I researched on depression after university, so I typed in “Depression after university ” on the search bar at Google and the results automatically popped up with many headings including: “Post uni blues”, “Post-College Depression”, “Depression after uni” and “Post-graduation depression”. The first row caught my eye was an article entitled: Post-Graduation Depression published in The Guardian in late 2001. I clicked on the link, leading me to read the interesting article. Having read similar experiences from various websites and personal blogs, I start to realised I was suffering from it.
According to the article, it is considered to be a common phase among most graduates, as they are leaving behind the culture of lecturers, seminars, assignments, waking up late, all night partying, getting drunk on cheap cider and other alcoholic beverages at the SU, dieting on takeaways, baked beans on toast to hand in their Student IDs and NUS cards to find their feet in the big wide pond, the labour market. The labour market are quite ruthless towards new upcoming graduates who are wet behind the ears by the traditional stereotype that a degree earns you a first class ticket into the labour market. Unfortunately, I happened to be one of them.
The biggest symptom I picked up was insomnia where I find myself going to bed at 7 in the morning and wake up at 3 or 9.30 at night smelling of dried up sweat, the aftermath from every crippling anxiety attack. The minute I tossed my own cap up in the neutral warm sky, I found myself instantaneously crippled with constant anxiety attacks and bewilderment on what the future may hold. I was forced to accept the epiphany that I was transitioning from the regressed naive mature student who assimilated to the student culture to constantly fight in a battle to adapt to the world of uncertainty and competition. Everyday, my mind has been constantly intruded by various career options including, lawyer, chef, doctor, journalist and the list goes on without giving me a chance to select a definite route that suits me.
I spent my time brainstorming on possible career options that is relevant to my degree (Criminology and Sociology Joint) so I would not feel I wasted three years of studying a subject that I’m not going to implement into something constructive. Somehow, the word “Journalism” constantly pops in my subconscious mind the most as I considered myself to be highly observant with a fascination of people, alarmed by current affairs and historical events that provides a legacy from generations to generations to come. Above all, have a subconscious passion for writing and expressing my knowledge onto paper.
However, that idea and the hope of breaking the vicious circle was short-lived by the invasion of the “Special Needs” Label which dominated and tormented my mental psyche yelling at me: “Although you got that 2:1, you’re still the special needs boy. You’re not gonna be anybody, you’re nothing, you’re dumb and always gonna make a fool out of yourself in whatever you do!” That label had haunted me throughout my childhood, my school days, my adolescence and now post – graduation.
The only way to escape from the blues and the harsh realities of unemployment, competitions and discrimination held in the big wide world was to dissociate into my daydream state. At mostly times, force myself to sleep. I managed to wake up, only to join the dole queue signing on, researching and making various and numerous applications to recruitment sites or bullied into meeting up with friends who are still in university where one of them cannot take “no” for an answer and doesn’t seem to understand my circumstances.
I took a trip down to memory lane in early August to the town centre, the park where I used to socialise and play imaginatively with the other children, the schools I attended, things have changed dramatically. The park used to have swings, benches where I usually sit down by myself staring at wide scenery feeling in touch with nostalgia whenever I hear echoes of my childhood screams of glee pleading people to stop when I was span around on the rotating poles to a point I hallucinated with the bright green field.
Now, the whole park has been filled with a large mass of green grass covering a huge space of carefree innocence, another tell – tale sign that I have no choice but to enter the world of adulthood. I can have a bit of fun and relax once in a while. The only thing that concerns me as a post-graduate adult is to rather think on independently and logically rather than being dependent on others. Whenever I wake up, the first noise that hit my hears were the joyful screams coming from the lungs of children in the school playground giving me that nostalgic sense of being carefree and comforted are now permanently vanished.
The mixed feelings of sadness and resentment invades mind driving me to sleep again until those screams die out. It sent me another nostalgic feeling when I was a kid, running around feeling protected from potential grown ups who would peer through the fence. Hearing these screams made me want to jump onto the fast train reversing back to my childhood. Unfortunately, train journeys are not a fan of reversing backwards, same with the hands of time who is also not a fan of turning anti-clockwise. Both train journeys and the hands of the clock are passionate about moving forward so I guess I have no choice but to move forward even though it’s tempting to rewrite history, an easy option for those who dwell onto guilt and regret.
I instantly became the same person before I return to college undertaking an Access course, a fast – track ticket to university, watching daytime television shows, joining the dole queue at my job centre to sign on so I can get my fortnightly benefits motivating me to search for work with no intention on what I wanted to do in the long-term but to use the benefit money to build my bank balance, whilst sending in CVs and completed job application forms to various sites and companies with no intention on what I want to do.
I spent most of my post-uni period grieving my 3 years of freedom and self-discovery by looking through uni photos posted onto my Facebook account, repeatedly reading my essays scribbled with ticks, feed-backs and grammatical errors, which led me to bully myself telling myself : “You should have worked harder to obtain a First as that was your aim” Rather than having my own best friend who who keeps reminding me: “It’s better to get a 2:1 than a low mark or no honors at all. Each day starts with me fighting off the feelings of despair, vulnerability and hopelessness into remission only for those feelings to return like an unpleasant boomerang.
These patterns continue to fluctuate throughout Christmas and into the start of 2012. I have already passed the I’m feeling “suicidal” phase and now just surviving and getting on with life struggles. My laziness and insomnia started to take a massive toll on my family as I cannot do simplest tasks, like taking the bins out to be collected, vacuum the whole house and ironing my clothes. One day, I eventually found the strength to drag out the vacuum cleaner from the cloakroom to start my daily therapeutic outlet, followed by laundry duties. I learnt to take things easy as it comes, like catch up the latest episodes of Family Guy, Coronation Street, Law and Order, followed by browsing the channel menu of Sky Plus for the latest movies to retreat from the psychological uncertainty by my imagination.
During the post-graduate depressive experience, I start to reflect on past mistakes I made as an undergraduate. One of the mistakes was not planning at the start of my final year by brainstorming post-graduate routes as I was distracted by the pressures of writing an undergraduate dissertation, essays, falling into the wrong crowd, participating political protests, and on top of that, allowing myself to be dominated by the “Special Needs” label, the main root of my anxiety and low self-esteem. Cheesy as it sounds I begin to appreciate even the little things which people take for granted.
Three years later, I have recovered gradually, but still have some symptoms of anxiety, which lessened thanks to positive thinking. After months on a government – funded work programme, without any positive outcome, it looks like on a subconscious level, is to reinstate into academics for a master’s degree and progress onto a PhD. This sounds like a promising and optimistic idea. Although I would be aware on regards of numerous internships and work experiences I obtain, the chances to be a victim of the “catch 22” with a burden of debt is fifty – fifty. Despite of the possibilities weighed up including the risk of another post – graduate depressive relapse, I know it will be worth it in the long run.