Why do anxiety and depression often go hand in hand?

They often have a high correlation.

I've had some form of anxiety all my life. For much of my childhood, it was difficult to put into words what was "wrong" with me. One of the earliest memories I have is that I sat in the living room and watched a kind of nature program about the universe. 

It showed how the universe expanded and where we were in the solar system. At that moment I got a kind of acute panic feeling about how incredibly small we are. I remember that my heart started beating so fast that it felt like it was going to jump out of my chest, my palms were sweating and I had an urge to run away or disappear. I was maybe around 6-7 years old when this happened.

In retrospect, I can remember how the anxiety built up in primary school. I struggled very socially and it was difficult to use my voice. I struggled to fall asleep due to a strong fear of not waking up from sleep. For a while, I woke up at exactly the same time in the middle of the night and had to go to bed with my parents to feel safe. The physical symptoms were sweating and high saliva production. I was in a way aware that my thoughts actually controlled this and gave me these physical reactions, which made the fear of my thoughts even stronger.

Just before adolescence, anxiety became almost unbearable. I woke up early before school because my body had such a high stress level. I was extremely afraid of having to talk to people at school and especially of things like reading aloud and keeping performance in class. This led to a vicious circle that I either pretended to be sick or actually made myself sick. I especially remember an episode where I stood out in the cold with little clothes and ate nail polish. I had a panic attack one day before school and could not explain to my mother why I dreaded school so much. I cried from almost everything.

The middle school came and at that time my parents had divorced and I felt that I did not have any kind of safe breeding ground on this planet. I felt unbearably lonely. Eventually it got too painful to feel and I decided not to feel anything. I was numb to both joy and sorrow. For several years I had a self-destructive behavior as a result of disconnecting from the outside world and living in my body as if everything that happened was just a dream, fantasy or some kind of false existence.

When I was around 17, I had a complete crash after running from my anxiety for 10 years. I ended up in a deep depression where for 6 months I cried every morning and evening. Some days I lay in bed all day and looked at the wall. I looked at life as a deep dark hole that sucked at my soul. I quit school and had finally let the anxiety win over me.

After the difficult period, I started working with children to have something to do, where a kind of life in me began to wake up again. I could recognize a lot of myself and who I was in the children as well as the love we humans originally have for each other. I had a sense of responsibility and a reason to get up in the morning. This gave a kind of new life to my empathy and hence the empathy to myself. I slowly began to change how I thought about myself and gave myself space to be a living human being with thoughts and feelings again.

To avoid this becoming a novel, I will fast forward to the present. I started school again (anxiety was still present) but I got through high school and I got out into the world at university and even traveled alone to distant parts of the world. I have exposed myself to situations where the anxiety had to be challenged to the extreme and over time it has become something I acknowledge (let me feel), but do not escape from.

Actually doing what anxiety is trying to deny you is the biggest challenge. But at that point, you will experience what it really is like to feel like a living human being. To be a living human being can be absolutely, absolutely wonderful. To actually feel the music you listen to, recognize yourself in movies and art, travel to new countries and eat brand new food. Challenge the body physically in nature and in community. Discover how many people have felt exactly the same anxiety as you.

If you recognize yourself in what I have written, then you should know that you are not alone. My anxiety led to an inevitable depression. I know how much it hurts. Seek help from professionals. Let friends and caregivers around you know. Remember that your anxiety also makes you an incredibly living human being.

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