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When Post-Graduation Depression Hits

How to cope and beat the graduate blues

BY Agnes Amondi

Apr 23, 2022, 09:36 AM

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Graduating from college or university is supposed to be the coolest thing to happen in your life. You are supposed to be so thrilled at the next chapter of your life. Your academic certificate reads summa cum laude, you went to a brand name university and you can only feel like the world is at your feet. All the sleepless nights, the fights with your group mates plus the grind and hustle of attending class, the ones that made you yawn wildly, is now all gone. Hurrah!

A few weeks after coming down from the highs of celebrating your degree - which you should, by the way, we aren’t saying otherwise - a different, probably an unexpected kind of reality sets in. Post-graduate depression. Did you know that this is a thing? So what is it?

It’s not a medically diagnosed illness or condition but rather a state (the writer is not a medical practitioner and is not offering any medical advice or diagnosis here) in which college graduates experience mostly negative emotions because of the changes taking place in their lives. This transition from college life to the “real world” brings with it lots of unknowns.

When you are in uni, you have an established routine for most of the years you go there. Your days are filled with activities and you always have things and people to look forward to. But now, that’s changed. Some of your friends have moved on to new cities, have found jobs, have a business and generally have to figure out their own lives too. So it literally is not business as usual. 

You graduated with the highest distinction and you were made to feel that someone somewhere owes you a job, a salary, a big shiny limo and all the glowing things we all want in this life. But now you are confronted with reality.

Frankly, only you, your family and close friends know that you graduated with a summa cum laude. Even your professor, the one whose classes you always registered for, isn’t aware of this. Neither does the retailer at your nearest supermarket nor the interviewer in a black or navy blue bespoke suit with glasses and a mean face. Perhaps she has seen your distinction but still doesn’t care enough to hand you an employment offer. At this point, it dawns on you that the world doesn’t give a hoot about your 4.0 out of 4.0 GPA score. Ouch!!!

The loneliness that hits you. No more or very few WhatsApp messages from private and group chats drop into your inbox. Your phone book becomes rusty. No more flying out of the house with one shoe threatening to remain behind. You wake up to your white ceiling and four walls. The sun is up and bright before you even think of pulling away from your blankets or duvet, whichever you use. Time just seems to tick away and you don’t even know what to do.

You feel so powerless, so aimless, so alienated. You stand by your bedroom window and watch others pull their cars in and out of their driveways every day. You see your neighbor who appears to be your age mate or slightly older rock that knee-length black or blue dress with heels and some fancy bag going to where they are possibly needed. But you, you have nothing to show.

Your social media feed isn’t a place of solace either. Everyone seems to have figured their lives out. Your uni mates are posting pictures from some fancy offices with floor to ceiling glass windows. They are in fancy attires dining with the who & who’s of the world, they are making major moves, and this just drives you crazy. All of it might be true, it might also not be true but at this point, you really don’t care. It seems and looks real. What are you not doing right? Or rather, where did it all go wrong for you?

What To Do?

Here’s the thing. You haven’t gone wrong anywhere. Perhaps there are a few things you could have done earlier on to enhance your chances in the job market. Like taking internships, volunteering and networking strategically. But that’s water under the bridge now. Well, not really. If you are a fresh graduate (by my own estimate I’d say 1-2 years out of campus), you can still hop onto one or two internships if you can find one. And I know most are unpaid and you got bills, but what can you do in this type of situation? If you want to get a foot in, that’s a good place to start. If you have a skill that allows you to start a freelance gig, then go for it. 

You also don’t have to stick to your field of study. Find something that can simply give structure to your day. This is the most important thing. The other is finding an income-generating activity. You know, those bills don’t care that you are out of a job. Nail down a realistic business idea and get it off the ground. 

Get a support system. We know that not everyone will have this but you might have a person or two you can talk to. Embrace the little achievements you make. If you are a writer like I am, and you managed to start a blog and publish your first post, that’s something to be really proud of. Take note of that. Have bite-sized and realistic goals. For example, waking up at a specific time every day, accomplishing a listed set of tasks within a specified period of time. This will help you regain trust and value in your ability and yourself.

Learn a new skill and use it to create a stream of income or if you are good at something, use that. YouTube has a variety of DIY ideas that you could borrow, create and even sell. That is the beauty of the internet this days, you will never lack an idea or two that you can borrow and run with. Don't be too hard on yourself, just take it easy and think of something that can keep you busy. 

There’s so much more to write here so maybe I should do a second post. Trust us, we have walked down this road. Despite people’s smiles out there, you are not alone. Always remember, people, choose what they want to show you. So you will never really know what’s going on.