Beating Depression Made Me a Better Trainer

By an Inspiring Wolfpack Leader: Orlando Deral


Reflecting on the world of fitness, one of the first thoughts that comes to mind is the word ’challenge.’

One of my greatest challenges helped prepare me to impact the lives of others through fitness. That challenge? Battling through depression.

I didn’t grow up with a family that would acknowledge depression. My family would call it a ‘hard time’ or a ‘hard season.’ They’d offer solutions like visiting church and saying my prayers. Although I am a firm believer in the power of prayer, I am also a believer in personal responsibility. It’s on me to change my own circumstances. 

I had always understood that everything is mental and that our thoughts are extremely powerful.

But after experiencing a major loss due to a bad investment, life hit me harder than say, a Mack truck doing 90 MPH on an open freeway. At least, that’s what it felt like. I’d experienced ups and downs in my life before but always recovered. This situation, however, felt different. It was a hit to my mind, body, and soul.

I didn’t realize I was going through depression. Yet, I’m sure that was a normal feeling to have after being forced to move out of an amazing apartment to sleep in a car.

I slept in various places where I felt safe enough to close my eyes despite my car doors being locked: hotel parking lots, 24-hour grocery stores, etc. All of this took a mental toll on me.

Ultimately I only ended up visiting the gym to shower and then walking right back to my car without working out. 

Let’s fast-forward a few years later…I slowly took steps towards getting my mind back on track, with help, of course. I started working out and quickly realized that this is what I had been missing. I remember being on the treadmill running, sweating, and imagining an amazing path ahead of me that I was running towards.

After a small injury to my knee, I looked at a spin bike… I mean, really stood back, gave it a once-over, then got on. I thought to myself…‘This is not bad.’ 

Going through a depression, and then having to fight it off every day until it finally left my mind and body made me stronger yet more vulnerable at the same time. I’m open to really experiencing my true feelings - not simply brushing them off. I learned that despite how hard, tough, or challenging something might be, I can overcome it with the proper help and assistance — and of course, exercise.

One last thing. Most humans, including myself back then, think we can do it all on our own. Sometimes we have a tendency to believe we can fix ourselves. Now, that part is true…but you have to do the hard work, such as reading, seeking counsel or a life coach, getting a personal trainer, or even going to a new exercise class even though you might be intimidated. I learned that there is nothing we can’t do by putting our mind to it first…and then adding action.

Q&A with Orlando:

Q: We’d love to dive deeper into what you mean when you say everything is mental.

A: The way I live life has to do with both my mental perception, and results as a product of the mind. I was taught at a young age that you have what you say and as a man thinketh, then it shall be - meaning our thoughts will come alive. I could go on about how and what I think about this, because I love and study the mind. If we continue thinking about cheesecake everyday, but are not wanting to eat desserts, then it is a matter of time before we’re holding a fork to our mouths eating what we did not want, yet thought of so deeply. Once there’s control over the mind and thoughts, we access the power to go forth along the desired path. Even if we get thrown off that course, we can get right back on. 

Q: How did living in parking lots take a mental toll on you? 

A: A hit to my sense of self-worth, helplessness, and the inability to pick back up all had a huge impact on my mental stability. Coming from having it all and being able to obtain what I wanted, and then experiencing a sudden shift where everything was taken away was difficult. I was unable to reach out for help, because people would say, “You are a strong healthy man, you can get out there and work and make it happen.” This was true, but when your thoughts are in a dark place, people don’t realize it’s not easy to triumph. 

Follow Orlando on Instagram: @optimumperformancecoach