“Post College Depression is a thing, I have it, WHY DOES NO ONE TALK ABOUT IT???
Freshman year: joins 6 clubs, a sports team, lives on a floor with 60 other people in the same position, never alone, parties in the common room every night
Sophomore year: you have 300 friends, you live in an apartment complex with hundreds of classmates, you take on a leadership position, full class load, get a job, busy, social life, no free time.
Junior year: you take on 5 leadership positions, volunteer, 6 classes, live in a house with your 5 best friends, parties at the kitchen table every night, sports practice every night, games every weekend. Senior year: lighter class load but 7 leadership positions, you now run the volunteer program, applying to grad school, babysitting 30 hours a week, ice cream runs with your BFFs every night.
Grad school: SO much free time, all your best friends left, you’re no longer running 7 clubs, volunteering, having sports practices every night and games every weekend. You feel lost and alone.
I spent four years building the life I wanted, and it all got pulled from under me after I graduated.
This is what happened to me. I was the poster child of a college student, great grades, many friends, many leadership positions, no free time. 4 years of non-stop. Sometimes so busy, I would have to choose between eating dinner and showering.
Then I started graduate school and my life came to a halt. How do I function without all of these THINGS? I didn’t know. Not to mention the pressures of the real world creeping up on you. This is post graduate depression. It is a real thing. I never knew, because no one talks about it.
I fell into a depression. Could barely get out of bed. My graduate grades were slipping, the days were long and hard. I was lonely and bored, and nothing fulfilled me anymore. As a college student, I was constantly SURROUNDED by people, all the time for four years. Now, I live with under classman, they’re busy all day, living the life I used to live. It is difficult. I could not stop crying. I would wake up and the first thing I would do is cry, then another 5 cries during the day and the last thing I did before bed? You guessed it! Cried. I stopped eating, not because I wanted to, because I couldn’t. I lost 15 pounds in a month and had to drink Ensure drinks in order to keep up my strength. I constantly felt as if I wanted to lay down on the ground and just dissolve into the earth.
It was hard for me to explain to others what I was going through. The people closest to me, my friends, my boyfriend and my family had a hard time understanding how the bubbliest person they know, is now a person who was deeply sad. I didn’t know what to do, so I was going home every week. My mom would tell me every week that I ‘had sadness in my eyes’. I could feel that sadness in my eyes and whole face.
I got help immediately. I started seeing both a psychologist and a physiatrist and almost immediately went on medicine. I consider myself lucky, because anyone that knows these types of doctors, knows that they’re hard to find. I definitely had a guardian angel looking over me, they knew I needed it, BAD. I have always been against taking medicine for my mental health. I have been an anxiety sufferer my whole life. I always told myself that I could cope on my own. It was almost like I felt that if I went on medicine, I was weak. At this time in my life, it wasn’t even an option. I knew if I wanted to get through the semester, medicine is what I needed. Throughout this experience, I often said to my dad who is an anxiety sufferer himself that I didn’t want to take it, that I should be able to cope on my own. The fact of the matter is I couldn’t. He told me something that stuck with me. He said, ‘If you had a headache, you would take an Advil. Right now, you have a headache, and that medicine is your Advil, it’s no different’. I am so thankful for my medicine now and have completely changed my opinion. Admitting you need help doesn’t show weakness, it is actually quite the opposite. It shows strength.
Many people often frown upon mental illness. They feel that it is a fake illness. I have had many illnesses throughout my life, my immune system is very week. I have had the flu many times, stomach bug many times, mono and I have been hospitalized for pneumonia, twice. I have also broken several bones, suffered a severe concussion and a spinal leak, where I needed a blood patch in my spine. Of all this sickness and pain, this mental illness was by far the worst, most painful thing I have endured thus far.
My parents were my rocks through this whole thing. I am so incredibly fortunate to have had them as a support system. They never made me feel alone and would answer my phone calls 10 times a day, at all hours of the day. My mom has always told me ‘you should never suffer alone’. My dad would constantly leave meetings and work to tend to me. He used sickness analogies often throughout this experience. He told me I should think of this mental health episode like the flu. When you’re really sick, you can’t remember what it feels like to not have the flu, to be healthy. This is how I felt. I couldn’t remember what it felt like to be healthy, to be myself. As I started getting better, I was so frustrated that I was better, but not normal. My dad would again remind me that I’m getting over the ‘flu’ and when you’re getting over such a bad sickness, you see residual symptoms for weeks after the fact, before you’re completely better. These analogies were brilliant, and what helped get me through the days.
With the suicide rate growing at an alarming rate, what they say is true. Don’t forget to check on your ‘happy friends’. I am not even exaggerating when I tell you that some people might say I’m the happiest person they know. That’s how people think of me, and that made it worse for me. I felt that I had to fulfill that role.
One of the best coping mechanisms I learned through this is to find good in every day. I was told by my therapist, to keep a journal next to my bed. Before bed every night I would write down at least 3 good things that happened that day. At first, it was difficult. Some of the early things that made my days ‘happy’ were that I was able to get out of bed or I simply ate a meal. As time went on, it got easier. My happy things were longer, and I had more than three. This was a way to shift my thinking. I highly suggest this.
I am happy to share that now, 4 months later, I am in a much better place. I finally adapted to my new environment, I made friends and got it together. I still go to my doctors and practice my coping mechanisms. I truly feel like a better and stronger person after going through this. It is so hard to see it when you’re in it, trust me I know, but it will get better, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, just keep walking toward it.”
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