You’ve heard about post-NYSC depression, but it feels abstract to you. It’s just your passing out parade. You are elated. For starters, you’ll ditch the khaki and forget the nightmare that was CDS. You take a slew of pictures, both hands cradling your certificate stretched towards the camera. You’re also ambivalent. You say goodbye to the friends you made during your service year. You promise to keep in touch. You leave to face the real world. Slowly, you begin to realise how messy the job eco-system is and how real post-NYSC depression is.
This is an ongoing topic, so we asked four Nigerian graduates to share their thoughts about this syndrome:
It’s funny how post-NYSC depression creeps up on you; one moment, you are anticipating a pay bump from the #19,800 allawee, the next thing, you’re fighting for dear life. I was so eager to see the end of NYSC that the thought that I might not find a job was pretty much non-existent. Like how hard can it be to find one? I came back home, excited for what I thought was coming. I sent out scores of applications. Not one got back to me.
The one or two that reached out turned out to be networking/GNLD gigs. Three months at home with no stream of income fed my frustration, and it started to consume me, then the depression came with it. I didn’t clock how dire my situation was until my dad started giving me #1000 every day. He meant well, but the more I accepted the money, the more I became disillusioned with my existence. This went on for six months until the first job came. Nobody should have to deal with such a strong feeling of helplessness.
I always kind of felt like I would have it rough after NYSC. But then I got a lifeline about two months to the end of NYSC. A company I applied to got back to me and invited me to write their aptitude test. I served in the North, so I jumped on a bus and travelled to Lagos – I missed an end of month clearance because of this. They invited me for the interview, then the congratulatory email came two weeks later. Radio silence followed. They’d promised to let me know how to get my appointment letter and when to start work. They never did. When I followed up, they ‘regretfully’ told me that they would not be going with me, after all. No explanation. No apology.
This hit me profusely. I was beginning to think that I had my stuff on lock, so it was a big setback. Of course, the depression I thought I’d dealt with came rushing back in. I’m not sure how I survived it. Sure, I have a job now, but I still think of the road not travelled. And somehow, I feel like it was my fault.
Post-NYSC depression is as real as it gets. I lived through it for four months after NYSC. It’s hard to see your guys making moves and you’re there seeming not to make any progress at all. For me, the depression started to filter in when I moved back with my parents. That was a tough pill to swallow. It felt like I’d failed at this adulting thing before I even started. I had no choice, though, I went back to them and faced the scorn and mockery that came with it.
It was a dark time. I was so vulnerable, and it didn’t seem like I was going to climb out of the hole. I took a teaching job because it was that or nothing, but it saved my life. Getting out of the house every day did a lot to take my mind off the state of things. I don’t know if the depression is still there, but I’ve decided to keep it moving.
I was there when my sister went through her post-NYSC depression phase, and I knew what it did to her. I was not going to be another number. The safest option was to go back to school, so I could buy myself more time. My masters’ application came through, but the session didn’t start until three months after NYSC ended. Luckily, I got an unpaid internship. I took it because the point was to get busy. It was hard to watch my sister when she was stuck in that vicious cycle, and it’s hard to watch some of my friends who struggle with it now. Last-last, everyone will be alright, but I tell people to get busy, somehow. That’s the quickest fix.