Post Commencement Stress Disorder: The Graduation Nightmare

Moving from one phase of life to another can be daunting, especially for a college graduate. The fear of failure, the uncertainty of the future, the expectations from our loved ones, the responsibilities that await us and the constant wedding invitations from our friends, can make one feel like a total loser. Having just completed a milestone, you ought to be happy but here you are, more confused than ever, while the rest of the world seems to know what they are doing. 

I had just graduated from the medical school and was going to move back home in a month, yet I had a knot in my stomach and a lingering feeling of loss. They say, there’s no place like home, so why wasn’t I excited? Why did waking up everyday become a chore? Why did tears roll down my cheeks whenever I heard my doorbell ring.

The fear of the future did not faze me at first but as the days drew closer, reality of the medical school twilight days – the most fun days, dawned on me, I became frantic. I did everything I could to focus on other things, to take my mind off the nigh possibility of sleeping a student and waking up an unemployed adult with bills to pay and the constant lingering question of what next. My playlist, a compilation of melancholic songs did little to help, in a transient, I was losing my mind and running out of time. My days were longer and my nights shorter almost like there was a conspiracy between day and night to keep me conscious of my fears; isolation was where I found solace. I had no strength to smile or talk about how amazing the future could be. I was soon going to be a doctor with no idea of what next.

Conversations about the future became dreadful. What next? What do you want to do? Will you go back to Nigeria? Do you plan on working in Nigeria? Some even went as far as asking if I had plans of settling down soon. If only they knew that marriage was the last thing on my mind; the thought of me choosing a life partner made me laugh because choosing what to have for breakfast was challenging enough. Perhaps, most of them meant well but I was too exhausted to answer their questions, so I hid and listened to more sad songs.

Just few years ago, I was a child, a happy one, so becoming a disgruntled adult wasn’t the dream. Life comes at you fast and time really does wait for no one. I wasn’t ready to move on, I didn’t want to leave the place I made home.  How dare life, how dare it push me into what I am not ready for. First it stole my childhood and now my peace and security. I had no control over my own life.

I tried talking to people about how I felt but they only said I was just being silly, that I had a lot to be grateful for. What was there to be grateful for, I thought. Many times I have wondered perhaps I am a fraud, an imposter; I am not as smart as everyone thinks. I only just graduated medical school, I am yet to pass the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria assessment exam, an exam that I may even fail. I was afraid that graduating from college would expose me to the world, a world that had more faith in me more than I had in myself, a world totally different from a place I called home.  

I didn’t know what Post Commencement Stress Disorder/Anxiety was until I graduated from school. Although it is an unofficial diagnosis, a number of people, especially college graduates have had to deal with. If you are dealing with PCSD please seek help. I really wish the extensive lectures we had in college had prepared us for this phase of life, especially all those hygiene lectures. But in all, we should be  grateful for the gift of life and hopeful that our tomorrow will be better than our today. And may we never forget that the success of another man does not in any way devalue our success. 

Symptoms of PCSD include:

  • Sleeplessness and irritability 
  • Feeling a lack of support after commencement
  • Feeling constantly worried and fearful about the future 
  • Experiencing shortness of breath, rapid heart rate or shaking while at rest
  • Feelings of failure if the new graduate is unable to find work in their area of specialty in a reasonable length of time
  • Not feeling in control of one’s life and having a sense of powerlessness
  • Not wanting to go out or socialise or withdrawing from normal everyday activities

PS: I passed the exam!!!!!!!