Post Event Depression

ssthomasssthomas Charter Member
edited March 17 in General Discussion

I just posted something similar to this on Facebook, in general terms, but some of the responses made me think that this might be a good discussion for this group, too.

I know that I'm not alone in this: Pretty frequently after a big swim or a big summer, I start to feel down, tired, don't want to swim, don't eat right, don't sleep, get irritable, and more. All of these things are signs of depression. I'm generally a happy/motivated/energetic person, so I don't always recognize what's going on at first and don't understand why, suddenly, the couch and TV are SO APPEALING, and pools, friends, and lakes aren't fun any more. After my English Channel swim, I was talking about how I was feeling with a friend and he said something like, "Oh, English Channel depression is a real thing. I've heard of lots of people dealing with it." So, since then, I've just always accepted that it was a likely occurrence and that I would just deal with it on my own terms. I've always come out of it with a new goal or challenge, but it's a bumpy ride. I no longer panic over it and worry about my life well-being, but it's still a hard thing to get past.

I'm curious if anyone is willing to share their experiences and some tips/suggestions for overcoming these icky feelings and moving forward. I know this is personal, but maybe sharing can help others experiencing this for the first time (or the 10th time) to get past it and know they aren't alone! I'm not meaning for this to be negative- but simply wanting to help anyone now or in the future who may find this as a struggle, too.

evmoSoloKellietimsrootJacqueJustSwimDanSimonellitortuga
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Comments

  • MoCoMoCo Worcester, MAMember

    It's definitely not limited to swimming. It's very prevalent with my ironman friends (and spouse) - I think my husband took about 6 months off after his first IM and gained 25 lbs. I feel it's not just about letting the body recover, I think that the brain needs some time to focus on the rest of life. Many of the ironman triathletes I know who went from race to race to race (3 or 4 a year for a few years) ended up with massive burnout and a few of them walked away from the sport. Of course, a few of them walked right into ultrarunning and I think that's the need to always have something bigger on the horizon that I don't have.

    For me (and my not-as-epic races/events), it isn't so much having something else on the calendar, it's taking an appropriate unstructured recovery block (which might mean sitting your ass on the couch until you feel like moving) to let my body and my brain recover from that big period of focus. And for me, I need to set a time limit on that block so that I can enjoy it guilt free, and then get back to regular workouts after. I have had to actually say to myself "you enjoy swimming, get your lazy ass to the pool and you'll feel BETTER". (And now I have a coach, so I've outsourced the thinking of all of that - I do what she tells me unless there's a damn good reason not to.)

    SoloJustSwimtortuga
  • JacqueJacque M. (Germany)Member
    edited March 16

    Very important topic, thanks for bringing it up! I completely agree with @loneswimmer on this one.

    Swimming is a (big) part of our life – but what does that mean? After taking up marathon swimming I realized one day, that I couldn’t really enjoy my achievements, because when taking up a big swim it was already reduced to be just a stepping stone for the next big swim after that. I guess that was my way of avoiding the post swim depression and later I discovered, that going from swim to swim was part of an over-active drive within myself that was also very present in other parts of my life. I was forced to address that when one year (2015) I trained long and hard and heavy – and could not start the big swim due to the bad weather in my slot. I broke down, completely. My coach and I took up mental work and he encouraged me to address all the important questions: Why do I swim? Why do I want to swim the big ones? What is that over-active drive within myself? And most importantly: Who am I – with and without swimming?

    I answered them all, brutally honest and it changed me as a swimmer and a person. I did not lose the “drive”, but I do not longer define myself by achievements or the pressure to reach the next big thing. I basically had to find myself, and I did. Now I am able to rest, to enjoy my achievements and do not longer pressure myself to take up the next big swim.

    Another thought: A big swim can be a big-life-event and it takes time and effort to integrate it into your life. You can’t do much about the time it takes; I also usually take off a couple of weeks of swimming or just take some dips in the water and do only fun things - basically the opposite of real training. But regarding the effort it might be helpful to see it as a (rewarding) part of the mental side of our training to set aside time to deal with what just happened, after you completed a big swim. It’s quite common to deal intensively with a swim, that did not succeed – but how do we deal with success?

    When I succeeded in my big swim last year I was in sort of a “state of no-believe” right after and two days later I broke down. Deep, dark emotions all over again. Wondering about what was happening I was able to feel that something was missing and I realized, that I basically missed my “arrival”. I had been swimming for nearly ten hours, reached the shore – and than had to rush back to the boat. There was no time to arrive mentally, to realize and reflect on what just happened, it was all over way too fast. So I recommend to take some time after a big swim and get to the shore where you reached land, take time and let it sink in. Since I had no possibility to do that and since I have a great coach we took a different road: We use hypnosis as part of our mental training and he guided me into a light state of hypnosis, brought me back to the moment I reached the shore and then “paused”. It took about two hours, but it gave me the possibility to arrive mentally and also emotionally. After that I felt much better and really realized what had happened. I guess, in a way, I had to give my head and especially my emotions a chance to catch up with what my body had already achieved. After that “initial integration” I also took a couple of weeks to really reflect: to think and talk about what had happened, sort through all the photos – basically just set aside time to deal with it in different ways to avoid going back to normal too fast.

    It’ just my thoughts and experiences, but I hope this helps. Best wishes to everyone – you are not alone!

    bluemermaid9JustSwimBigGuppy412
  • ssthomasssthomas Charter Member

    Jacque said:

    ...but I do not longer define myself by achievements or the pressure to reach the next big thing. I basically had to find myself, and I did. Now I am able to rest, to enjoy my achievements and do not longer pressure myself to take up the next big swim.

    I suppose @loneswimmer and @jacque have a point, for sure. I know that's not my issue though- I have no pressure to take up the next big swim and I've never defined myself as a swimmer. I actually get really embarrassed when I get accolades and compliments on my swimming. That's probably one of the hardest things for me to deal with- cuz, it's just swimming. It's a hobby. It's for fun. But, it doesn't actually mean anything in real life. I grew up age group swimming in Texas, so I have a really firm understanding of myself as a pretty mediocre swimmer who can just swim farther than most people (and I'm pretty sure a lot of people could swim far if they only wanted to). And I would HOPE that I'm not defined by my swimming ability- I'm a wife, friend, daughter, sister, aunt, employee, co-worker, dog mom, etc- and all those things are far more important than swimming. Last night, husband read back to me something I posted in the Relationships thread about 4 years ago when were engaged. I made a joke that I'd pick swimming over a marriage. But, it was a joke- I'd give it all up in a heartbeat if I needed to for my family. I love swimming and hope I don't have to give it up- but I'd still be a whole, fulfilled person without swimming.

    I honestly think, at least for me, part of it is the workout high. Think back to Legally Blonde when Reese Witherspoon tells us that exercise releases endorphins, which make you happy- and happy people don't kill people. I think WHY it happens to me is because I'm focused, I'm exercising consistently, with a good routine, and then when I take a break after a big event- it's all gone- the routine, the endorphins, etc. So, I think in my case it's not the mental part of it, but more physical. No, I don't cry in the shower like Donal, but I think it's still a hormonal reaction to not getting enough exercise. But, then I'm so down in the dumps, I can't find my motivation and it's an ugly cycle.

    All that being said, I suppose the WHY/HOW it happens isn't such a concern to me as the "and what did you do about it part." We're all different and causes may be different for each of us and without a psychologist, it'd be hard to figure that out. But, I think we can share tips on how we've moved past it. Those things are more concrete. I need another goal (swimming or not). On my FB thread, a few people said they found other hobbies that were cheaper, but still took up time and provided a way to give back. Some people just wait it out. Sounds like @jacque did some hypnosis (which seems like a really cool idea). Just curious how others come out on the other side.

  • SpacemanspiffSpacemanspiff Dallas, TexasSenior Member

    ssthomas said:

    All that being said, I suppose the WHY/HOW it happens isn't such a concern to me as the "and what did you do about it part." We're all different and causes may be different for each of us and without a psychologist, it'd be hard to figure that out. But, I think we can share tips on how we've moved past it. Those things are more concrete. I need another goal (swimming or not).

    I've found that for me, it is not just important to set the next goal. It seems much more effective if I already have the next goal set (date and all) before I embark on the current big swim. Otherwise, I let the blues down spiral get momentum and half the year will pass before I can reverse course. If I have the next goal already in place, I find myself getting antsy after 3-4 days of recovery. I start getting out my calendar and setting my training plan.

    Of course, @ssthomas, your goals are far more ambitious than mine, so this may be of limited value!

    SolossthomasDanSimonelli

    "Lights go out and I can't be saved Tides that I tried to swim against Have brought be down upon my knees Oh I beg, I beg and plead..."

  • ssthomasssthomas Charter Member

    Spacemanspiff said:

    Of course, @ssthomas, your goals are far more ambitious than mine, so this may be of limited value!

    Now come on!!! A goal is a goal- a challenge is a challenge! Any insight/experience is of value. And I think this makes sense- when I look back, I've always been fine if I knew what was coming up next before the last one finished. The EC was maybe a struggle afterwards b/c I thought I was perhaps done with swimming at that point. This last swim was a struggle, because I really didn't know what was next until a couple of weeks ago. I had issues in 2014, again- I didn't know what I had planned in 2015. I think that's a good thought! :-) Thanks for sharing.

    DanSimonelliIronMike
  • DanSimonelliDanSimonelli San Diego CASenior Member

    Having seen and heard personally early on from veteran marathon swimmers around me about their post swim event blues, I've been cognizant of this before I swam into any long adventures. So, it's always been on my mind as I've set and reached my goals, swimming or otherwise.

    My solution has been to not have anything planned for after the culminating swim event. Rather, I've played in the water, enlivened my joy of simply swimming without any conditions. Going with the flow of the day, week, month...whatever time it takes to start feeling the itch again to push, go longer. It's been fun thinking about all the different possible swims I could do next while plodding through my shorter swims, enjoying the water, surroundings, and the amazing comerarderie of swimming friends at La Jolla Cove who are pure examples of swimming for joy! (Not marathon swimmers)

    It's worked for me every time, never experiencing any real blues or depression; questions and ponderings, sure. But giving that space to absorb all the good has been my key to continued enjoyment and fulfillment.

    :)>-

    ssthomasKarenTNiek
  • wendyv34wendyv34 Vashon, WASenior Member

    I think it helps to have something else (unrelated to swimming) in mind for the end of your season or after a big event. I had a long season last year, ( June-October) including a big swim, which I'd put in a lot of training hours for. We started on a long-overdue home remodeling project last fall, which was satisfying in that something was getting accomplished and it took up my "spare" time. I didn't get that post-season vacuum that I normally experience. This coming fall, I'm looking forward spending some time volunteering with my favorite animal rescue.

    DanSimonelliKarenTssthomasIronMike

    It's always a bad hair day when you work at a pool.

  • emkhowleyemkhowley Boston, MACharter Member

    This is a chronic problem for me, too. I always have to have something else to look forward to, or the demons of doubt start wrecking the party about 2 days after finishing a big thing.

    pavlicovssthomasIronMikesuziedods

    Stop me if you've heard this one... A grasshopper walks into a bar... https://elainekhowley.com/

  • suziedodssuziedods Charter Member

    How about "lack of event depression"? Right now I'm coaching more than I'm swimming and I feel like a fraud. I'm so out of shape I can barely do 3 K in the pool much less a marathon anywhere else! I am however getting much better at telling others what to do...

    DanSimonellissthomasCathyInCA

    Looking for the next big thing.. ... @suzieswimcoach www.suziedodsswimcoaching.com

  • msathletemsathlete Victoria, British Colubia, CanadaSenior Member
    edited March 23

    For me, the depression seems to be more of a seasonal thing and typically begins after my last swim of openwater season. I think it happens for a number of reasons, some of which include:

    1) the fun is over, what's next?
    2) a significant decline in training (impacting dopamine)
    3) burn out or extreme fatigue (I am usually pretty spent at the end of the season) and
    4) way too much time on my hands

    I still don't know that much can be done except to know that it is coming and is part of the process. Although some of suggested good ol Canadian beer I have opted not.

    ssthomasSolo
  • DavidWDavidW Member

    Yes, this happened to me a few times. After focusing for so many months on a particular event, I would experience almost a kind of "let down" once it is over. It was almost as if the training itself was such an all consuming task that I would feel some sort of void when I know longer had this thing to focus on. Luckily, I have been able to schedule family vacations for immediately after the swim so I get to reconnect with everyone, which doesn't let me wallow in it for too long. Dan Simonelli's method also worked for me and if the vacation was anywhere near a beach, it was great just to be able to play in the waves and just splash around.

    ssthomasDanSimonelliCamille
  • ssthomasssthomas Charter Member

    Has anyone ever tried "detraining" as an option? I've heard of it before, but also read about it recently in Lynne Cox's "Swimming in the Sink." I don't know any specifics, other than the idea is that instead of dropping off all the way and taking a break immediately after your swim, you gradually decrease yardage/time in the water to a more manageable amount. The idea is that it slowly lets your body and mind ween itself off of the training/event highs so that we can handle the lows a little more easily without the drastic and sudden stop. I've never tried it, so no idea if it works or not. I've always gone the immediate stop route- maybe that's part of the problem?

    DanSimonelliIronMikewendyv34
  • swimmer25kswimmer25k Charter Member
    edited March 25

    Nothing to see here.

    Solossthomas
  • DanSimonelliDanSimonelli San Diego CASenior Member

    ssthomas said: Has anyone ever tried "detraining" as an option? I've heard of it before, but also read about it recently in Lynne Cox's "Swimming in the Sink." I don't know any specifics, other than the idea is that instead of dropping off all the way and taking a break immediately after your swim, you gradually decrease yardage/time in the water to a more manageable amount. The idea is that it slowly lets your body and mind ween itself off of the training/event highs so that we can handle the lows a little more easily without the drastic and sudden stop.

    Although I haven't done this as Lynne describes exactly, I have always done a modified approach.

    I treat the following week after the long swim as a recovery week like after any long training swim. I've always swum the day after, usually it's been 30-45min, just to loosen up, get the blood flowing through, and feel the massage of the water and enjoy the buoyancy. Subsequent swims in the week after (3-4 times total) are similar. No pushing whatsoever. Just relaxing and enjoying the slow movement in the water.

    Then usually I've felt fine the next week and resume swimming moderately. Though this is where I deviate. I don't go back to building up again anytime soon. I've gone for weeks (a few months this last time after EC) doing 1-2 hour fun swims with friends or on my own. Gradually I start to feel like pushing again, usually with picking up pace/effort first on shorter swims, and then eventually start to go longer when I've set a new goal.

    :)

    ssthomasCathyInCApavlicov
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