Although long respected as an expert on BPD and the developer of one of the most widely used treatments for the disorder, Linehan had for many years kept silent about her own struggles with mental health. In this moving article, she explains her thinking and how she came to feel that it was important not just for her but for all the other people struggling with this disorder to open up about her own illness.
Are you one of us?
“So many people have begged me to come forward, and I just thought — well, I have to do this. I owe it to them. I cannot die a coward,” said Marsha M. Linehan, a psychologist at the University of Washington. The door to the room where as a teenager Dr. Linehan was put in seclusion. The room has since been turned into a small office.
The patient wanted to know, and her therapist — Marsha M. Linehan of the University of Washington, creator of a treatment used worldwide for severely suicidal people — had a ready answer. It was the one she always used to cut the question short, whether a patient asked it hopefully, accusingly or knowingly, having glimpsed the macramé of faded burns, cuts and welts on Dr. Linehan’s arms:
“You mean, have I suffered?”
“No, Marsha,” the patient replied, in an encounter last spring. “I mean one of us. Like us. Because if you were, it would give all of us so much hope.”
“That did it,” said Dr. Linehan, 68, who told her story in public for the first time last week before an audience of friends, family and doctors at the Institute of Living, the Hartford clinic where she was first treated for extreme social withdrawal at age 17. “So many people have begged me to come forward, and I just thought — well, I have to do this. I owe it to them. I cannot die a coward.”