A number of people said they had no idea post-university depression was an actual thing before I mentioned it in my previous post. So…since May is Mental Health Month, I decided – why not write about it in detail. It does after all affect our mental well-being and many people my age (in their 20’s) are suffering from it. Because you don’t believe there is a name or word for how you are feeling, you might not be aware that you are going through it. Well, there is.
What is Post-University Depression?
Post-University Depression is not an official mental health diagnosis but it is a phenomenon occurring with increasing efficiency especially in developing nations. This is due to the uncertainty brought about by the economic and political landscape. We can call it the ‘quarter-life crisis’ – a time in which we grapple with life’s biggest questions: Who am I? What makes me happy? What do I want to do with my life? Where do I start?
It is a form of situational depression that emerges following graduation as one finds it hard to cope with the reality of actual adulthood as uncertainty and change fuel fear. What’s worse? – we are starting out when the world seems to be ending.
What causes Post-University Depression?
When reality falls short of what we had hoped for, the accomplishment of graduating can feel anticlimactic as our expectations meet reality. We are full of optimism when we graduate, telling ourselves that our lives are about to begin. We convince ourselves that our futures are set and we are ready. This may be true but we unfortunately don’t realize that with every big move comes big obstacles. Yes – life is a double-edged sword. Sorry, I didn’t make the rules either. The most common obstacle we face is difficulty finding a job. For some reason, job vacancies come with 5 year experience requirements at entry level. Like, where on earth am I supposed to have gotten that! This is only one example of how struggling to find the kind of work we studied for might put us in a depressive state.
Another leading cause of this form of depression is the abrupt and seemingly ‘overnight’ transition into the real adult world. From the life of balancing academic goals and an interesting, well budgeted for social life, graduates are introduced to new responsibilities. If you have moved out of your parents’ house, you have to pay rent otherwise you will be homeless. You have to cover all costs associated with your assets, for example – your car. You have to show up and put in the work where you are employed otherwise you’ll be sacked in a second. You are also placed on the list of providers in your family. As if that is not all, the decisions you make now can quite easily be permanent. All this can be overwhelming and may result in depression.
“For many of you who maybe don’t have it all figured out, it’s okay. That’s the same chair that I sat in. Enjoy the process of your search without succumbing to the pressure of the result.”~ Will Ferrell – University of Southern California commencement, 2018.
One could suffer from depression due to comparison. Oftentimes we are led into believing that we will always somewhat move at the same pace with our friends and agemates. This isn’t true because our destinies remain independent and unique. Some of our friends may find it easier to blend into their careers and get an early start. Some may succeed in doing what you hoped you would also be doing – whether it be taking up the next level of studies, easily moving out into their own apartments or even settling down. You are also probably constantly reminded of your friends’ successes and compared to them by others, resulting in you feeling like a failure.
Loneliness is also a factor. You may be the first to get a job before your peers and now your life is different. You cannot hang-out or see them a lot because you’re in a different phase. You could be the youngest at your workplace without anyone to relate to and so you end up feeling isolated. You feel like a little fish in a huge pond resulting in you missing your peers. In other cases, loneliness comes from separation from the people you had grown used to as they scatter to different futures and geographical locations. Either way, feeling lonely can leave you hopeless and can result in depression.
- You feel uncomfortable with yourself and your life and you don’t know why.
- You feel incapable, stuck and even unmotivated without knowing how to move forward or what you want to do.
- You feel as if you’ve disappointed yourself, your family or your friends.
- You feel isolated or unsupported.
- You may even feel irritable or edgy without a valid reason.
- You also feel exhausted and overwhelmed most of the time.
- Trouble sleeping.
- Sudden bouts of tearfulness.
- Changes in your appetite.
- Stomach problems.
- Overuse of technology.
- Overeating of unhealthy foods.
- Alcohol and drug abuse.
The transition from varsity life to adult life is a change that can be very challenging to negotiate. No one knows how their journey is going to go. There are healthy ways of dealing with that though..
“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”~ George Bernard Shaw
Prevention and Cure…
To survive this, you have to keep your optimism. Focus on creating your preferred version of yourself while you wait for Opportunity to knock on your door. He comes when you least expect it. Build healthy habits + Stay connected to friends and family but also make new connections and accept that people can outgrow one another + Engage in things that are meaningful to you + Set achievable goals and take small steps toward them. Trust me, this will make you have a different picture of life.
You don’t have to have it all figured out to move forward.