When the Party’s Over – Post Uni Depression
Words by: Astral- Anais
You’ve just graduated from university, and for most people, it was the best three or four years of your life so far. But like most good things, it must come to an end and you’re forced to move on. Some people are completely fine with that, even excited by it. I, however, was not one of these mythical creatures and quickly realised that change and I do not go hand in hand. Having to say goodbye to a life you had spent three years shaping and creating was going to be hard, but no one prepares you for just how difficult that grieving period would be.
I always knew that my time at university would come to an end. That the party would be over and soon, all I would be left with was the hangover of the real world. There were times when it felt like it could go on forever, but it really did feel like one morning I woke up and suddenly it was all gone. There I was, cramming three years’ worth of fun, hard work, and memories from a new city into the boot of my dad’s car, shipping them back to a home that I felt I had outgrown. It’s hard not to see returning home after three years of living away as regression, despite it being a completely normal and often sensible move. It felt like someone had pressed the pause button on my life and refused to take their finger off of it. Whilst the thought of having my washing done for me was comforting, I would have traded the monotony of house chores if it meant getting to live with my friends again.
Going to university felt like the start of my independent ‘adult’ life. There’s this endless sense of freedom that stretches itself across this unexplored city that most students find themselves moving away to. Leaving that behind is devastating. It was like trying on a bunch of old clothes that had been abandoned at the bottom of the wardrobe: they no longer fit and weren’t your style. I had outgrown my life pre-university, and moving back with my parents felt like shoving my twenty-one-year-old body into the clothes of my seventeen-year-old self.
Depression often makes you feel like you’re the only person in the world that feels this way; that no one could understand what you’re going through. Typing in “postgraduate depression” into the search bar brings up an array of different articles, all conveying the same thing. Firstly, it’s not something that is talked about enough, and secondly, it’s not even recognised as an official form of depression — despite 49% of recent graduates stating that their mental wellbeing had deteriorated following university, as the study by the City Mental Health Alliance found in 2017. In fact, this was the only study that I could find where research regarding the mental wellbeing of graduates had been conducted, demonstrating just how undocumented this issue is. I knew that returning home would mean the return of old habits and feelings that I had worked hard to leave behind. University provides you with an endless amount of opportunities, from studying abroad to placement years, to paid internships. There was a sense of stability and security that was pulled out from underneath me once I moved back home. Trading that sense of independence and freedom for isolation and worst of all, depression, was not a deal that I bargained for when I clicked that submit button on my UCAS application.
It should have been an exciting period of my life, thinking about the next steps I would take in the direction of my professional career. But in reality, I felt unprepared for the real world. Instead of receiving confirmation emails from my dream job, I was receiving a monthly allowance from Universal Credit, after losing the financial stability that my student loan provided. Although there is no shame or embarrassment in that, I couldn’t help but feel like the diploma that was hanging from my bedroom wall was a glaring reminder of the life I could no longer return to. It has been almost seven months since I graduated. Although I feel that my mental health has drastically improved since, I can’t deny that the first few months were difficult. I have used this time as a reflection period, learning to take each day as it comes and trying not to worry about a future that I have the power to change if needs be. It’s important to remember that graduates are not alone in post-university depression. There are thousands of grads sitting in their childhood bedroom, surrounded by boxes filled to the brim with three years worth of memories, feeling lost. I believe that the more we open up and create a conversation regarding our mental wellbeing, the easier the hangover of adulthood will be to cope with.