Just last month a historic event occurred – at least for those of us who work in the mental health field.

Dr. Kay Redfield Jameson, famous for both her pioneering work with bipolar illness and her own personal struggle with the disease.

This event was on the level of Dr. Kay Redfield Jameson’s epic confession that her years of leadership in promoting knowledge and treatment for bipolar illness had all along been fueled by her own near-lifelong battle with the disease.

In Dr. Jameson’s case, it happened through her memoir, An Unquiet Mind, a book that has since become required reading for families and clinicians working to better the lives of patients who have been diagnosed with bipolar illness.

But last month, it happened in a talk, to a small select group of physicians and loved ones at a Hartford, CT, clinic called the Institute of Living. The speaker was Dr. Marsha Linehan, the world’s leading researcher and clinician in the arena of treating patients with borderline personality disorder (BPD), and the founder of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), the to-date most useful clinical protocol for treating BPD.

In this talk, Dr. Linehan admitted to the world what her own patients had long inquired about – “do you share our diagnosis?”

Dr. Linehan’s firm answer was “YES.”

Dr. Marsha Linehan, founder of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy and newly joining the ranks of the great pioneers who have personally struggled to help themselves through helping others who struggle similarly.

The most interesting part of Dr. Linehan’s admission for me comes in her drive to restore hope to others. She found her passion, her life’s expression, and her reason for pressing forward through her own continuing struggles through not just working to better her own lot in life, but to apply what she was learning towards others who struggled similarly.

In the thorny first years when I was making my way out of the depths of my eating disorder and back to daily life again, I can see how my motivations were the same.

Similarly, this passion and hope comes through so clearly in the words of each mentor who applies to serve as one of MentorCONNECT‘s caring volunteer mentors. They cite the need to give hope out of the hope they have been given. They speak of the desire to find value in their years of pain through easing the pain of another.

And they seem to view service as not just a privilege but a near-obligation, a part of the contract we all share to receive help and then pay it forward in turn.

In Dr. Linehan’s self-disclosure I feel that energy of movement and change, as the walls that separate “what I struggle with” from “what you struggle with” begin to crumble, at last, for good.

We are all in this together. Often those who make the greatest impact on our lives and in the world are those who struggle the most.

When we have the courage to admit to our struggles, and to use them for good, we all become stronger.

Today’s Takeaway: Think of personal heroes of yours. How much do you know about their personal stories? Why are you inspired by their lives, their presence, their work? What can you take from their example to share more openly about your own needs for support, and your ability to offer support, with those in your own circle?

FOR MORE INFO: Be sure to visit this great Psych Central blog on Marsha Linehan and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, and also be sure to read the New York Times article where Dr. Linehan first announced to the world her personal battle with borderline personality disorder.