Post-grad depression is a real thing. Although it is not a diagnosable illness, “post-graduation depression” is related to some degree of anxiety and sadness, or even a continuation of mental health problems that have occurred throughout a person’s lifetime. It is given the name “post-grad depression” based from these feelings of sadness that include:
- Loss of purpose, meaning, direction
- Loss of motivation and/or desire
- Confusion and inability to make decisions
- Fear of the future
- Extreme loneliness
- Feeling stuck/paralyzed in a completely new transition in life.
It is rarely talked about that a new, unchartered phase in life such as life after graduation, can bring about long-term depression, or even suicidal thoughts. According to a 2015 study published by the University of California, “over 47 percent of students admitted to struggling with depression after they graduated, and 10 percent of these students admitted to having serious thoughts of suicide.” While numerous graduates are happy or content with their life after graduation, a large number of graduates are suffering–and amongst those suffering, many remain quiet. Due to the effects of social media and societal standards, it’s important to open the floor to conversation about the mentally damaging aspects of “post-grad depression”, and to provide a resource for those that are silently hurting.
This article is written in attempt to shed light on an uncommonly spoken topic, and to make it known for those that suffer from this sadness: you are not alone.
Post-grad depression is often processed in many ways. Some college graduates suffer from a mild form of sadness, accompanied by emotional ups-and-downs and fluctuations between loneliness, not feeling “good enough,” lack of purpose, or feeling uncertain about one’s life path and goals. This could be due to the fact that they moved away from their community of friends/group support, and experience a loss of connection, meaning, and sense of belonging. A number of graduates can also experience severe forms of loneliness, feeling that nobody understands what they’re going through. It may be to the extent that they believe their future is no longer achievable, recognizable, or certain because they (1) may not recognize who they are after encountering such negative, unprecedented emotions (2) may not know how to identify with others based on their perception of themselves, affecting their self-esteem and worthiness, (3) their recent choices and decisions have not been aligned with what they’ve known about themselves thus far, and (4) don’t know what to believe in, because everything they believed to be true up to this point is no longer working for them, so they may feel misguided, mislead, or misunderstood.
If you suffer from any kind of depression, or even the anxiety/sadness that I’m relating to in this article, then I encourage you to continue reading as I uncover the truth in my personal journey with post-grad depression:
(If you don’t wish to read My Story, you may skip to: “the Truthful Realities of Post-grad Depression” below this section)
MY TESTIMONY: How I Overcame “Post-Grad Depression”
I’ve dealt with depression on-and-off for over 10 years, but the feeling of sadness I’ve felt after graduation opened up a whole new world for me in terms of knowing myself, my feelings, and who I am now, versus who I was going through the process. Bare with me as I share this story for the first time:
Finding a job after graduation was a discouraging process. I had no idea who I wanted to be or what I wanted to do, but it seemed like all of my friends did. It seemed like everyone was happy with their life, and I wanted that. So I spent a lot of time in confusion while I prayed for answers, asking God “What is it that I’m supposed to be doing? What are my talents good for? Which path would match my needs?” I’m someone who dedicates my whole heart and time into anything I do, and with that I was in search of an emotionally and mentally satisfying career, and to find one fast.
About one month after acquiring my business degree, I landed a sales job for an oil & gas company. It wasn’t my ideal job, but my ultimate goal was to attain financial security. So no matter how dull or draining I thought the work was, I pushed myself daily to become more enthusiastic about my work. But as the weeks passed, the more emotional and mentally exhausted I felt.
I began to recognize a building-up of anger, coupled with resentment and frustration; which soon became a passionate hate for doing things at the expense of my wellbeing. I did not understand these emotions at the time, because I had everything I thought I needed…money, insurance, A JOB. Especially being someone who didn’t have enough to save in college, I thought that once I finally had money, all of my burdens would disappear.
Weeks after these realizations, I was laid off. Even after suppressing the urge to quit, I remained speechless. I made assumptions that led me to believe that my best wasn’t good enough. I felt unrecognized, underappreciated, and even shameful. Any negative thought would override the comforting, yet firm voice in my head that said “it will be okay, this happened for a reason.”
My loss of security and safety turned into a chaotic uncertainty. I wanted to believe it was all apart of His plan, but instead I became my own worst enemy. I let my imagination run wild when it concerned feelings of “not being good enough” for another job such as: fearing I’d lose myself again to a job, fearing intimidation, and fearing the unknown. I’d ask myself questions out of disapproval: “If I prayed for a job, why would God let this happen to me? I thought taking this job was apart of His plan? …Then why am I left feeling like this?” My faith deserted me as I assumed my prayers had been ignored. Sadly, my prayers and talks with God soon became…silent.
My whole world shifted based off of a seemingly small, yet common experience. Owing to my insecurities and fear of the past repeating itself, I remained unemployed for months. During this time, I faced a lot of criticism, doubt and judgement from those closest to me. Just as my family did, I so badly wanted to understand myself and my feelings–why I wasn’t looking for jobs when I needed to, why I wasn’t wanting to better myself when I needed it most, why I wasn’t taking care of my priorities. I was going against the grain, and I no longer wanted to hear from those that wanted to help. I didn’t know what to believe in.
Every day was a new challenge within itself. I couldn’t get myself out of bed. Each day went by as I felt hopeless, stuck, confused, and unwilling to move forward. I experienced a manifestation of the darkest side of myself. I would wake up at 3AM each night shaking and terrified from reoccurring night terrors. For these two months, I exhausted myself as I battled against my need of sleep versus my fear of dreaming. I didn’t understand how a simple job loss could turn into months of abandoned faith.
One day, I finally made the conscious decision that I would not allow depression to have me like it did before. So I decided to try something different and let these fears guide me. I would journal my reoccurring fears to uncover what these feelings were trying to show me. I also picked up the Bible, and reached out to God after a long period of isolation. My journaling turned into a love for writing. Writing gave me the wisdom to shift my focus from the past, so that I could focus on being grateful in the present. I converted my thinking from a “why me?” attitude, to a “God, what are You trying to show me?” perspective.
After months of praying, going to church, writing, and practicing positivity (while embracing the meltdowns), I began to see an internal change. Slowly but surely, something gave me purpose to get out of bed in the morning. I had an increased desire to find myself, and to become better spiritually and mentally. I began to recognize that my needs were changing. From years of (subconsciously) chasing money, status, and security, to finding the value in making conscious choices daily to give myself permission to passionately pursue the highest, most authentic version of myself.
God showed me the reason for my season. The season that I so radically repulsed and avoided, was the same season that was preparing me to be everything I asked for. Ultimately, this season revealed the subconscious, deeply rooted reliance I had on the approval and acceptance of others to make me feel complete…sheesh, talk about a hard pill to swallow. But as I gained perspective, I learned that to be self-sufficient, I had to understand what it’s like to be alone. To accept every part of myself, I had to understand what it’s like to be an outsider. To reach self-love, I had to understand what it’s like to be disconnected and rejected. To gain in self-belief and confidence, I had to understand what it’s like to feel doubted and opposed. When I learned (and still learn) to let go of all the things that make me prideful and proud, I make room for the limitless faith and sustaining strength that it takes to go where God is taking me next.
I had to restructure and rebuild myself from the ground-up. Because I asked God from the beginning of this journey, “What am I supposed to be doing? Which path will meet my needs? What are my talents good for?” And when I was ready to listen, I was able to find His answer on the other side of fear. Let me say it again: God showed me that my dreams and passion can be found on the other side of fear. And if I didn’t allow myself to know fear, I wouldn’t have the strength to go after exactly what I want in life. Once I worked through my fears, God showed me that He was reworking my steps and restoring my faith, so that He could lead me down the path I was so uncertain of. I’ve understood that uncertainty never fully disappears. But what I am certain of, is that I now know what it means to stand up and overcome fear, to embrace limitations, and to declare victory before I see it. While God prepares me to take me to the next level, my prayer focus has shifted from “God, what are You trying to show me?” to “God, where are You taking me next?“
One year later, and I am finishing classes to become a Strength & Confidence Life Coach, and working to build an online platform that aids young women through similar battles. In no way do I believe that my deep and dark battles were created to announce another tragedy; but yet, to serve as a testimony. A testimony of overcoming the depths of my fears, and to serve as a messenger. To ultimately make it known that you can be going through what seems like the absolute hardest battle in your life, and still end up EXACTLY where you dream of being. Because if you’re listening and following your heart, you’ll end up exactly where you need to be.
+ If you’d like to know more about the ways I’ve dealt with my depression over the years, you can read the (6) steps I used to conquer it in my article “I am not my depression. I am not my anxiety.“
Not everyone needs to experience the worst to find the best in certain circumstances. But I learn through experience so that I can share those experiences with people who may need to hear my past, so it doesn’t become their future. If you took the time to read my story, Thank You. And if you’re experiencing similar feelings or trying circumstances, here is one thing I’d love for you to take away from it:
You are not alone. You are exactly where you are supposed to be in this very moment. Everything you’re feeling right now serves an ultimate purpose. You’re growing into exactly who you’re meant to be in this next phase of life. Whatever season you’re in, it is preparing you for your next season of opportunity and favor. If you’re listening to your heart, you WILL find your way. You may feel uncomfortable, but these feelings are meant to show you something. Work through them. Let them guide you. Identify, reveal, and heal.
The Truthful Realities behind Post-grad Depression:
Don’t compare yourself!
Break the limiting belief that “living perfectly” is a reality. There is no such thing as living perfectly. Living or being “perfect” is only defined by our imaginative thoughts: what we think we should be doing, or who we should be (as told by society, our family, or friends), instead of embracing all that we are and all that we have.
“How does everyone seem to love their life?“ Social media is notorious for creating an image of perfection and “having it all.” In this generation, it’s almost second-nature to use the Internet to appear socially influential, socially inclined, or successful so that we are seen as competent and capable from our peers and influencers. By doing this, we’ve created a culture of envy and comparison. We end up losing our spark and our passion by trying to meet the needs of society, instead of meeting our own needs. In many cases, our needs have become so over-identified with society that we actually lose sight of what our needs are.
If this is happening to you and you’d like to change it:
- Take a break from social media for a week, and see what ideas come up for you.
- Start by reflecting on your own values, and emphasize them.
- Start envisioning the best version of yourself, and write down the qualities it will take to become that person.
- Ask yourself what success means to you, and how you can achieve it.
- In order to find yourself, find what makes YOU passionate, and without hesitation, go for it.
It’s not as easy to talk about our failings, than it is to talk of our accomplishments.
Post-grad depression is rarely talked about because many of those that are suffering choose to remain quiet, and this could be for a number of reasons. The act of comparison and fear of judgment are just one of the commonalities we see that keep people feeling lonely, confused, and directionless. I know that when I went through depression post-graduation, I remained quiet for months, to the point where it was unhealthy. I allowed myself to get stuck in my head. Asking myself questions such as, “What should I be doing? Who am I to the world?” In reality, it doesn’t matter what I should be doing, it matters what I am doing now, and what I will do next. It doesn’t matter who I am to the world, what matters is who I am to myself, and My Creator.
Everyone has a story, but many are only comfortable sharing the happy ending. So it’s important that we destroy these illusions we’ve created about other people, and about ourselves. You will attract greater opportunities by living from what your soul wants, rather than what people want.
- Set yourself free. Get rid of the illusion that everyone has their life together. Many people are in a different chapter than you, a chapter they may not read out loud.
- What you learn now, they may learn later. What they accomplish now, you will experience the same feeling of accomplishment later.
- KNOW YOUR WORTH. Find meaning in yourself FIRST. Learn to accept your flaws, scars, and mistakes.
- You’ll find it a lot harder to compare yourself to people when you see value in your worth and what you have to offer.
- Practice affirmations and self-acceptance.
- You really don’t know who you can inspire by being your true, authentic self.
- Stop letting the world tell you what you need to accomplish. Figure things out at your own pace! Find life in what makes YOU happy.
- STOP THINKING THE WORLD IS GOING SOMEWHERE WITHOUT YOU!
You can also read more about overcoming social comparison in my article “How to Live Authentically.”
Exceed limitations placed on you. Get rid of any expectations you hold about the way you should be living in your 20’s.
Traditionally speaking, many of us have grown up with these expectations: to work hard, earn our degree, become successful, achieve a 6-figure income (ideally), and save up to support our future family, etc. We are not only placed with expectation from ourselves and our dear ones, but from the society that constantly creates comparison. We spend a lot of our energy finding the things that offer us status and security, because the media taught us that we must prove to the world that we’ve finally “made it.”
We’ve known that life after graduation would be one of the biggest transitions in our lives; however, it feels as though no one has truly prepared us for those times of unsettling discomfort, when we leave behind everything we once knew. Although setting out on an entirely new journey is thrilling, it doesn’t always live up to the expectations we once held about life after college. Discouragement settles in once things don’t fall together as planned.
Maybe you haven’t gotten the job you wanted. Maybe the job you have isn’t the job you want in the future, and it brings you dissatisfaction. Maybe you have no idea what you want to do with your life. Maybe everything you worked for in college turned out to be different from what you’ve expected. Whatever the issue may be, if it’s something you continually struggle with, know that these doubts and questionings are meant to show you something. I mean, we’re always told that “everything happens for a reason.” But seriously consider this:
This uncomfortable phase of life is uncertain for a reason. Your 20’s are meant to be experimented. But what it’s NOT meant for–is expecting to live like you’re 30, where you have everything figured out. All the pieces to your puzzle won’t be placed together for you immediately. But there’s beauty in the uncertainty. In your 20’s you will find your character, your strength, what makes you light up, you will find your will-power, your people, and talents that you never knew you had. You’ll find what makes you feel free, excites you, and what makes you fall in love. But you’ll also find what limits you, scares you, intimidates you, pushes you, and changes you, so that you can slowly peel off the layers of everything you thought you were supposed to be, in order to become exactly who you’re meant to be. And if you allow this process to happen, you’ll allow yourself to live the life you dream of having, as the authentic version of yourself, instead of the version you were told to be. And if you’re someone who desires being in control of your destiny, this may be a challenge to show you that life has a funny way of working out when you let go just a little. The process begins to unravel when you stop holding on so tightly, so that enlightenment can teach you that what you once longed for may no longer be what you need.
“The idea is to live your life in a way that makes you feel lit up. Alive. Full-fledged. Beautiful. Know and find what nourishes you inside and out. Build your world from that alone. All else is not part of your revolution. Or your ultimate evolution.”
If you’re looking for ways to avoid post-grad depression:
Don’t look to the world for your happiness. Technology has created a world of superficial connection, where we place value in being and feeling accepted within our community. Our “likes” on social media, social status, how much money we’re making, what car we’re driving, the most content produced, the happiest family. These things require the most effort to sell to others, causing us to feel drained and empty in order to please or meet a certain standard. When we look deeper, these things only fulfill our egotistical needs. It’s our human nature to look for ways to feed our pride, and technology has allowed us to replace our internal, soulful needs with what looks important to others, so that we feel important, too. We subconsciously build a mindset that tells us that the more recognition or accomplishments we achieve, the happier we will be…temporarily. We can end up growing accustomed to our outside circumstances to dictate if and when we will be happy. This creates an attachment to valuing what is to come, instead of what is now. But it remains no secret, that if we’re always looking for more, then we will never have enough.
Practice being thankful. Gratitude is important to practice while feeling down about our circumstances. It’s easier to think of the things we have missing, instead of being grateful for what we already have. What I’ve learned is that the more I look for things to satisfy a void in my heart, the more unfulfilled I felt. When I practice gratitude and get the momentum going, I start to see beauty around me and the beauty in even the hardest of battles.
“Don’t wait for everything to be perfect before you decide to enjoy your life.”
CELEBRATE the small moments. Be proud of the progress you’ve made, especially the progress no one else has seen. Whether you’ve gotten out of bed in the morning when you’ve fought yourself for so long; or whether you completed loads of laundry, applied for 20 jobs, went for a run, signed up for yoga, or just opened up your journal to write. Be proud of these moments. Celebrating these small victories will be your crutch when it seems like things aren’t getting any better. But you’ll begin to notice with time that the smallest steps make the biggest difference in moving forward. Just keep stepping forward into growth, instead of retreating back into safety–however big or small that accomplishment is–it shouldn’t matter to anyone else but you.
The state of confusion you’re in. The place that you feel stuck in. The feelings you experience in these challenging times are meant to serve you, to help you, to restructure you, and to form you into the person you’re meant to be in this new phase of life. Listen to these feelings, work with them. It may seem scary now, but when you look back you’ll understand the reason for your season, the delay in your breakthrough.
While this appears to be a controversial topic for some, I use this as a platform to speak from my heart, to bring an unnoticed issue to life, and to show others that they are not alone. If you are battling something like this, please feel free to contact me if you need any advice or tips, or just simply want to share your story. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you’re laying in bed broken, lost, confused, and wondering if your situation is ever going to change. Here’s your sign. God is in control and He’s making a way for you right now.
With Love, Avery