Fighting the post-fight blues. Tell me about it…
After a fight, especially a big win, the days and even weeks after the fight are filled with congratulating messages from proud friends and family. A common question that follows is,” how are you feeling?” I slap on a smile and in parrot fashion, mouth off some rehearsed line about feeling on top of the world. That’s a lie.
The truth is that I’m contemplating the meaning of life, I feel depressed- and I’m not alone! As fighters, we can be drunk in victory on fight night, only to be reduced to a sobering numbness by Monday. As a recovering addict, I’m all too familiar with the sense of loss and emptiness on a drug comedown- and the subsequent itch to find the next high as a remedy. It’s my experience with addiction that sparked my interest in digging deeper into the “post-fight blues”.
The experience is not that different from the drops we all feel after major milestones, such as getting married or giving birth. I recall a similar feeling after I published my book too but there isn’t anything quite like a post-fight comedown! If you’ve never experienced this particular type of blues before, you might be asking yourself “why?” The usual come-down off of a life high can be made more pronounced by an event like a fight because of a few factors: the intensity and length of the preparation, the magnitude of the accomplishment and the depth of the ensuing fatigue.
When we’re training, we’re immersed in a cycle of stress and then release, bolstered by high dopamine levels and endorphins. I think it’s what makes this pursuit of our sport so addictive! We like that feeling of being fully absorbed in our experience and when such a cycle ends, the need to get that feeling back is all-encompassing, but so is the feeling of exhaustion. There is a loss of the physiological and chemical high we get from training and there is a loss of power and energy as we are physically and emotionally depleted- a multi-layered, overwhelming sense of emptiness and loss!
Interestingly enough, losing is somehow easier because there is a logical reason a fighter can attach to the feeling of depression and hopefully, a sense of urgency will follow that will get a fighter back to the gym and work on whatever it was that cost them the fight.
Embrace the entire process
Perhaps the low mood is just a return to baseline and maybe the conscious choice to embrace the entire process is the answer. We often think of “fight camp” as the training ahead of the fight and fight night as the climax. What if fight camp was the ebbs and flows of the entire process, including the two weeks after the fight?
The process of fighting gives a fighter raw insight into their naked, imperfect self. There is a learning to accept and improve and no matter the result, you are left a richer individual for having ventured into a very tough place and come out the other side.
If the pressure to excel is a privilege then perhaps the post-fight anticlimax is a similar kind of gift? An opportunity to explore who you are – and who you have become outside of all the activity and rush and focus?