Book Review By Mental Health Warrior
“No life is not worth living. But what is important is that you experience your life is worth living—one that is satisfying, and one that brings happiness.” -Marsha Linehan
Marsha Linehan, the creator of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), evidenced-based psychotherapy, has helped generations of individuals to manage their lives and even recover from a borderline personality disorder (BPD). The twist is, she was one of the patients of BPD herself at a time when it was not even recognized in the US.
In her memoir, Linehan talks about the struggles of being one of the most difficult and suicidal patients in her ward. Eminent doctors had lost hope, until she ran away to find herself through spirituality, Buddhism. She developed behaviour therapy that includes aspects of her journey such as meditation. A journey that goes from light-bulb memories and being a popular kid to recurrent suicide attempts and parasuicidal ideations.
The book can be triggering, but if you get through it, you will find it endearing and warm. She focuses on supporting her patients take control of their lives, accepting the reality, radically but also embracing the change. Through the book, she talks about DBT being life skills more than anything else.
“I was drowning in an ocean of self-loathing and shame, of feeling unloved and unlovable, and of indescribable emotional agony, doing so much that I wanted to be dead” - Marsha Linehan
The book is special because BPD is a diagnosis that many professionals fret about. Notably, 10% of the sufferers die by suicide. It can be an isolating disorder. But, Linehan’s book feels like a warm Sunday afternoon on a cold winter night. It does not only show her struggle, but also her recovery through spirituality, skills, practice and her breakthrough in creating one of the most effective treatments for BPD patients. It is a ray of hope for all those who struggle with the disorder. The hopelessness turns into something that she puts words to, gives meaning.
Linehan fought hard and strong, head-on not only with the illness but also with the doctors and researchers to prove her therapy. She taught her students to never give up on a suicidal person. The outcome may be positive or negative, but the moment you give up on your client is when they give up on themselves too.
As someone who is trained in Suicide First Response, I see this almost every day. People with deep emotional agony see through your anxiousness your nervousness. They know when you are not ready for them.
The book also mentions the tools that she created as a part of DBT radical acceptance, seeking support, distress tolerance, mindfulness and interpersonal relationships. Dialectics, she says allows opposites to coexist, which is the absolute opposite of black and white thinking that comes with BPD.
The memoir by Linehan is a voluminous 340-pages life of someone who did not only get stuck in hell but got out of it, walking through the fire, one moment at a time. The book gives you, even if you don’t have a BPD diagnosis, reasons for living, for being enough in a world of scarcity.
Marsha Linehan is one of us. One of those who have suffered, been misunderstood, been in pain. And when one of us can get out of a miserable hell and create healing for so many not only in the West, but now in India as well, so can we.
If you or a loved one is struggling with BPD or any other mental health issues, reach out to experts at ManoShala.
This is second part of ‘Book Review By Mental Health Warrior’ a new series by ManoShala. Stay tuned to gain a new perspective on mental health books by the warriors.
Maheema Misra, Co-owner of BPD Humans