Let’s talk about postgraduate depression
September 06, 2016 at 8:00 pm
After conquering a mountainous achievement such as graduating from college, you’d think one would be on the highest of highs. And with a heart full of confidence and anxious hands, you’d think one would be ready to work in the real world, and be able to seize their career in its purest form. But it doesn’t work like that. Those dreams can be crushed easily by a two-line rejection email or by no response at all. Why won’t anyone hire me? you think. And then you begin second-guessing your skills, experience and ultimately, your worth.
Depression does not have a blunt personality.
Instead, she’s more the gradual kind. She slowly settles into your life like weight gain or hair growth. You don’t notice her progressive intrusion until she slaps you hard in the face. And then you have to acknowledge her. I realized that I was dealing with postgraduate depression six months after graduating. Although I was employed at the time, my job had nothing to do with my degree and it was one of the lowest entry-level positions within the company. So there I was, working a repetitive nine-to-five desk job, gaining absolutely no experience in my field. And to add to the stress of not working in my dream career, I essentially had no close friends who had moved back home like me. It felt like everything that I had worked for and all the wonderful friendships that I had made within the past four years were removed from under me. My degree no longer stood as a symbol of achievement to me, but rather a mockery.
Why not apply for another job? you’re probably asking. Well, of course I did that. But most of my energy was exerted toward my job at the time because that was my main responsibility. And as for pursuing my dream, it had to wait until after 5 p.m. on the weekdays or be scheduled for the weekend. I was literally penciling in my dreams and it made me very irritable.
Fast-forward to seven months later and I finally gathered up the courage and savings to quit my job.
It was mainly because I was tired of working there, but also because I was presented with two writing opportunities, that would’ve been a pay decrease- but at least I would be doing what I love. But within the first two weeks after my last day of work, one of the opportunities was taken away from me. I was offered a remote writing position, but the company had to reverse their offer because of their tight budget. Basically, they couldn’t afford to pay me. So there I was, essentially unemployed. The next few weeks tested my faith and mental strength.
I began to heavily search for writing and marketing positions within my hometown and outside of it. Most of the positions I was well qualified for, and with each cover letter and resume I sent off, I had a surge of confidence. Within a two-week span I sent out more than 15 applications, half of which sent a general response of “We’ll contact you if we see a match.” The other half, I heard nothing from. So I sent follow-up emails to these potential employers I hadn’t heard from, and I still never got a response. Meanwhile, the other writing opportunity remained and I accepted, which made me feel extremely happy and useful.
But then two months later, life got real.
I was working on my first round of stories for the publication, but like most freelance gigs, you don’t get paid until after your story is published. I was able to continue paying my bills with my savings, but with nothing to replenish it with, my funds became very strained. At this time I felt like I was in a fight that I was just then realizing I had lost.
Then in December, my grandmother passed away from cancer. And I couldn’t pay to travel to her funeral. This felt like another blow to my stomach. I felt defeated. And I knew that my emotional wellness was slowly sinking.
My ah-ha moment was when I heard a pastor on the radio say, “You don’t have to be strong.”
And that wrecked my mind. And I started releasing my anxiety by writing about it and by taking mental breaks where I would only allow myself to focus on irrelevant subjects, i.e., watching television, exercising and hanging out with friends.
This is also around the time when I began to see the value in gratitude. I started to realize that depression and gratitude can’t coexist together; they can only grow exclusively. If one is growing, the other is starving. Gratitude causes you to be more positive and not dwell on the negative. It makes you focus on what you do have instead of the lack thereof. Therefore, it has the power to help cancel out sadness you’re feeling.
I’m happy to say that I am no longer overwhelmed by my postgraduate depression, but rather still coping with it. It still creeps up on me sometimes, but I’m able to use my gratitude as a weapon of choice. And by doing this I am learning that just because I am coping with depression, doesn’t mean that I can’t be happy at the same time. On the contrary, my happiness propels me to cope with my depression.
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