What People Don’t Tell You About the Post-College Blues
When I was in the midst of finals during the last semester of college, I had all these plans: I was going to find a job, rent my first apartment and be back with all my friends in New York City come the end of the summer. This had been my idea of a life trajectory for as long as I could remember. Every day during my senior year, I yearned for the day to leave school and find my own way in the world. No rules. All freedom.
It’s been four months since I happily walked across the stage to receive my diploma. The summer that I planned went completely left and all my friends left to go to another country for the summer. That dream job that I planned on landing right out of school? That hasn’t happened so quickly. Every day, I sit at my computer, applying to every media and journalism job under the sun, hoping and praying that something will come to fruition. Every day, I give myself multiple headaches and heartaches when I receive a rejection letter — or even worse, when I don’t get any response at all. That apartment that I planned on having? That came with the condition from my parents that I needed to have a job in order to pay rent. No job? No apartment.
Let’s just say, this summer hasn’t been easy and things haven’t turned out the way I envisioned them.
A few weeks ago, I started going through some things. A notoriously bad sleeper my entire life, I was having more trouble than usual falling and staying asleep. I began waking up with panic attacks that started to plague me every day, leading to poorly timed crying sessions in very unlikely places (subway station? Check. Penn Station? Double check). My brain started running a mile a minute, with what feels like a never-ending migraine and no way to silence the constant noise. I started feeling like I was losing all the friends I had made in school because I wasn’t in as close proximity to them as I had been in the past. It took me a little while, but I eventually realized that all of this was leading me down a road to an unhealthy state that could lead to an emotional unraveling.
It’s a terrifying place to be stuck in. From the time I was two-years-old, all I knew was school. I always knew that I’d have some sort of structure. If I didn’t like a class I was in, I just filled out a piece of paper or unchecked a box online and poof — gone forever. If I wanted to see my friends, all I had to do was walk across the hall of my dorm room in my fuzzy slippers and there they were. I never had to live with the uncertainty of whether the people I had come to love were only in my life because we were in the same vicinity. I never thought that I would question whether my friends had my back, nor did I think I had to tell my closest friends to ask how I was doing and give a damn about me.
I never had to wonder if I was alone in the world or whether it was just in my own head.
My mom approached me one night after one of my crying spells and asked me if I had ever heard of something called “post-college blues.” Judging from the weird look I must’ve had on my face, she explained that although not a known diagnosis, this was a common feeling that many post-grads feel when they leave the place they felt so comfortable for so long and have to step into the harsh reality that is the real world. She recommended that I take a look on the internet and see what I could find on the subject. After much thought, I decided it couldn’t hurt to take a look and learn more about this.
I started to do some research and I noticed that there wasn’t much information on the subject. If this was such a common practice amongst college graduates, why wouldn’t there be more of a discussion about it? It can’t be because writing about mental health for a national publication is a taboo subject — welcome to the year 2018. It’s been a topic of discussion for a while. Is it because my generation is afraid that if they say something, it’s going to affect the way their future employers look at them when they get that coveted interview that they’ve been waiting for (it’s actually a worry of mine as I attempt to write my feelings out in this piece)? Isn’t it better to let everything out in order to take care of yourself? Isn’t it better to find a solution to calm the never-ending noise in your head and the panic attacks? Isn’t it better to finally feel good again after a long time of not loving yourself?
In an article published last year by the Washington Post, it was reported that one of the causes that millennials go through high volumes of depression and anxiety was related to the generational addiction of social media, and the idea that everyone is having this amazing life while you’re just struggling to get yourself out of bed in the morning. If anyone is like me, this could isolate you further into your bed and never want to get out of it.
So how do you help someone who’s going through this tough time in their lives? First and foremost — just be there for them. You don’t realize how much a simple “hey, how are you doing” text can do for the person going through the rough spot. It doesn’t take a lot of time or effort to send a text, but it will be long remembered. A phone call or FaceTime will be even more appreciated. If there is a way to see the person face-to-face, they will be grateful to see a familiar face. Anything so that the person doesn’t feel like he or she is forgotten or unimportant in your life.
And for those who are struggling like me — take care of yourself. Find things to do that will calm the emotions raging inside of you. Turn off your phone and don’t go on social media for a few days. Physically hit the mute button for specific people on your WhatsApp if you need to (I did that recently for someone in my life and it honestly helped so much). Play that Hallmark movie that you thought was stupid in the beginning. If you think that a therapist and some short-term medicine might help you, by all means do that. You don’t realize how it does wonders for your mental health until you start feeling better.
As hard as it is to hear, I know things will be okay. I have no doubt that my future is bright — it’s just going to take a longer road than expected.