On Growing Up and Facing the ‘Real World’

University’s over, now what? How does this huge change affect our mental health?

Tomorrow (October 10) is World Mental Health Day, a subject that many know is close to my heart.

I’ve written extensively about my battles with depression, anxiety, and other mental health related illnesses, as well about my better days when I am able to explore the world.

Change happens to us all eventually, and that awkward time post-graduation is possibly one of the biggest changes that can occur for a modern young person today. You’ve finished university, you’ve thrown the hat and got the degree, maybe you’ve even gone on a holiday or two to celebrate your fantastic achievement.

Now what?

At university, we’re almost in a bubble. We’re independent enough that we don’t need to talk to our parents every day, or let them know what time we’ll be home at night. We know how to cook (just about), do washing, change our sheets. But, we’re not in the so-called ‘real world’, not yet.

I used hate that phrase, the ‘real world’, associating it with the grumbling comments from people who didn’t believe in getting an education. Now, I see how it means so much more than just ‘getting a job’. It’s much more complicated than the ignorant meaning those ‘grumbling people’ simplified it to.

It doesn’t matter at if you miss a lecture, a seminar, or even a whole semester. You’re having a bad day? A simple email to your tutor will excuse you of any ill-feelings, an easily obtained extension lightens the burden of those looming deadlines. We know where to go if we need help, and though we may not always use it, we know that it will always be there.

But how do you tell your employer that you can’t get out of bed in the morning, and you’re not just ‘being lazy’? How do you explain to colleagues that you’re not up for socializing today, and you’re don’t mean seem ‘rude’?

Luckily, I’ve managed to get a job that I thoroughly enjoy, and days like this haven’t come around, yet. But that doesn’t mean that they won’t, and I’m not sure how I’ll cope when they do.

Yet even the job-application process is tough, that awkward point in time where every phone-call could change your day, every email starts with ‘Thank you for your recent application’. There were times when I really didn’t feel up to an interview, and where I knew I had come across badly and shy. But you need to go, you need to keep moving. There are no days in bed when you’re £1000 into your overdraft and you’ve got rent to pay.

The day of the coveted student loan text comes and go, and you realise just how much you relied on it before, among other things. No one prepares you for that time post-uni, for everyone’s experience will surely be different.

Some return home, and go back to the role of ‘child’. Others have saved and saved, and run off out and into the world. Those, who are more prepared, have high-flying grad schemes lined up, and are already paying off their student debt. Some refuse to admit it’s all over, and the year of the Masters soon begins. Our friends disperse, and the city we called home for the past 3 years becomes distant and cold overnight.

But change affects us all mentally, perhaps without us really knowing it. This period of adjustment is one that is given very little thought; indeed isn’t it what the last few years has been leading up to?

Myself, I miss the time on my own, and where ‘doing work’ really meant reading 3 books a week, something which wasn’t a chore for me. I still read, and I write (for I have this fear that my brain will just turn to goo at any point), but it’s certainly more forced. Yet, I suppose, at least it now really is a hobby.

So this World Mental Health Day, I wanted to write about something which is affecting millions of young people everywhere. More needs to be done to help them everyday, not just when they are at their worst and can’t cope with the rut anymore.

I believe that the transition period from university to ‘real life’ needs to be better understood, and that more should be implemented in the workplace for those with mental health problems. When we graduate and walk across that decorated stage, collecting a piece of paper as we do so, our mental illness doesn’t vanish. It doesn’t stay at the other side of the hall.




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