I remember my University graduation vividly.
It was a scorching 90 degree day, with cloudless blue skies and a level of humidity that made my curly hair cry. My voice was shot from yesterday’s last-night-out adventure of bars and debauchery, and I was so exhausted from lack of sleep that I nodded off during our University President’s speech. (Sorry President Stanley, nothing against you.)
But once the ceremony was over and our graduation photos were taken; after we clinked champagne glasses and toasted to our wild and crazy future, only after did the reality of my graduation set in. And in the first few weeks of my post-graduate life, I found a gut wrenching feeling of sadness and confusion from no longer being a student in school.
Recently, I stumbled onto a Washington Post article that summarized my feelings to postgraduate depression, and made me realize that it’s a conversation we need to start having more.
In the article, Dr. Juli Fraga, a psychologist specializing in eating disorders and postpartum depression, talks about how college can act as a “cocoon” for students. She explains that the transition from having such an easily accessible pool of friends and resources to “adult” life can be a shock.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, 75 percent of mental-health conditions start by age 24, right around the age of most undergraduates and postgraduates. Additionally, new studies have shown that millennials have some of the highest rates of depression.
Fraga says that postgrad depression is similar to postpartum depression, because motherhood is often celebrated and boasted about so much, it becomes shameful to feel any opposition to a supposedly “amazing” period of one’s life.
In the months following my graduation, a lot started to improve. I got a job as a server, made new friends, started writing more, and got a freelancing position at High Faluter. I am happy with where I am now, but that wasn’t always the case, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I don’t want to fantasize my graduation experience, I want to start talking about why it wasn’t great so that more senior undergraduates can be prepared.
No, I’m not saying that leaving school equates to stepping into a bottomless pit of despair. A number students throw their graduation caps to sky and a finger to their University and happily never look back. But if you are one of the unconventional students who don’t, know that you’re not alone, and you will be fine.
(Visual courtesy of Helen Harrop ("Turning in on Myself"))
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