Thursday 7 November 2019

Suffering from Post-Graduation Depression? You're Not on Your Own

Scarlett shares her experience of post-graduation depression and reminds graduates that whatever they are feeling, they are not on their own.

Just graduated? Feeling lost? No idea what you’re going to do with your life? YOU ARE NOT ALONE! Post-graduation depression is a topic that is under-researched and is not often discussed. And if you’re like me, you may only hear about the term if you suddenly find yourself suffering from it.

See, I’ve recently graduated from Staffordshire University in July with a first-class degree in Sociology, which as you can imagine, was the best feeling ever. Graduation day was everything I’d hoped for and more: a day full of celebrations with family and friends, drinking Prosecco, eating great food, and being proud of all the hard work I had put into my degree.

As I contemplated these possibilities, my mental health decreased significantly, and I realized I was suffering from post-graduation depression. I also realized that it’s more common than I thought. Many graduates who suffer from this are often faced with stressors like moving back to their hometown, giving up their independence, and missing the friends they had lived with for three or more years. But in my case- commuting from home to my local university-my post-graduation depression stemmed from different factors like fear of the unknown, not having a set plan in place, and not knowing where life was going to take me. I felt like I had worked so hard for my degree, and for what? There was no job out there waiting for me, no one to guide me through this process and honestly, I just felt completely lost.

And if I’m being honest, I didn’t feel ready for full-time work after I graduated. I wasn’t ready to commit to the 9-5 life and become a ‘real adult’ and I felt ashamed because of this. To try and feel like I was doing something more productive, I decided to pursue postgraduate study, which is something I’d thought about doing during the last year of my degree. Although I was initially encouraged by my supervisor to jump straight into a PhD, I just wasn’t ready for that kind of commitment. I loved conducting research during my undergraduate degree, so I figured my best middle-of-the-road option would be to undertake a Masters degree in Social Science Research Methods, and I’m currently really enjoying it!

After I’d graduated, my boyfriend and I went on a 3-week Californian road-trip, which has been a dream of mine since I can remember. Life was GOOD. But then a few weeks passed by, and I started to find myself hurtling towards panic-mode. Unanswerable questions were floating around my mind. What comes next? What career do I want to go into? Will I be successful? Was my degree worth it? 

Even the open-ended nature of my degree scared me, because on the one hand, Sociology is great! It’s such a broad subject which can open doors to so many different career paths. But by the same token, the freedom of multiple different choices, each of which would lead my life in a different direction, made it so hard to narrow down what I really wanted to do. 

I’m glad I made the decision to continue my studies as it means I get to carry on with what I enjoyed doing, and I get to conduct further research into the topic of student well-being, which I’m extremely passionate about. I don’t think I’ve fully recovered from my post-graduation depression just yet though. Despite enjoying my Masters degree, I’m still panicking about what’s going to come next. I can’t help but feel a pressure clock counting down in the back of my mind which is reminding me that I only have a year left to decide what I’m going to make a go at. So, while I don’t have it all figured out yet, and being in your twenties is hard, if I’ve learnt anything through this process, it’s that you are not alone. 

I still don’t know what I want to do career-wise, but that’s okay, because- despite the societal pressure to know exactly what you want to do early on-  it’s extremely rare for someone to discover their dream job in their twenties. In fact, many people go through numerous different jobs before they find the one that’s right for them. Social media doesn’t help us either, because we’re constantly exposed to a feed of our friends living their ‘best lives’ and it seems as if everyone has their lives figured out, but trust me, that is not the case. A big part of my depression came from me comparing myself to others, and I’ve now learnt that this can be extremely toxic for my well-being. I have learnt that everyone is on their own individual path; some people my age are married with kids, some live in their own houses, some live with their parents. Some have been working for years, some are still in education, some are working in supermarkets, some are working for big businesses, some are travelling around the world and some are partying in Ibiza – and whatever it is that you’re doing with yourself, it’s OKAY.

You can find some advice about looking after your mental health during the transition from uni 
to grad life here! 

Hi! My name is Scarlett. I'm a 21-year-old who has just graduated with no idea what I want to do with my life! But that's okay. I'm sharing my story to remind graduates that feeling lost after graduation isn't uncommon, there are many others who feel the same way as you and it's okay to not be okay.

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