We talk a lot about how hard the transition from high school to college can be. We have resources set in place for students who need mental health support, although they are often lacking. We have clubs and organizations that support students who specifically live with mental illnesses, making sure they have a community and something to fall back on when things get tough.
And although can college can certainly be challenging for a student struggling with anxiety, we don’t often talk about what happens after you graduate — as if graduating college wasn’t anxiety-inducing enough. So, we asked people living with anxiety in our community to tell us one thing they wish they knew after they graduated from college. We hope this helps you feel a little more ready to take on the “real world,” anxiety and all.
Here’s what they told us:
1. “[Make sure you have] better coping mechanisms. It’s so damn hard to survive day to day when all you want to do is hide in bed from all your stressors. It’s even harder when you have to go to work or stay at work despite being in the throws of a panic attack because mental health isn’t treated the same way physical health is.” — Melina A.
2. “There’s no one-size-fits-all timeline for life afterwards, and that’s fine.” — Nihal N.
3. “Alcohol and drugs are only a Band-Aid for a problem that needs stitches… it really doesn’t help with the anxiety. If drinking and using gets out of control, get help. A sober mind is much more compliant with medicines and coping strategies.” — Nora A.
4. “I wish I was able to make myself proud. I spent my whole life trying to make everyone proud, to make them say, ‘Oh, we are so proud of you.’ ‘You are good.’ ‘We love you.’ But what have I done for me? Am I really proud of myself? I pushed myself away for the safety of the family, friendship, love. I decided I was not worth the attention and that the only way to deal with my anxiety was to forget about me. Stop trying to please other people, love yourself. If you won’t do it, nobody else will.” — Gianluca P.
5. “It’s OK, things work out. You can settle and not feel like you have to jump from pointless job to pointless job because you are too scared about how your anxiety will work when you are in an ‘adult’ job. Settling down is actually nice; anxiety will always be there, but you still got this.” — Cait L.
6. “Change is inevitable. You’re most likely not going to have the same freedom and independence like you did in college. You will be OK and you are not a failure if you don’t get a job doing exactly what you went to school for. There are new challenges daily, but it is not the end of the world. Make sure to take care of yourself.” — Robin D.
7. “Don’t push yourself too much.” — Jom C.
8. “It’s important to talk. This is something I think we should be taught from a young school age. I have probably talked more in the last six months since being diagnosed with postnatal depression and anxiety than I have my whole life. I now love talking and am trying to help others through talking about and sharing my experiences.” — Kathryn B.
9. “Don’t be too hard on yourself if you can’t work right away. It sucks and it makes life difficult, but remember you’re not doing it on purpose and you didn’t choose this. My anxiety is one of the big reasons why I haven’t worked in the two years since graduating from college. I had to go on disability (mental health and physical health reasons) and it was very defeating, but I’m taking this time to try and get a handle on things so I can come out stronger and able to accomplish my goals. Grad school is still on my list of things to do, but I’m not putting time restraints on myself anymore because that is something that won’t help. Too much pressure = more anxiety.” — Gina G.
10. “It’s OK if it takes some time to figure life out. A college degree isn’t a magic train into a fully realized career and a picket fence life. But that is all part of the journey. And as someone with anxiety, sometimes that journey might have some stumbles. But that’s OK! The important thing is to keep going!” — Mandie L.
11. “Anxiety doesn’t magically go away. Keep going to therapy appointments, talk to your doc about med switches and remember to take care of yourself when you’re working full-time. No matter what, know you’re not alone.” — Chelle H.
12. “Honestly, anxiety really ruins your life if you let it. I wish people told me I couldn’t let it control me or hold me back from socializing or having friends. Having anxiety isn’t something to be ashamed of, and it’s normal.” — Emally B.
13. “I wish I would have known I can do what I want. My anxiety told me I couldn’t do nursing school so I settled with becoming a medical secretary/assistant. I work with nurses everyday and I’m reminded what I could have been but my anxiety told me. and still does, that I can’t handle it.” — Aci G.
14. “It’s OK to ask for help! And that it takes a long, painful while to find a way to control anxiety. Weather it be medication, meditation or a therapist or anything.” — Celeste Q.
15. “Leaving your comfort zone will be incredibly hard; take advantage of every opportunity you can. If your to anxious to try or go alone ask someone to join you.” — Mandy L.