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I couldn’t tell you how excited, and particularly how ready, I was to graduate university last summer.
Not to say I didn’t enjoy university – I met some wonderful people and have amazing memories, but by the time my degree came to an end, it was definitely my time to move on. It feels an awful lot more like existing, than living, when you have ever-looming deadlines, sleepless nights, limited to non-existent funds and the extra weight of the global pandemic on your shoulders. Having been told by many that university would be the best time of my life, I know myself and many friends of mine felt a little short-changed (to say the least!) with the experience we received. So, one way I frequently tried to ‘keep my head up’ and look forward was to think about what post-graduate life would be like. The freedoms that finally finishing education would bring, the satisfaction from securing ‘proper jobs’ and knowing perhaps that adult life was really going to start - what an exciting thought! Fast forward to seven months later, and it’s been quite the reality check.
When shopping around for universities at 17, you have a similar outlook to those about to graduate; you’re just very ready to move on from college, and start life as a student. It's always easier to look to things you don’t have in life and dream about them as if you did, so I spent much of my time focusing on just getting into uni and moving away. And as I sit here writing this, I am reminded of how bittersweet hindsight can be. In amongst teachers, family, and friends all reassuring me that university would bring so many opportunities and good times, no one warns you of the unbearable adjustment period to come, between graduating and full-time employment/moving out.
I’d watch my LinkedIn feed with more and more anxiety, as I’d scroll through post after post, announcing that more and more of my uni and school friends had graduated with high grades, been offered their dream jobs, and gotten places of their own. I was back at home, two marks off my personal aim (as a result of altered learning through covid and deep bouts of depression) and full time at my 0 hours Saturday job. Throughout last summer and into the autumn, I saw my peers surpassing me at what felt like every hurdle. The rut that I began to find myself in got deeper and deeper and was so draining that the path out of it felt steeper as the weeks went by. Fast forward to the new year, and my mind and body hit a wall that deep down, I knew I saw coming. I was overworked, underpaid, and treading water by the time my 23rd birthday came around. Mentally isolated, emotionally exhausted, and physically aching, I finally accepted that I needed help, and in particular, that I needed to ask for it. And how grateful I am that I did.
I’m wonderfully lucky to have my support network around me, and I appreciate that not everyone has that to lean on in times of need. But for me, mine’s been a real lifeline, with my best friend Lily Owens and the Hope in Depression charity at the centre. With her help and constant support, I’ve been able to get in touch with my GP, go on antidepressants, and am now enrolled in the current Hope in Depression course! It's been a wonderfully eye-opening experience and I'm so grateful to have been handed the resources I needed to try and move forward through my depression. Had someone told me four weeks ago that I'll have been given the opportunity to work alongside the HiD team, and that things were already beginning to slowly look up, I wouldn't have believed them. So, for anybody reading this that finds themselves in even a remotely similar situation, I leave you with this and hope truly that it helps:
Adjusting to different stages in life doesn’t happen overnight - it will take time, so be kind to yourself. And when you find yourself in a rut, it can feel like there’s no way out or help available - but there is.
By Anna Cahill