Thursday, June 23, 2011

doctor brings life to others through her own experience of mental illness

Expert on Mental Illness Reveals Her Own Struggle - NY Times

This is a fabulous article which includes a short video.  Worth a read both in thankfulness for the way God can bring about change and can use ALL of what we experience, no matter how awful, for good - and also worth a read if you want to understand more about the experience of mental illness, in this case the ongoing desire for self-harm and suicide due to borderline personality disorder.  She is an amazing woman, this doctor.  What courage she had - and what courage she still has to stand up and tell her story publicly. 

An excerpt:

Radical Acceptance

She sensed the power of another principle while praying in a small chapel in Chicago.

It was 1967, several years after she left the institute as a desperate 20-year-old whom doctors gave little chance of surviving outside the hospital. Survive she did, barely: there was at least one suicide attempt in Tulsa, when she first arrived home; and another episode after she moved to a Y.M.C.A. in Chicago to start over.

She was hospitalized again and emerged confused, lonely and more committed than ever to her Catholic faith. She moved into another Y, found a job as a clerk in an insurance company, started taking night classes at Loyola University — and prayed, often, at a chapel in the Cenacle Retreat Center.

“One night I was kneeling in there, looking up at the cross, and the whole place became gold — and suddenly I felt something coming toward me,” she said. “It was this shimmering experience, and I just ran back to my room and said, ‘I love myself.’ It was the first time I remember talking to myself in the first person. I felt transformed.”

The high lasted about a year, before the feelings of devastation returned in the wake of a romance that ended. But something was different. She could now weather her emotional storms without cutting or harming herself. "

She became a doctor herself, vowing to help other people out of that dark hole.

The article says, later on, "No therapist could promise a quick transformation or even sudden “insight,” much less a shimmering religious vision. But now Dr. Linehan was closing in on two seemingly opposed principles that could form the basis of a treatment: acceptance of life as it is, not as it is supposed to be; and the need to change, despite that reality and because of it. The only way to know for sure whether she had something more than a theory was to test it scientifically in the real world — and there was never any doubt where to start.

“I decided to get supersuicidal people, the very worst cases, because I figured these are the most miserable people in the world — they think they’re evil, that they’re bad, bad, bad — and I understood that they weren’t,” she said. “I understood their suffering because I’d been there, in hell, with no idea how to get out.”

She was the one who developed DBT - dialectical behavior therapy - which seems to be widely used today.  That's what I call bringing life from death.  Her issues were not completely over, but she was able to use them to bring about great good for great numbers of people. 

May God continue to bless her work - both her research and her one-on-one work with individuals suffering so much.

1 comment:

  1. AnonymousJune 24, 2011

    Wow! what courage! She reminds me of the author of "Touched by Fire".