Everything had lined up perfectly. I had found a home to stay in, all my clearances had arrived in time, and my supervisor was kind and more than willing to help me make the most of the wonderful opportunity I had to intern full-time at her social work agency.
My January Intercession Term was all set up to be a rewarding and educative experience. But an overwhelmingly stressful semester at college (and the associated neglect of my mental health hygiene) had so depleted my resources. In the couple weeks leading up to my first day at the agency, I knew I was falling hard into another episode of depression.
I soon found myself hundreds of miles from my family and friends, working ten to fourteen hour days at my new internship.
I was also facing my first experience of independent adulthood at a time when I had to sit in bed for twenty minutes to convince myself to do something as simple as dragging my weary body into the shower.
It was a terrifying first few days as I faced the realization I was on my own and was expected to make a good impression while I faked smiles and health.
I was overwhelmed by the little responsibilities I had, such as grocery shopping and cooking. I had come to dread these because of the way they sucked away the last bits of energy I had.
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Thankfully, by the end of my internship, I had discovered some tricks to help make the adjustment to adulthood in a time of depression…
First, I found the most crucial habit we have to adopt during these times is keeping an incredibly detailed planner, in which we write down even the littlest tasks we have to accomplish each day.
Not only does this help restore a sense of control and reduce the overwhelming abstract responsibilities to a set of concrete, doable steps, it also provides the opportunity to celebrate each small accomplishment as we cross them off the to-do list. This provides a great opportunity to force yourself to schedule in and prioritize self-care as one of your responsibilities, so that you can continue to recover even during these busy times of transition.
Second, it is critical to find a support network wherever you have transitioned to.
I was incredibly blessed to have rented a room from a loving, empathetic and encouraging family. As I began to let down my guard and grow closer to them, I found they provided a source of inspiration, love, and support that was crucial to my making the transition. It is not always easy to find people to come alongside you, but getting involved in groups such as churches, sports leagues, book clubs, support groups, etc., can help you begin to build connections that will be crucial sources of support as you seek recovery during transition.
Finally, it is important to consistently remind yourself to know your limits, which means being gentle on yourself when you make mistakes.
Trying to make a transition into adulthood during a time of mental health struggles is difficult and draining, and you will likely find yourself dwelling on the “shortcomings” this extra strain has caused you. Perhaps you couldn’t muster up a smile at work because your day had left you depleted, or maybe you messed up filing some data because you were overtired. It is crucial for you to take a step back and look at your thought patterns, making a conscious decision to recognize you are only human and are valuable, regardless of your “successes” and “failures.”
It is not easy to transition into adulthood when you are struggling with depression, and sometimes we really do need to take some time off to focus on our recovery.
Often, however, with the right coping skills and support, we can continue our recovery journeys while we begin the next stage in our life journeys!
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