Trigger Warning – Mentally Strong People: The 13 Things They Cannot Help and Yet Continue to Fight Against Daily

Clearly the author of this list, Amy Morin, hasn’t heard of Borderline Personality Disorder, PTSD or Complex PTSD, just to name a few trauma-induced personality disorders. Many of the behaviours on this list are symptoms of those disorders, as people who suffer them are given no choice but to do whatever it takes in order to physically survive the situations they have no escape from, or control over.

While the things she advises in this list are, of course, stepping stones to freeing your psyche from the burdens that disable your ability to analyse and recover from life’s difficulties, the tone with which it is written is extremely offensive when you consider that millions of people in the world suffer extensive trauma on a daily basis – trauma which often results in the manifestation of those disorders previously mentioned – these are not disorders that one is born with, they are disorders developed following trauma.

That is the key message that must be heeded here. People who suffer these disorders didn’t have a choice in their abuse, and they don’t have a choice in the symptoms they experience as a result of that abuse.

I think it is incredibly irresponsible for a “licensed clinical social worker”, as Forbes describes Amy Morin, to completely disregard the personality disorders which are comprised mostly of the “13 things” in her list, when mental illness is still so incredibly stigmatised in society.

I’d love to see Amy Morin read this list, out loud, to the face of childhood sexual assault victims, or those who have grown up in or endured abusive environments for years on end, where every ounce of power was stripped from them, forcing them to adapt their thoughts and behaviour permanently, in order to survive.

Recovery from these disorders requires the sufferer to spend every single moment of their day fighting instincts they were conditioned to experience in order to survive their physical, mental and emotional traumas – instincts which are no longer required when the traumatic situation ceases, but instincts that remain part of their psyche and their body for the rest of their lives, thus impacting the way in which they interact with and navigate the world.

Recovery requires the sufferer to ACCEPT and FORGIVE themselves, whilst REWIRING EVERYTHING THAT THEY HAD TO BECOME IN ORDER TO PHYSICALLY REMAIN IN THIS WORLD. They have to take responsibility for what was done to them, as well as the way they reacted. They have to take responsibility for keeping their natural instinct at bay as it is generally not appropriate for their current situation and can have a profound effect on the people in their lives.

So you’re sort of right, Amy Morin: mentally strong people don’t 1. “waste time feeling sorry for themselves”. What they do is feel sorry for the horrendous abuse they had to endure at the behest of someone else. And then they turn themselves inside out keeping the effect of that away from other people, whilst recalling that abuse over and over and over.

They don’t 2. “give away their power” – their power was stripped from them – they never had a choice in the matter.

They 3. “shy away from change” because they are terrified by change -their lives have been spent following strict rules of survival, and many “changes” they experienced quite often signalled a new form of abuse, often in the form of gaslighting.

They 4. “waste energy on things they can’t control” because their abusers ensured they didn’t HAVE control. Many of them NEVER had control, so when they escaped their abusive situation, they had no idea how to make decisions for themselves, they were used to being controlled at all times so they find tiny things that they can control and they focus intently on them.

They DO 5. “worry about pleasing others” because pleasing others was what may have downscaled their beatings from “life-threatening” to “permanent scarring”, for example.

They 6. “fear taking calculated risks” because every single chance they took to escape their abuse resulted in some form of “punishment”. Everything, except allowing the abuse to continue, is a risk to people who have endured trauma. Clearly, allowing the abuse to continue is also a risk, but it’s one they know better than freedom.

They certainly 7. “dwell on the past” because despite being conditioned to believe that they deserve everything committed against them, there is a voice inside that screams at them, asking them to explain why they “allowed it to happen”. There is a voice that doesn’t let them wholly accept that they deserved their abuse – a voice that tells them “something isn’t right”. And they dwell on the past because in most occasions, their abuse wasn’t acknowleged, either by the perpetrator or those who could have helped them. The ongoing effects of that abuse also aren’t being acknowledged as something they can’t control, rather they are being blamed for being a bad person because others do not understand why they act in certain ways. Even when the abuse by the perpetrator ceases, the behaviours learned in order to survive, remain, and these behaviours do not fit with normal, healthy relationships. The victim is viewed as a perpetrator as their behaviour can sometimes unfairly affect the people in their lives. Consequently, they spend much of their time explaining their past, to justify their current behaviour.

They most definitely 8. “Make the same mistakes over and over”, because safe environments feel unsafe. The whole “Better the Devil you know” scenario. They spend the remainder of their lives in a state of hypervigilance, waiting for the penny to drop, for the rug to be pulled from under them.. if they’re in a situation they know (abusive), it feels like home, despite “home” being the least safe place for them. They are conditioned to accept abuse because they’ve been conditioned to believe they don’t deserve otherwise.

Some of them 9. “Resent other peoples’ success”, particularly those suffering Borderline Personality Disorder, because they can’t fathom what is so intrinsically wrong with THEM, that they were made to suffer at the hands of someone else. Many things feel like a personal attack. When you haven’t done anything to deserve the horrendous way you’ve been treated, you in turn can’t understand why others have a seemingly blessed life, free from hardship.

Many 10. “give up after failure” because their entire everyday life is spent in a state of “trying”. Trying to please their abusers, trying to avoid the next beating, molestation, or phrase that might trip your paranoid, psychotic partner into gaslighting you to ensure your continued compliance. Trying to navigate the world with a head full of trauma. The idea of trying something outside mere physical and mental survival is overwhelmingly exhaustive, and to be frank, not a goddamn motherfucking priority when simply making it to the shops without breaking down is something that takes 2 hours of intense “talking yourself up” to accomplish. Any sense of failure carries with it the weight of every other failure they have experienced throughout their lifetime.

A lot of them 11. “fear alone time” because being alone means being left with memories. Being left with self-hatred. It means staring at walls because you don’t know how to make plans because someone made them for you for 5 years and if you dared to make a decision for yourself, you were punished. A lot of them also fear being with other people, or being around a particular scent, or sound, or time of year, because it triggers horrendous memories and emotions that overwhelm them.

Some of them 12. “feel the world owes them something” because nobody protected them from the trauma in the first place. It isn’t always that people ignored them, many simply weren’t aware, and the abuser ensured the victim had no voice with which to seek help. Once they leave that abusive situation, and begin to comprehend what was done to them, they get angry, and they  demand recompense from whoever they can get it from.

Many of them 13. “expect immediate results” because simply comprehending their life, their abuse, the effect it has had on their psyche, is a long and exhaustive process, and they are desperate for the pain, anguish and exhaustion to disappear. They want to be normal, to be happy, and it feels extremely unfair that despite all they’ve gone through, the only way to reach a sense of normality, where their instincts and lives can become part of the world again without it wreaking more havoc, is a long, drawn out one where they often have to examine their abuse in detail and wonder whether they’ll ever reach the end of that road. They want immediate results for the other aspects of their lives because simply existing as they are takes everything they have.

While I do see where Amy Morin is coming from with this list, I feel very strongly that she has done a sincere disservice to people who not only have to suffer the results of their abuse on a daily basis, but also the stigma that surrounds the resulting mental illness, and the incredibly difficult task of surviving life, even when they have managed to escape the abuse.

If a person genuinely wishes to help me in my recovery, I ask them to first and foremost do some research on Complex PTSD.  I am happy to answer questions and clarify the ways in which this affects my life, as the purpose of recovery is to establish and maintain healthy relationships – healthy for me, and healthy for the other people involved.

Mental illness is already difficult enough to live with, without the stigma attached. I’d like to see the world working to break down this stigma, rather than reinforcing it. 

People cannot help their mental illness. That doesn’t take away their responsibility to manage it to the best of their ability. Blaming them for being who they are, however, helps no-one.

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