8 Things Nobody Tells You About Graduation And Depression
It’s the Home Alone sequel you never asked for.
1. Structure is a blessing.
After you graduate, you realise all those lectures you skipped because you were too busy nursing a hangover were a goddamn gift. Aside from the whole “education” thing, university gave you structure. The loss of a timetable, coupled with depression, royally screwed me. I suddenly realised I had no reason to get up anymore. There were no lectures to feel like skipping, no friends to see. Suddenly, my greatest purpose was deepening my bum groove in the sofa. I stopped going out. I stopped getting dressed. I stopped showering. I woke up later and later each day, until I became a nocturnal creature that existed only to watch reruns of Catchphrase.
When you’re depressed, you might not feel like planning ahead, because everything seems pointless. But, something as simple as setting an alarm can help. Schedule a time to go out into daylight (you won’t burst into flame). Ask your parents for errands then set a time to do them. Creating a schedule is like a hug from your aunt, you don’t really want one but it’s better for all involved if you just do it.
2. Because the real world can be overwhelming.
In many ways, being a graduate is harder than University. You spend three years in a bubble, then suddenly that bubble bursts. Entering the real world with depression and no plan is like the plot to Life of Pi: drifting aimlessly on a vast ocean, totally alone, with only a tiger that plans on eating you for company.
Intrepid adventurer of the high seas that I am, the answer to this was obvious. Run back home and hide under the bed covers because the real world is terrifying. There’s so many choices to be made, and directions to decide on, that it’s easy to end up spiraling into a mess of panic and indecision.
From personal experience, To Do lists that start with “try to be less shit”, don’t work. But, if you try to break life down into small manageable pieces, then tackle each piece a day at a time, you’re onto a winner.
3. It’s not as easy as people make it look.
When I wasn’t taking solace in the new
Depression told me, “you don’t have that because you’re worthless.” It took me a long time to figure out that depression was a lying bastard. It told me I was the only one failing at life: I was unemployed and living at home whilst everyone else seemed to be landing their dream jobs. But people don’t tend to populate their Facebook with failure. I saw success everywhere I looked because the struggle behind it was hidden – Facebook creates an illusion that everyone is happy. This is bullshit.
One day my Mum turned to me and said, “don’t worry, one day you’ll get there.” I went to the toilet and cried. That was the first time I felt like I would get there. I didn’t know where “there” was – and still don’t – but that didn’t matter. You don’t have to be good at life fast. It’s a marathon, not a sprint and looking sideways gets you nowhere.
4. Talking is hard.
Talking means vulnerability, and that’s scary as hell. I was afraid that people would judge me or worse, that I would be put away somewhere. My brain was perfectly capable of recognising vulnerability in others as a strength, but was convinced that if I were to be honest, it would make me weak. Despite being around my family, I felt so incredibly alone and incapable of opening up. I didn’t want to burden those I loved with my problems, convinced they’d just think I was being grumpy.
If ever you’re feeling low, take a deep breath and talk to a loved one you trust most. Courage comes in tiny steps.
5. Finding an outlet helps.
Month five of being an unemployed, depressed graduate, and I was bored shitless. I’d watched every episode of Catchphrase at least twice and could now say the answers before the clues. I’d reached that part of depression where I didn’t feel sad anymore, I just felt numb.
No one tells you that feeling nothing is worse than feeling sad. When you’re crying at least you’re crying because you care. The only fight I had left in me was the fear of being left alone, because I was worried about what I might do. This is how I stumbled upon writing. Out of sheer desperation, I started a blog to distract myself and filled it with terrible poetry and bad cartoons. It felt great. It gave a voice to my fears and an outlet for everything pent up in me.
Even if writing isn’t for you, finding some kind of outlet really helps. Try running, to get some dopamine through you. Go scream in a field. Create your own board game version of Catchphrase complete with Mr.Chips pieces (if the thought of this gave you a tingle of excitement, get in touch). Anything. If only to distract for an hour or two.
6. The job market sucks.
After months of applying for jobs and being rejected because I had, “no experience”, I’d come to the conclusion that my Bachelor’s wasn’t worth shit. The real world didn’t care about Seyyid Said’s capital or that I utterly dominated at Catchphrase. I was low. Really fucking low. Then I got rejected from a job at a Supermarket.
A job is more than just money. It helps give you autonomy, a vague sense of purpose and, yes, the miracle of the structure. With no job, I was trapped at home feeling like a parasite. Soon, horrible thoughts began entering my head, “You’re a drain to those you love. They’d be better off without you.” Depression is meaner than AlShabab.
Eventually, I thought, fuck it. If I was failing at “regular jobs” I may as well fail at the one thing that used to make me happy – acting. I started auditioning and gave myself a purpose that I actually gave a damn about. About two weeks later I had my first job, (it’s never been that easy since.) Moral: If you’re depressed, you may as well be depressed trying to do something you love.
7. Success is relative.
On a cold day in February, I woke up and got out of the house at 10am because I am a fucking champion. Sometime in March I didn’t watch TV for two days, I read books instead. Then I trimmed my beard. By May I was showering and getting dressed more often.
All of these seemingly inane things were huge achievements for me. I felt like a superhero lumbered with a shit power. I didn’t need to save the world, it was enough to just get out of bed. The Facebook gang had their successes and I had mine. And, if anything, mine were better because I did it all whilst wanting to crawl into a hole and die. If you’re depressed and you do something like, I dunno, put on clothes, please know that you rule at life more than anyone who doesn’t struggle to do that.
8. You are not alone.
I know. Cliché, right? But it’s so easy to forget. You are not the only person to graduate and wonder what the hell you’re doing with your life. You are not the only person to ever feel like a failure. You are not the only person who has ever been depressed. When someone first pointed this out to me, I believe my exact response was, “well whoop-de-fucking-doo.” Nonetheless, I looked online for similar stories to mine: I found hundreds.
There’s a reason people are encouraged to share their experiences at support groups. It bloody helps. You don’t need to change who you are (no force on earth will compel me to stop wearing all black and listening to The Smiths. Once a pretentious arsehole, always a pretentious arsehole). But, trying out advice from people who’ve been there can’t hurt. Because no matter how much it might feel like it, you’re not alone. You’re part of the club now. There’s no membership fee but we meet on Fridays to talk about depression here.
Originally posted by BuzzFeed