Oblique Life

A lovely article was forwarded by a friend of a friend last week: "Expert on Mental Illness Reveals Her Own Fight" by Benedict Carey, published in the New York Times originally on 23 June 2011. It tells the story of Marsha M. Linehan, a psychologist who developed Dialectical Behavior Therapy.

DBT, according to Wikipedia, "... combines standard cognitive-behavioral techniques for emotion regulation and reality-testing with concepts of distress tolerance, acceptance, and mindful awareness largely derived from Buddhist meditative practice." DBT appears to help people with a variety of brain chemistry issues, including Borderline Personality Disorder — people who sometimes cut or hurt themselves, sometimes kill themselves.

Carey's article describes Martha Linehan's own past in unblinking, sensitive detail, and includes an extraordinarily moving short video interview with Linehan herself. It quotes Elyn R. Saks, "There's a tremendous need to implode the myths of mental illness, to put a face on it, to show people that a diagnosis does not have to lead to a painful and oblique life." Treatment can involve "... mindfulness meditation, a Zen technique in which people focus on their breath and observe their emotions come and go without acting on them ...".

In recent years some of the stigma and shame have begun to fall away from mental illness. Most psychological problems seem rooted in brain chemistry gone awry, patterns of thought that have somehow shifted into dysfunctional instability. Several wonderful friends have told me of their own struggles, past and present. That revelation takes bravery and trust. I am awed by their courage, and strive to help wherever I can. Learning more and understanding how they feel helps them (and me) in so many ways.

(cf. UpheavalsOfThoughtRevisited (2002-12-13), BeautifulMind (2004-05-10), Awareness, No Blame, Change (2009-04-19), Guide to the Good Life (2011-02-26), Worst Zen Student That Ever Was (2012-03-10), ...) - ^z - 2013-08-14