight. But my real wake up call was experiencing my first panic attack. I was just standing there when the room started spinning. I lost my sense or hearing. I was gasping for air, and it felt as if I were breathing through a straw. I was certain at that moment that I was going to die. After a few minutes, the attack had passed and I was left completely broken and attempting to pick up the pieces. It was only after this that I realized that I needed to make a change. I had always been hesitant to turn to medication. I had read too many side effects and heard of too many negative experiences. And to be completely honest, I didn’t trust myself pills of any sort. So I began researching alternative treatments. Time and time again I found studies and first hand accounts praising the effects of a clean diet and exercise. Having nothing to lose, I gave it a try. I began eating clean starting with a whole foods and eventually moving to a plant based diet. I’ve done workout regimens as diverse as running 10 miles several times per week to weight training with yoga on rest days. That was nearly two years ago, and I can confidently say that I am well. It has not been an easy road. I have had episodes of depression and panic attacks since then, but they have become less frequent and much less severe. I’ve gained back all my weight and then some. My body looks good and feels great. My outlook on life has improved significantly, to the point where I enjoy life and value each day that I’m given. The journey to recovery has been hard. It has taken worlds of discipline and determination. But when a truly happy life is the prize, the cost is irrelevant. While there have been many other influences in my recovery, none have changed me to the extent that diet and exercise have. To be able to exercise effectively, it is vital to fuel the body properly. And exercise is as much about the mind as it is the body. Pushing myself to accomplish difficult tasks in the gym has helped me to accomplish difficult tasks in life. It has taught me to embrace all of life’s challenges with open arms and use them as mechanisms of growth. So I’m making it a point to share my story. And when I came across this amazing site, I found the perfect platform. Such an amazing concept with a noble goal. Hopefully I can help you spread the hope!