PTSD: can it come from strength, rather than a sign of weakness?

This amazing post talks about character traits which show strength, and how they ultimately contributed to Joe’s military service (and PTSD), but also to his recovery.

Most people with PTSD don’t have a prior history of running ultra-marathons, but the strength that allowed him to do that was psychological, not physical.

His perspective reminds me of that in psychiatrist Tim Cantopher’s book, Depressive Illness: Curse of the Strong.

Are you scoffing at the thought that depression is a result of strength? I certainly was until I started reading. Here’s two extracts from the book:

This illness nearly always happens to one particular type of person. He or she is strong, reliable, and diligent, with a strong conscience and sense of responsibility. But he is also sensitive, easily hurt by criticism and has a selfesteem which, while it may look robust on the outside, is in fact quite vulnerable and easily dented. This is the person to whom you would turn in times of need, and she would never let you down. When the going gets tough, this person gets going. Why should this type of person be the one to get ill?

So what happens if you put a whole lot of stresses on to someone who is weak, or cynical, or lazy? The answer is that he will immediately give up, so he will never get stressed enough to become ill.

The strong person on the other hand, reacts to stress by redoubling his efforts, pushing himself way beyond the limits for which his body is designed. When he starts to get symptoms, because he is sensitive and fears criticism and failure, he still keeps going, with the inevitable result that eventually something must give way. What gives way is the limbic system. If you put 18 amps through a 13 amp fuse, there is only one possible result.

Stress related depressive illness is essentially a blown fuse.

Read Joe’s understanding of inner strength, and the self-stigma within PTSD

What strengths do you have within your character?

What strengths do you think are common in people you know with Depression or PTSD?

Related links

Why doesn’t depression get as much sympathy as other diseases? Ruby Wax on Mental Health stigma

Ruby Wax, famous comedian and author, setup to allow people with depression to talk about it. She also wrote a stand-up show whilst recovering from a depression so severe she needed to be hospitalised.

It's so common, it could be anyone. The trouble is, nobody wants to talk about it. And that makes everything worse. - Ruby Wax

It’s so common, it could be anyone. The trouble is, nobody wants to talk about it. And that makes everything worse. – Ruby Wax

Check our her blog post about why she won’t shut up about stigma, and the importance of connecting with others.

Ruby explains – with humor – the abusive voices of depression

Related links

Where does low self-esteem come from? Does it effect health?

Self-esteem and a sense of identity develop during early childhood. If a person is raised is an emotionally damaging environment or does not have their emotional needs met this affects self-esteem. Some people with persistent low self-esteem may not regard their early life as damaging because of their distorted perceptions of themselves and others.

Low self-esteem which develops in childhood is not fixed for life, it can be altered. Finding the cause of the distorted perceptions developed in childhood can be a very effective and empowering way of raising self-esteem.

child abuse distorts perceptions psychotherapy teaches you to find and alter the distortions


Raising self-esteem along the way has positive effects on overall health and productivity. We can begin to love our lives where before we may have found them to be a burden. Facing and surviving unhealthy love or emotional difficulties takes courage. The rewards are worth it. Learning the difference between healthy relationships and unhealthy ones is the beginning of relational maturity.

My self-esteem elevated when I faced the truth about my past and that I was not to blame; it was not my shame.

Darlene Ouimet, Follow her on twitter @DarleneOuimet


How can low self-esteem affect your daily life?

This is a powerful example from Darlene, and if you have been stuck in snowy weather it may well be very familiar.

A day in the Life of Darlene – Recognizing the Origin of Self-Blame

Stress relieving tips and quotes for the Holiday Season

5 tips for reducing holiday stress

  • Plan ahead, and plan time for relaxing quietly
  • Practice saying “No” if you have to much to do already, or are already feel tired or ill
  • Spend time outdoors, stretch your legs with some gentle exercise and fresh air
  • Remember to take care of yourself, and do things for yourself, not just for others
  • Try practicing mindfulness, which can help with traumatic memories

The Science of Mindfulness (Oxford University)

For fast-acting relief, try slowing down.
Lily Tomlin

“If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.”
Amit Ray, Om Chanting and Meditation

Don’t underestimate the value of Doing Nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering
Pooh’s little Instruction Book

What is your favorite way to relieve stress and relax?

Read more stress-relieving quotes…

Living with Bipolar Disorder & an Eating Disorder

Having an eating disorder make managing mental health very difficult – especially when you need medication. Read about Erin’s struggles recovering from bipolar disorder and how she copes now.

Where I Stand

erin laughI don’t write much about my struggle with bipolar disorder on the blog, I believe partly because its a newer and less familiar diagnosis of mine (compared to my 13 year struggle with eating disorders/body image/food). I was diagnosed during my sophomore year of college (2010). Prior to being diagnosed I thought my mood changes were at least semi normal. Being in college I initially used the mania to my advantage not sleeping and becoming hyper vigilant/obsessed with school and my grades. During the times of great depression I withdrew from the world into my bed for days. The only person who really saw how bad it was was my roommate and as she tried to help and pushed her away. During this time I was attempting to work on eating disorder recovery but just as my moods fluctuated my behaviors did as well.

As my doctors/treatment providers become more…

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