What is Post-Graduation Depression and How Do We Deal With It?
Because we’re sad AF…
It has been 13 months since I *officially* graduated college, 10 months since I’ve given birth, and 13 months since I started my new job. Basically, an entire year since my life drastically changed. On the outside, I make it look like a breeze. I know this because people never hesitate to tell me how easy I make it all look. However, it is everything but. But, does anyone ever consider how I really might feel? I don’t want to self-diagnose myself with depression of any kind because I am not a professional. I do know, however, that there is something going on. Everyone knows about postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety. Therefore, I do not feel like I need to mention that in this post. But what about post-graduation depression? What is it, and how do we as college graduates deal with it?
Senior year of college is supposed to be the most exciting time of your college experience. Graduation means no more exams and stress, even MORE freedom than before, and the promise of new adventures of being an adult. I mean, we FINALLY get to have some money to spend. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. College seniors end up stressing over finding a job to support themselves, finding somewhere to move (or having to move back home), wondering what the next step in a relationship is (for those who have one), and just trying to figure out adult life in general. What is the next move?
What is post-graduation depression?
Post-graduation depression is used to describe the extreme sadness, impaired functioning, and anxiety that recent grads feel after they graduate college. There is no official diagnosis for post-grad depression, and according to therapists, it is underreported and understudied.
“Post-graduation depression is underreported because graduation is like motherhood: culturally seen as a seemingly joyful time, which makes it even more shameful for someone to admit that it’s not, says Julie Fraga, a psychologist based in San Francisco.”
Depression in Millennials
Research suggests that millennials have the highest rates of depression and anxiety of any other generation. A study by the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences found an association between high rates of depression and high rates of social media use: People who reported being depressed tended to be active on many social media platforms. According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, 75 percent of mental-health conditions begin by the age 24, which means that both the college years and the instant transition when you graduate, can be potentially challenging.
College graduation, for me at least, seemed like a relief in the beginning, because I did not have to stress anymore. Little did I know, the stress would become even more prominent.
I have a job, in my field, using my degree every day. But, why is it not enough? I do not have major financial burdens. So be happy, right? I’m in a relationship with my child’s father. So be grateful he’s around, right? Wrong. The way I feel stems from the fact that after I graduated from college, I had to jump right into the adult role. It’s not that I did not want to, it’s just that I do not have the proper preparation. In high school and college, all I have to do is go to class, and chill. There are no consequences for anything. I am safe. Everything is going according to plan.
However, after I graduated college, I had to get a job because I needed insurance and money to support my unborn child. I had to start my career in business because the younger I started, the more successful I would be. It was expected for BRITTANY to continue succeeding, as she always had. My accomplishments, scholarships, and resumes were my trophies. What was I going to boast about next? A job in my field and a 401K plan? Paid vacation? A well-taken care of a child who I could afford to take to the doctor? I had to compete with everyone else my age. I wanted to win, too. Showing that having a child at a young age, and success, could be synonymous was also important. I did not realize that I was putting unrealistic expectations on myself.
I also feel sad, because I see people my age on social media living their best life. They are traveling, they do not seem like they do not have the constraints of a job to keep them from going places all the time. I envy the energy they have. How easy they make life look. I tell my mom all the time, that I did not get to take a break. Going straight from high school to college, and straight from college, to working is taking a toll on me. I currently juggle all of these new roles, along with being a new mother, and I try to make it look manageable.
Little did I realize is that I do not owe anyone anything, and I do not have to make it look manageable.
How to avoid post-graduation depression
- Remember the bigger picture
- Stop comparing yourself to others. Success looks different for everyone, and the path to get there is also different.
- Do not rely on personal relationships. Your time for relationships, marriage, children, will come. Be patient.
- Find inspiration in people who were once at the bottom, and are now on top. (Mine is Oprah).
- Watch your favorite shows and movies to relax and unwind.
- Go out and live your best life.
- If you do not have a job, embrace not having to wake up early every morning. Spend that time developing useful skills in your desired field.
- Exercise. Drink water.
- Remind yourself that this too shall pass.
- Remind yourself that you don’t owe anyone shit. *Kanye shrugs*
- Find a support system, and speak openly and honestly with them.
- If all else fails, seek professional help. You never know what may come of it.
Post-graduation depression is real, and it isn’t going anywhere. The best way for us as millennials to deal with it is to follow simple steps, talk to people, and take things slowly. I have my good days, and sometimes I have bad days. But, in my heart, I know that everything will work out for the best. Even if I cannot see it now.