The Postgraduate Depression

Hello…it’s me! Yes I hate that song too, mainly because it’s wiped out the legend of Lionel Richie’s hello. See link to remind yourself how good the 80’s were. I suppose I should like Adele’s songs, the gloom does resonate with my current feeling towards life. When you last heard from me I Got a Job! and seemed very pleased with myself. The problem with being an illustrator is that the feeling doesn’t last very long, and once again I’m miserable.

Symbolically you could imagine a roller coaster on a graph descending and rising with ‘X’ axis representing time since graduating and ‘Y’ being my personal gloom, employment status, bank balance, feelings towards living at home and optimism for the future. Then there’s the ‘Z’ axis which represents the sudden death of famous celebrities and global disasters that make me feel guilty for not running down the street naked, shouting I’m alive.

Maybe a more accurate representation rather than a roller coster would be an astronaut (although, don’t get me started on Tim Peake, his happiness annoys me as well). I have been ejected from the airlock of my rebel ship (university) and I’m floating through space. It’s a vast void and empty space. I’m waiting for death, I can’t starve because my parents supply me with food every day and seeing as the average age of death is 81, I have a long wait ahead of me. Then there’s a shooting star, a glimmer of hope, I reach out to touch it, it sticks a middle finger up to me and I float further on into the empty void.

Despair and Darth CameronIllustration by Holly Macdonald, available for hire.

I see a large circle in front of me, it’s looks like a moon. I realise I’m floating towards a beautiful new world of peace and harmony. As it grows bigger my happiness fades and I exclaim, “that’s no moon.” What I see before me is my giant space station of negativity, governed by Darth Cameron as he declares, “Holly, graduate employment is up and…I am your father.”

Okay it’s true, The Guardian’s article on graduate jobs in 2016 discussed a significantly kinder job market than in recent years. I should be reassured that graduate employment is the lowest it’s ever been since the 2008 recession, so I have no excuses for my misery. David Cameron is definitely not my father though, because if he was, i’d have graduated from Oxford with a law degree and be paying back £40,000 of student debt in one year.

Back to reality, there’s probably a light sabre duel, I lose a hand, go to the local asteroid A&E and find the doctors are on strike, I continue floating around whilst bleeding to death. I think you’re beginning to get my point, although space looks pretty, it’s actually very empty and crappy.

What I’ve described is what many graduates seem to experience after graduating and the struggle to find stability. The Postgraduate Depression is my name for it, but you won’t find any statistics proving its existence, partly because for most people it’s a short period of time in their lives that they eventually learn to manage.

The Independent recently wrote an article about breaking the silence when talking about the graduate blues, you can read it here. You could describe it as a rapid transition period, but for me if feels like it might never end. This is due to the fact that I lack any hopefulness or optimism and I feel creatively exhausted. Some days I’m motivated and I feel like this is the day I will be successful, other days I want to give up becoming an illustrator entirely.

There are a few short term solutions:

• Talk to friends who are stuck in similar situations.
• Make sure parents understand how you’re feeling to stop the misconceptions of ‘laziness’.
• There are also options to talk to local counsellors from Improving Access to Psychological Therapies or you can contact Mental Health Matters.

But for me, talking to someone else won’t fix this. It’s a period of time that I have to travel through and I have to believe that whatever happens, I will survive. I wish most of all that I’d actually been told about it while at university, so I was more prepared.

P.S. I probably was told, and I ignored it.

Holly Macdonald is a political agony aunt for Kollektiv Gallery.

See more posts by Holly Macdonald

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