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Mental Health

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Mental Health

You Make Negative Feelings Worse When You Try to Stop Them. Do This Instead

My therapist often repeats one sentence to me. I believe I would be able to recite it even if someone woke me up at midnight. (Don’t try to wake me up at midnight, though. At least if you value your life.) 

The sentence is: “You create what you focus on.”

Let me explain. When we experience something unpleasant, we want more than anything for it to just go away. If you experience pain, you concentrate on the fact of how much you want the pain to stop existing. If you have mental health problems, you often think about how you can make them easier to bear, how to make them go away.

When you focus on how to make something go away, you reinforce it instead

The problem with this kind of thinking is that you focus on the thing you don’t want. And the more you think about it, the more you reinforce it. By thinking about the thing you don’t want all the time, you strengthen the neural pathways in the brain that are dedicated to this thing. And the more you use these neural pathways, the more you are inclined to use them.

Nicholas Carr writes in his book, The Shallows: “The more the sufferer concentrates on his symptoms, the deeper those symptoms are etched into his neural circuits. In the worst cases, the mind essentially trains itself to be sick.”

You strengthen the right neural pathways by focusing on what you want

So what to do instead? Focus on what you want to have. Do you have anxiety? Focus on the feeling of peace and calm. Right now, I’m doing visualizations of feeling calm in therapy to “work out” the part of my brain dedicated to it. I imagine a place where I can feel safe and calm (it can be made up or real), imagine myself there, and feel the calmness wash over me.

For me, it’s a meadow filled with dandelions with an old tree in the middle. I sit down between its roots and look l into the distance. If I’m not calm enough, I picture a bed under the tree, and I’m curled in the bed, completely covered by the heavy blanket. I come out when I’m ready.

It’s normal if you experience calm weakly at first, or mixed with other feelings. As long as it’s there, it’s OK. Your brain just isn’t used to it enough yet. It will improve by doing.

You can train your brain to feel what you want

By focusing on what you want to feel, you strengthen the centers in your brain that are dedicated to that feeling. If you focus on joy, you strengthen the connections in your brain that create joy. It’s like a path that gets wider the more you walk it. At first, you slowly make your way through the dense bushes, but gradually you can walk it quicker and easier. Eventually, it becomes a habit. You will find yourself feeling joy every day because you have taught your brain how to do it.

Your dominant mindset can be anxiety, for example, but it can also be calm. It depends on which neural pathways you walk repeatedly. Of course, that doesn’t mean that you won’t experience any anxiety at all. Life contains all sorts of feelings. But your brain forms a habit that determines which feelings it falls back on in neutral situations, and you can change that.


You can learn to have fewer negative feelings in your life if you don’t focus on getting rid of them and concentrate on the positive ones instead. It takes time to teach your brain to form new neural pathways, but with daily practice, you can gradually start to change what is your dominant mindset.


The link for the book The Shallows is an affiliate Amazon link, which means that if you buy the book by clicking on it, I’ll earn a commission. (Of course at no additional cost to you.) The book is a fascinating read not only about how using the internet changes our brain but also about neuroplasticity and how different inventions like maps, clocks or the written word shaped the development of the human mind. I recommend only books that I enjoy myself. 🧡

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Mental Health, Neurodivergence

If You Are Autistic with ADHD, You Are a Living Contradiction 

Ever since I remember, I have always wanted two totally opposite things at the same time – both with equally great passion. To go out with friends and to be alone, to travel and to stay at the places I know, to attend various events, and to stay at home and read.

Whatever I decided, there was a part of me that was always unsettled. As an adult, I realized that other people around me aren’t such a mess of contradictory desires. But it was only after watching this video by Yo Samdy Sam that it dawned on me – this is happening to me because the “autistic part” of me and the “ADHD part” always want – or need – completely different things.

“The inner conflict is maddening”

It’s estimated that at least 30% of autistic people also have ADHD. It’s so common that the neurodivergent community began to create abbreviations for the combination of both conditions: AuDHD, AutDHD, and others. Yet there is so little information out there about people who are autistic and have ADHD – and it’s so necessary for us to understand our contradictory nature.

There are some traits that autism and ADHD share – like executive dysfunction. But there are a lot of traits that are complete opposites. The opposing traits can mask each other, so it can be a problem to get a diagnosis at all.

For example, ADHD demands constant stimulation. On the other hand, autism means you can get easily overstimulated, so you avoid it. You can even get overstimulated and understimulated at the same time.

The first comment on the video really resonates with me. And, apparently, with a lot of others. Vinnie S. wrote: 

“The inner conflict is maddening. All the things that make me feel most alive quickly burn me out. Yet, living a quiet little life that avoids burnout triggers depressive episodes through understimulation. When making major life decisions it’s like deciding which kind of breakdown I’d rather have. Heh.”

When one side is “satisfied”, the other becomes more visible

There is also an interesting thing that Yo Samdy Sam noticed. When she goes out and her ADHD needs are more fulfilled, her autistic traits become more prominent. But when she stays at home, where her autistic side can have what she needs, the ADHD traits become more prominent instead. When I thought about it, I noticed that the same thing is happening to me. 

Which side was winning was different throughout various periods of my life. As a child, I usually liked to stay in my room and read, as my autistic side preferred. As a teen, I almost always did what the ADHD side wanted. I hopped on any action that was happening around – be it a skiing trip, camping, or a summer camp spent planting trees or repairing an old castle. And as an adult, my mental strength to overcome the anxiety that being active triggers in me had run out and I had to return to my quiet ways – even if the passion for movement and action never ceased. I still yearn for it. I desperately miss it.

Which one I really am?

I have always identified more with my ADHD side, long before I knew I had these two diagnoses. I consider her desires the “right” ones, the ones that make me who I am. But I haven’t been who I feel I am – or should be – for more than 15 years. When I stopped being able to go on camping trips and summer camps, to simply take a backpack and head to nature for days, it felt like a part of me had gone missing. That I’m not really being myself. And I miss that part of me terribly. When I lost my ability to travel abroad, it only pronounced this loss. I’m always hoping that this will all come back to me, that I will feel whole again.

But when I’m writing these words, I realize that my autistic side and her desires – like reading for hours on end – are just as much “me” and as valuable as the part who is always ready to go on an adventure. I’m both. And that realization finally brings me some measure of inner peace.

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Life & thoughts, Mental Health

Have Compassion for Those Who Are Suffering

A lot of people who overcame horrible things gained a great empathy from their ordeal.

But a lot of people who overcame horrible things lack a bit of empathy. They believe that if they did it, everyone can (and often, that they should it do their way). They may even look down on people who didn’t overcome their obstacles.

But while I believe everything is overcomable, not everyone can overcome everything at this very moment. It may require years of work. It may seem like too much. Not everyone has the right tools and someone to show them a clear path. Not everyone can find that clear path out of the pain by themselves.

Please, have compassion for suffering. It is real. All people try their best. Sometimes it simply isn’t not their time yet.

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Life & thoughts, Mental Health

A Month of Doing Only What I Love

In November, I’m going to do only things that bring me joy. No obligations, no work, just joy. Sounds almost outrageous, right? But the journey to this decision wasn’t a pleasant one. 

It happened like this: I burnt out. I burnt out badly. I currently sleep over 18 hours a day, and just 15 minutes of (barely) concentrating on work means several hours when I have to lie down and don’t even have the strength to listen to an audiobook. 

I have just started getting my life together after a bad breakup recently. We were together for almost 11 years. I still love him. But I’m beginning to see how our dynamic – dependent/codependent – was extremely unhealthy and how much my thinking changed for the better after the breakup. It still hurts, though. Knowing it’s good for my mental health doesn’t stop the pain

My first burnout several years ago left me unable to work at all, so I was financially dependent on him. I hate to write these words down, I hate that I feel so useless. 

And after the breakup, I had to start working, no matter how unwell I was. He promised he would continue to support me until I found my feet. So I began searching for clients, writing texts… and having impostor syndrome the size of a small planet. Because how can I be a professional, how can I be of any use to someone, when I’m in this state? 

My already bad anxiety had extremely worsened. The first thing I felt upon waking every day was intense mental pain, and fear of the day ahead. When I thought about work, my head started spinning and I felt like I would faint. Sometimes I had to lie down even when I was outside on a walk, in order not to collapse.

I vomited. My therapist had sent me to bed from an online session that I tried to have in between bouts of barfing. And the next time, when I was falling asleep from exhaustion. And the next time. 

You probably get the picture. And after three months of this, my body apparently decided it had had enough, and just shut down. 

Just as I was beginning to feel less fearful about my writing, just when I landed a great part-time job as a writer for a magazine that I was so proud of, just when I started to overcome my social phobia and venture among people on a regular basis – everything fell apart. 

I felt so betrayed by life. I had put so much effort in, just to have everything I achieved yanked from me. 

But I had to figure out what to do. And the answer became obvious: I need to stop working. At least for a little while. I negotiated a month off with my clients, including the amazing, shiny new job at a magazine. Yes, I recognize that this is a privilege. But so is being healthy enough to work.

I knew I had to rest, rest and rest. “Rest until you are bored to tears,” one person from a late-diagnosed autistic Facebook group where I asked for burnout advice wrote to me. “And then rest some more.”

Of course, I have to fight an immense urge to jump on my other projects. I want to start an online business, it has been my dream for a long time. And now I have a whole mont… no! No, no, no. Just rest.

And I realized that a part of resting is this: doing what makes me happy. Even if it was just for the 15 minutes a day during the time when I can stay functioning. So I do it. 

Yesterday, I edited a short story I wrote a while ago. Today, I translated it from English to Czech. (Yes, I had to translate it into my native language.) I changed my job position on Facebook to positivity blogger, and then once more, to authenticity blogger. And now I’m writing this post.

I decided to change the way I write on this blog to be more authentic. And I changed the motto of this blog to “Positivity despite adversity“. I wanted to keep this space focused solely on positivity, but I realized that it had felt forced. I had to force myself to write. It wasn’t the right way for me.

I decided instead to write about my mental health experiences, alongside the small joys. People say that they see my posts about mental health as positive. I usually get the best reactions when I don’t just gloss over mental illness and other hardships of life. When I write from my heart, the words come easily. They flow out of me like a river.

I feel fulfilled. Yes, I’m terrified about what is happening to me, when it will end, how long it will last, and how I will be able to take care of myself in the long run if it doesn’t go away… 

But when I allowed myself to just do what makes me happy, I felt like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I didn’t give myself permission to do things that just bring me joy for a very long time. Everything was planned, everything had to serve some purpose. Now I just feel… and do. And rest.

I don’t know what exactly I want to do for my online business anyways. I jump from idea to idea and I’m not completely happy with any of them. (Even if I have a little something that I’m slowly building now.) Maybe this time will allow me to discover what truly makes me feel fulfilled. To find my direction. And if not… Well, at least I will have a good time.

Yes, it’s apparently possible to have a good time even when I’m in burnout. I need to learn to respect the needs of my body… and to respect the needs of my soul.

Yes, I’m terrified. And elated. I’m curious about what this month will bring. How it will change me. 


P.S. I just realized the night after writing this post that most people call a month when they can do their active hobbies for 15 minutes a day just “life”. But whatever, I’m happy regardless. 🙂