Not My Highlight Reel: The Ugly Stuff and the Help of the People Around Me

“Don’t compare your highlight reel to someone else’s behind the scenes footage.” 

- Unknown

    One of our athletes posted this quote the other day and it hit home for me. If you take a gander at my Facebook or Instagram (@NikolleSetley), you’ll find lots of motivational tidbits along with PRs and all of the nutrition/body composition experiments I choose to take on along with my recommendations on how to best move through life given the lessons I’ve learned (I, too, am still learning and will continue to learn until my time is up). You’ll also find happy photos of my relationship and my happy puppies. You’ll see photos of salads and me pretending to like them. I try to stay as “real” as possible, but with so many eyes on me now as a leader in the gym and my general disinterest in letting people in and dropping that wall of badassery, I tend to stay on the more positive side. My point here is this: you don’t see the ugly stuff. You really shouldn’t see the ugly stuff, sure (like the black wolf Jax busting through our apartment window with his head because he saw a leaf blow by outside or how long it actually takes me to eat that salad because I don’t enjoy them). But you shouldn’t believe that my life is as perfect as my Instagram might suggest. No one’s is. 

      That said, I want to share with you a big “ugly” in my life. If this relates to only one person who reads this, I’m a winner. I share this “ugly” with many people in America (16.1 million reported one or more episodes in 2015 alone) and worldwide - some diagnosed, some not. I have dealt, in different capacities, with major depression my entire life. This was diagnosed very early on - some time in junior high when I couldn’t even get out of bed for school because the disorder had such a hold on me. In addition, although not diagnosed professionally, it’s probably fair to say I walk around with general anxiety on a daily basis. To dispel any myths on the subject, major depression can manifest in the following ways: general sadness (most common understanding but not always the defining factor), hopelessness, exhaustion (inability to even get in the shower), inability to function through your daily routine, a general disinterest in life and everything around you, among others. Throw in some constant anxiety and you aren’t going to catch a break. 

A #blackwolf with eyes on me and my dinner 👀 #dogsofinsta #Ajax

A post shared by Nik (@nikollesetley) on

    Growing up, depression, anxiety and my inability to understand why these things were plaguing me put a pretty huge damper on my junior high, high school and college years. So much so that I cringe even thinking about it. I mean, junior high and high school is already such a difficult time - girls are bitches - but when you couple that with depression, it gets really ugly. These days, the depression comes more in episodes than a general cloudiness over my life. This brings me to the real reason I’m writing this blog. 


    Today, I am coming out of an episode that has lasted from Sunday until waking up this morning (Wednesday). That’s three and a half days that I won’t get back.  What this looks like for me:  sleep through the night, get up to coach one class, drive right back home to sleep until the last minute before having to go back to work in the afternoons and then coming straight home and going back to sleep. This makes your partner very worried - “How can you sleep that long?!” Well, depression. It’s a dark cloud that knocks you out for days. I don’t even remember the last three days. Seriously. I don’t. I have also been completely disengaged with everyone around me this week. There’s a really good chance that the only words I spoke were inside the hour I was coaching - and that was because I had to. It’s also embarrassing how little food I’ve eaten because of the episode (when you hibernate, you don’t eat). Showering has been a chore. Don’t even ask me if my legs are shaved. If you really know me, you’re laughing because shaving my legs seems to be a chore even when I’m happy ;).


    All of these things are normal for me when I’m inside the episode. What’s different now is that I have to function in a job that is very people-facing and I cannot let my depression dictate how I make others feel. The last time the black (depression) took hold of me, I was in a corporate job in a cubicle where the people around me weren’t necessarily concerned with my mental state. I could hide out from everyone and those around me were, for the most part, unaffected. 

    Now, my job is to position others to live their best life. I am essentially a public speaker, I am a life coach, I am a source of motivation, and I am a source of strength for others. Believe it or not, there are a few out there that would call me their role model. All eyes are on me. If I’m “off,” they notice. I wear my emotions on my sleeve (hello RBF and grumpy face), but our community has the ability to sniff out my bad days even when I try to hide it. Outside of Black Wolf, my mom’s radar goes off in Cypress and she blows my phone up with text messages before I even say anything. Moms know. This has been really, really hard on me. “But they love you! That should make your bad days better!” In the moment, it makes it worse. I push away when I get too deep in the black - mostly because emotion makes me cry and badasses don’t cry, right?! Wrong. 


    The love makes it worse in the moment (harder to explain than expected), but when I’m able to come out of the darkness (today, for example), I am overwhelmed with gratitude to those who pushed my buttons a little this week or offered some love without even knowing what was happening with me. 


    The message I’d like to leave you with is this: we are all so imperfect and we all have our “things” but with the right tools and people around us, we can get through anything and maybe learn some lessons along the way. Lean into the discomfort. Learn more about yourself - there is nothing wrong with you. Ask for help. Be the help someone else needs. Do not compare your behind the scenes footage to someone else’s highlight reel. Only when we let go of comparison and accept our truest selves do we have the opportunity to be free. Live the life you were given unapologetically. You are not alone. #itsbettertogether


For more info on topics like depression and vulnerability, there is really no better place to start than Brenee Brown. She has quite a few books out but Nikolle's favorite Daring Greatly. If reading is not on the agenda then listen to my man Tim Ferriss interview Brenee on his podcast