The Sydney Invictus Games 2018 was an unforgettable experience. For many spectators it was a chance to witness our warriors, competing and sharing their stories of recovery through sport.
As a veteran it was more than that. It was a chance to be surrounded, once again, by men and women in uniform.
A chance to live in close quarters with like minded people. A chance to vent my mental baggage on a group of people that get it.
I was volunteering with Team Rubicon Australia. 37 of us were deployed in supervisory roles, tasked with leading teams of civilian volunteers. 1200 of which had put their hand up to support the games that support our veterans.
Rubicon is a Not for profit, Emergency response company. With the motto “Disasters are our business, Veterans are our passion”, Team Rubicon repurposes veterans and emergency responders. Getting them back into positions of responsibility, helping the community once again.
The Invictus games was not a disaster area but it was the perfect event for Team Rubicon to support. We were in a position to help a community we all had passionate connection to. Simply being responsible for other people again was enough to fill me with a sense of purpose. This was my first operation with Rubicon and, after such a rewarding week, it will definitely not be my last.
So how, after a week of living in a positive environment, can I fall into a mental rut come Monday?
Saturday night was the closing ceremony. Followed shortly after by high velocity drinking and celebrating with athletes and support crews from across the globe.
Saturday night was also the night me and the mrs cooked off.
She came to be with me. I should have been happy. But I wasn’t.
I, on the other hand, had settled into my old lifestyle. Surrounded by veterans and mates who understood the veteran lifestyle, I quickly moved back to the old version of me. The version my wife calls, army Adrian.
With a gut full of piss, I gave little care for tomorrow, because tonight was going to last forever.
The following day me and the mrs almost called it.
I had fallen into a deep case of post event blues. The dream was over. It was back to reality and I wasn’t happy about it.
I got out of bed on Monday morning and was grumpy at everything. I was biting the wife’s head off every chance I could get. The kids crying, usually easy to ignore, was driving me mental. I was looking at the pile of work I had put on hold last week and it seemed insurmountable. The depression monster had his claws in me.
I had read about post event blues and most of the time it focused on the psychological side. Wanting to be back at the event. Wanting to be surrounded by to people and the atmosphere again. And of course, the hormonal come down after a full week of highs.
I knew this was the case but I couldn’t shake the empty feeling. This was unusual for me. Usually, when I identify the issues, I quickly move forward and into a positive headspace.
Luckily, my wife knew me well enough to put my grumpiness aside and help my solve the problem. She has, after all, been working on the Swiss 8 project with me for the past 5 years and knows my signs and symptoms. She stayed as positive as she could and quickly reminded me to fault find my current headspace.
What was your diet like last week? Did you train? Did you get enough sleep? Do you meditate?
My standard diet is high fat low carb. Over the Invictus week I ate sandwiches every day for lunch. Pasta almost every night. I ingested more sugar in 7 days than I had in the previous 3 months. I drank beers every night. I trained once in 7 days. I got less than 6 hours sleep a night. I didn’t have a single ice bath or sauna and I didn’t meditate once.
As soon as I made this assessment, a full body calm engulfed my like a big hug. I wasn’t happy but I understood what had gone wrong and how to fix it. I could right the ship, get back into a healthy routine, and this fog of depression would lift.
The next day I was back in the gym. Back getting sweaty, burning cortisol and getting after it. I got back on the Keto wagon, slept better and got my meditation plan on track.
In the space of 24 hours I went from Mr grumpy to Mr happy. I still missed the events of last week – it was an amazing and emotional experience. But there will be more. More Invictus Games. More rubicon missions. More to work on and more chances to build purposeful relationships within the veteran community.
The first step to overcoming a headspace rut is to understand the cause. Once you see the areas of your lifestyle that are letting you down, you can adjust, improve and progress.
I only write these blogs in the hope that, if there is 1 person out there going through the same issues, they can take something away from this. And if you’re going to take 1 thing away from this blog, make it the fault finding checklist. If you’re stuck in the post event blues, or you’re just having a shitty day, ask the questions.
Have I been eating properly? Have I been training? Have I been sleeping properly? Have I been meditating?
Once you can identify areas to improve and set yourself a plan, the fog will lift.
Finally – Big thanks to Hawk and the Team Rubicon tribe. Its not one of their SOPs but Hawk gave me a call on Monday just to check in. It was so reassuring to know that the post event blues are common and that Team Rubicon members understand this space well enough to check in, just for the sake of checking in.