The Dark Side of Success…Thoughts on Musicians and the Post Concert Blues

Today’s the first day I’ve felt hopeful, inspired and motivated in about three weeks.

I’d been going non stop since last January where every month since then had some “big thing” and I never had more than a day or two to slow down before revving up for the next project, talk, workshop, presentation, interview or residency. 

I kept telling myself that the pace I was going was not sustainable, and the low grade fatigue gradually became long term exhaustion. Except, I was so inspired by what I was doing and all the growth and success I was achieving that the “soul crack” that is inspiritation kept me going and going and going…  It was that mysterious combo of inspiration and fulfillment with an undercurrent of deep fatigue. Can you relate to this?

At the end of September I finally had a break with no big things scheduled on the books until January 2017. At first I just spent a week catching up on sleep, laundry and other life stuff after having been on the road for so long. Then I got a cold that lasted two weeks. And then I was in a rut. No immediate big projects on the horizon, just day to day work as usual and two weeks spent in my pjs on the couch watching Netflix wheneveer I wasn’t working.

This does not line up with my inspired vision of The WholeHearted Musician. If I’m so fulfilled and inspired, going after my dreams and purpose, then why did I feel so blue and unmotivated?

What the heck is going on?

When I went to my chiropractor last week, after working with me she said, “Dana, you just need to rest. You don’t have to get sick or “fall apart” just so you can finally have some downtime. You need to be kind to yourself, you’ve been ON for a LONG time and it’s ok to rest and live a little.”

OOOOFFFF. How familiar is this? Not being able to rest or slow down unless you’re sick, injured or having a melt down?

I came across an article about post Olympic Depression by John Florio and Ouisie Shapiro in the that really resonated. All you have to do is replace Olympics with audition/competition and athletes with musicians. 

Here’s an excerpt from the article that gives you a sense of what I mean:

On August 21, more than 11,000 Olympic athletes will leave Rio, some carrying medals, others lugging the weight of falling short of expectations. Despite their varying degrees of success, many will have the same surprise waiting for them back home: a feeling that life suddenly seems ordinary.

This emotional drop, in its most acute form, might be called post-Olympic depression—or, to borrow a phrase from the sports psychologist Scott Goldman, the director of the Performance Psychology Center at the University of Michigan, an under-recovery.
“Think about the rollercoaster ride prior to the Olympics, and just how fast and hectic that mad dash is,” Goldman says. “This ninety-mile-per-hour or hundred-mile-per-hour ride comes to a screeching halt the second the Olympics are over. … [The athletes] are just exhausted; it was such an onslaught to their system. And when it’s all said and done, they’re just physiologically depleted, as well as psychologically.”
It got me thinking about the countless times I would achieve some big goal and instead of feeling euphoric I would feel deflated. 

I would feel proud/joyous/elated for a brief moment but then the listless, directionless, unmotivated, stuck-in-a-rut experience would soon follow if I didn’t have another goal or project on the horizon.

Obviously going non stop from goal to goal at a relentless pace just to avoid this experience is not the answer.

So what then is the answer?

Each and every person has to find their own way. There are some things that can help. Some are short term and others require introspective exploration.

I’m not a medical doctor, so be sure to consult your own if you have more serious concerns. But here are few logistical things that have worked for me:

  • Get ample sleep
  • Hydrate 
  • Take a multi vitamin
  • Decrease alcohol (it’s a depressant!)
  • Move your body! Even a short walk can do wonders!
  • Laugh
  • Focus on what you’re grateful for
  • Celebrate and acknowledge what you’ve already achieved
  • Study people who inspire you
  • Hug the people you love

As for the deeper internal work, I’m going to devote the next few blog posts to these bigger topics.

Stay tuned for my next post addressing the danger of identifying yourself by your purpose/calling/mission/career and what I learned by studying the life path of pianist Leon Fleisher.

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