When I look back now, I don’t remember my college graduation, even though it was less than a year ago.
I think it’s because the day was very stressful. I spent most of it rushing around, so I try to block the memory out of my mind as best as I can. The only part I focus on is the moment I walked across the stage to receive my diploma case.
The expectation when you graduate college is to move away from home for good (if you haven’t already done so), and find a good job in your field. I expected to move to a bigger city immediately, to find a nice job in a nice business and spend my mornings drinking coffee while overlooking the city from my studio apartment.
Instead, I came home. I moved back into my bedroom, which was now partly the guest room, and slept in a bed that I was only slightly familiar with. Most of my belongings remained in boxes for months, blocking my dresser in the process. I broke up with my boyfriend of over a year. We had been in a long-distance relationship for most of our time together, and communication issues had caused a lot of strain on things. Guilt manifested in my brain for weeks, even though ending the relationship was my idea.
I had no job to come home to. I had no job that I was leaving either, so my search became more difficult as I looked for a minimum-wage position. I was embarrassed at the very thought of it. Four years of college and I have to find a job that doesn’t pay well? I felt like I had wasted those years only to come home and have nothing to show for it but a piece of paper.
My drive to do anything was quickly replaced with anxiety. I stayed awake throughout the night and slept all day long. My brain was renting space out for negative thoughts.
You’re disappointing your parents.
Why did you come back home? Everyone’s going to know you’re a failure.
You’re a disgrace. Your family and friends think so, too. Don’t even bother showing your face anywhere.
I began finding ways to distract myself. My nights were spent watching videos on YouTube instead of tossing and turning, and my days were spent playing video games to numb out the voices shouting from the crevasses of my brain.
Finally, one day, I made the decision that I could no longer go on like this. With my mom’s help (phone calls are scary when you have anxiety), I made an appointment with my doctor to talk about medication. Within a few days, I was on an antidepressant. I trusted that it would work. It worked for my mom, so it had to work for me, too.
Thankfully, it kicked out the negative thoughts I experienced daily. The butterflies in my stomach took flight, too. Over time, I filled in the spaces where Celexa couldn’t help. I attempted to fix my sleeping schedule by forcing myself awake. When that didn’t help, I turned to another antidepressant for occasional help. I remained without a job for a few more months. My drive was starting to pick up, but I couldn’t get it going just yet. With the help of family and friends, I finally found a job as a substitute teacher, was given opportunities to help with local theatre productions, and even got the writing position that gave me a reason to share this story.
Slowly but surely, my life began to fall back into place. My drive kicked back in. My brain began chanting, You can do this, instead of, Give up. You’re going nowhere.
When I look back now, I barely remember my college graduation, even though it was less than a year ago.
Maybe it was the stressors of the day that make it feel that way: The lack of sleep the night before, the pressure of moving out of my college housing on the same day, or my sore back that only worsened after spending two hours sitting in a metal chair. Maybe it was the fact that my soon-to-be ex-boyfriend had come along, and though I was happy he came, I was focused on making sure every interaction between us wasn’t awkward.
Or maybe it’s because I’m a different person than I was back then.