Author: Marsha M. Linehan
Marsha Linehan, PhD, ABPP, tells the story of her journey from suicidal teenager to world-renowned developer of the life-saving behavioral therapy DBT, using her own struggle to develop life skills for others.
If you’re a frequenter of this blog, then you probably know my history…. I have been in therapy off and on since I was 16 to treat a myriad of problems–depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, PTSD from sexual trauma, etc. It wasn’t until I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) in 2020 and spent a week in the hospital in March 2021 for overdosing on lithium that my psychiatrist and therapist at the time recommended I find a DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) program. I graduated from that program in May 2022.
In one of my recent conversations with my current therapist (a DBT-trained PsyD), he recommended I read Marsha’s memoir. I had been struggling with depression and anhedonia due to health problems. Instead of using the skills I learned in DBT to help me cope with them, I started falling back into my old behaviors. I was severely discouraged, thinking I’d have to deal with the same mental health problems for the rest of my life. I wanted a magic pill to get rid of them for good.
Reading Marsha’s memoir was very eye-opening. Before I read her life story, I knew one thing about her–she developed the life-saving behavior therapy known as DBT. What I did not know is that she used her own struggles with depression, anxiety, self-harm urges, and suicidal ideation to develop these life skills to help others. She explained that when she clawed her way out of her own personal hell, she made a vow to God and herself that she’d find a way to help others out of their hells too.
She not only used science and research to create easy-to-use skills to help highly suicidal individuals, she also sought help from different spiritual advisors along the way. She, a devout Catholic, spent months in Zen monasteries, learning the skills of mindfulness, acceptance, and willingness.
She persevered through countless setbacks of invalidation from her parents and skepticism by colleagues. She endured sexism and outdated Freudian ideals in the psychological industry. And, she persisted in publishing her findings despite rejection after rejection due to being deemed a poor writer.
I’m so grateful she was so determined to fulfill her vow. DBT has changed my life. As I mentioned above, I still struggle with the same urges and extreme emotions I had before going through DBT. I also feel more confident in my ability to cope and work through my struggles. I know if I use the skills I’ve learned, I can build a life worth living.
Have you read BUILDING A LIFE WORTH LIVING? If so, what did you think?
There is a trigger warning for suicide, suicidal ideation, cutting, and institutionalization.