Winning and Mental Consequences
It’s three days after my fight and I feel totally bummed out. Thing is, I won my fight. By all accounts it was one of my best and I felt really good about it in nearly every way. I was uninjured, so I came back to training the following morning and have had some excellent training in these few days following. My padwork feels really on-balance, my strikes are powerful and decisive, and my energy is good. And when you roll back into the gym after a big win (especially one that your Kru didn’t actually see, so it’s growing into legendary proportions with each telling) there’s a lot of positive energy toward you, “congratulations,” and all that. In this case, the patriarch of Petchrungruang gym (Bamrung) asked me to print up a photo of the championship belt being strapped on so we can hang it on the gym wall with the rest of the gym champions. Kru Nu, who scheduled the first fight I had against this opponent, where I lost miserably, told me afterwards that I couldn’t fight her again unless it was at 46 kg. Now he’s strutting around the gym telling everyone I can beat anyone at 47 kg (where this fight was) and he’s alternating between calling me “Terminator” and “Champion” which feels out of character a bit. He’s usually spare with praise. He’s downright proud. In short, the energy around the fight is still very high.
But I feel depressed. So what the hell is that about? Thing is, it’s not uncommon. There’s always a “come down” after a fight and the timeline can vary. It’s a chemical change in your brain, surges of adrenaline and dopamine have to level off at some point and usually that’s within a few hours of the fight. If you lose, sometimes you can feel like this pretty quickly and it can last for a few days while you feel sorry for yourself. It seems that in this particular case, I was riding on the “up” surge for a few days after the fight with all the positive energy around, and then it just had to come crashing down. Nothing is “wrong.” but it feels pretty shitty. A friend of mine just had a really great fight for herself and even though she lost the decision she was feeling really positively about it all. A few days later she made a joke about eating crap food and feeling sorry for herself, which I’m sure she attributes to having lost the fight rather than that your brain chemicals are making you a little crazy. You might be associating this dip to the kind of late-realization that you do care that you lost, but I’ve experienced this enough by now, one of the benefits of fighting 100 times, to know that you feel it either way – win or lose. When you lose, you think it’s because you lost. When you’ve won, you can’t attribute the feeling to the fight result itself, but you can look for reasons (especially in the video tape), or in my case now you can just feel like an asshole with absolutely no reason to be feeling so down. But you don’t have to have it make sense, you just have to know how to respond; and that’s true regardless of whether you think it’s because you lost or you can’t figure it out because you won. The question always is: What now?
The Fix – Mental Causation
Since I’m in the midst of it this right now, I’ll just share what I’m doing. I keep a training journal (an extension of my move to mental training) which is basically just a notebook where I write down whatever I’m thinking, feeling, and focusing on before and after training sessions. This is a big part of the adjustment I have made because a lot of our fight mental states are actually engrained and actively trained during training itself. Writing a training journal helps me keep everything in order so if I go in to a session with these three feelings and this one focus (which I’ve written down), I can see where I stayed on track and where I fell off. I then write down how I feel about what happened after my training. I do this everyday, but I make sure to be diligent with it when I’m feeling any kind of mood swing just so I can make sure I’m acknowledging it and therefore aware of how it’s affecting my training or how I respond to things in training. For example, if I get blasted with a shot by Lomchoi in sparring and feel like I’m a failure for not blocking it, I know that I already felt that way going in and that feeling is not, in fact, in response to the strike itself, which could just as easily be forgotten. One of the immediate advantages to keeping a journal of my pre-training thoughts in this way was that I had no idea how incredibly negative I was toward myself. Becoming aware of the degree of this negativity, before training, was the first step toward being able to do something about it. In addition to focusing more on this writing therapy I’m also trying to pay close attention to what I’m eating. I know that there are certain foods that put me into psychological states that make it much harder to control my emotions – wheat seems to turn me into a super bitch and sugar in big doses (like candy) makes my moods swing all over the damn place. If you are already swinging, you don’t want to fuel it. For some people alcohol might be something to avoid at this time, which is worth mentioning because a lot of folks like to spend the days after their fights celebrating and/or indulging in everything they felt they “missed” during fight camp. Keep in mind why you avoid these foods/drinks/substances during fight camp.
And lastly, I just try to remember that this isn’t a permanent state. My brain is literally just trying to balance itself and because my chemical balances are generally quite normal – I’m not on any medication which could be factor which requires a great deal more consideration if any readers are suffering from clinical depression – it’s just going to take time to let everything work itself back to the level that’s what I’m used to. It’s part of a fight cycle, something I’ve discovered by fighting multiple times in a month.
The take away is: just know that the Post-Fight Blues is a real thing and it doesn’t care whether you won or lost, whether you did what you wanted to or didn’t, whether your coach is disappointed or elated, or whatever your plans were for after the fight. Know that it’s normal (within reason) and that it will pass. In the same way that you’d give some TLC to a black eye or bumped shin after a fight, give your brain some attention, too. Find the things that make you happy, the people who give you the best support, and the acts that make you feel confident and bring those things into your circle. And if you’re a teammate to someone who just fought, try to keep an eye out for this and be supportive and patient.
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