Post grad depression*.
A term I had never heard of, or even imagined would be a thing, before I graduated in May of 2018 with an Honours Bachelor of Commerce at a highly recognized university.
When I had graduated, most of the people I knew were about to travel to foreign places, but since I’d signed up for a gruelling finance exam in June, I was chained to my books and the library. So for me, post grad depression didn’t kick in until the exam was done and I finally had time to take a breather and open my eyes to my new life.
I scoured the Internet trying to make sense of everything that I was feeling, but didn’t have much luck, except for a few reddit threads. I reached out to some friends who agreed to having felt similar feelings, but didn’t know what or why they were feeling that way. After a lot of thinking and reasoning, here are what I found to be some symptoms of post grad depression:
After graduation, you may feel as though you’ve lost something that you held near and dear to your heart. I personally felt as though I’d lost part of my identity. Who am I now that I’m not a student? The last time you were in this place was probably right before kindergarten. We spend eighteen or more years of our lives with a certain structure laid out for us; no matter what happens, in September, we’ll be back in class. You’re entering a transition phase, and change is often difficult, especially when you’ve spent so much energy curating your life in university until you had it all figured out: you are the involved student body president, or the social library rat, or the case study competitor. Who am I now?
In university, you most likely had herds of people around you at all times. But more importantly, you probably lived with friends, or had groups of friends that you would message and meet up with throughout the day. So you may have taken it for granted that you constantly had a roommate chilling in your room for hours, or study buddies you spent long evenings with at the library, and people you could go out with on command. After you graduate, this often becomes much more difficult.
Some friends may find jobs in different cities, sometimes even in different countries. Some may move back in with their families who live hours away. Some may have crazy work hours, or demanding jobs that leave them exhausted. Either way, your social life changes drastically from how it was in university, where everyone was in the same 2km radius at the same time. This can leave you feeling lonely and a little discouraged from making plans.
You might start to think that the best days of your life have passed, or that you will never feel joy again. Your mind may go to a dark place, and you might start to feel nostalgic for a time when you had it all – an active social life, a fulfilling student club and good grades.
Transition phases are extremely difficult, but when the waves threaten to crush you, learn to ride them.
By the time you’ve completed university, it has become a sort of safety blanket – a cocoon full of support, familiarity and never a dull moment. Leaving that can be extremely difficult, and here are some tips for how to overcome it.
How to Overcome it
- Figure out the things that you loved the most in university. If it was being the leader of an extracurricular and you miss the positive impact you made, try and join a nonprofit or organization in your community where you can make a difference. I personally got involved with World Vision, and it brought some meaning to my life again. But choose something that you enjoy, whether it’s joining a sports team, a local choir, or even volunteering at a homeless shelter.
- Reach out to your friends. Chances are that they feel the exact same way that you do. It may feel hard to find the motivation at first, but it pays off when you meet up and feel the weight lift off your chest a little, day by day.
- Embrace the change. Easier said than done, of course, but when you first started university, you also felt loss. You missed your high school friends, teachers, the home town you knew so well. And look how that turned out? The start of a transition phase is almost always going to be difficult. But no good comes from wallowing around and missing the past. The best way to embrace the change is to create an action plan which will remind you of all the dreams and aspirations you had when you first graduated, and help you get back on track and keep the fire and ambition alive. An article on how to create an action plan is in the works!
I hope this article helps shed some light on a real issue that exists with new graduates, and helps you at least realize that you’re not alone. I still struggle with post grad depression at times, but am in much better shape than the first couple of months I graduated. Cheers to the next stage of life!
*Disclaimer: Depression is not something to take lightly, so by no means do I say that the above steps are the right ones to address real depression. Post grad depression is a feeling of hopelessness, loneliness and loss that accompanies leaving the security of being a student and entering the ‘real world’.