People Who Have Come Back from the Brink
August 19, 2011 11:49 AM   Subscribe

Looking for stories of people who have recovered from situations of extreme duress (physical, emotional, psychological).

I'm looking for people who have come "back from the brink"-- and recovered from extreme states of physical, mental, psychological, or spiritual duress. I'm thinking folks like Marsha Linehan, Jackie Speier, Catherine Penney, Matthew Sanford, and others. You know, light stuff. :)

Other suggestions? Thanks.
posted by enzymatic to Health & Fitness (19 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
This post from the blue the other day comes to mind.
posted by utsutsu at 11:53 AM on August 19, 2011

Have you read Unbroken?
posted by bearwife at 11:55 AM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Well, there's that TV show, I shouldn't be alive, though pretty much all of those that I've seen deal largely with re-telling stories that someone made it through an extreme physical situation (with resulting emotional and psychological fallout).
posted by pappy at 11:56 AM on August 19, 2011

Admiral James Stockdale survived as a P.O.W. in Vietnam for many years (6?) and credited his survival and recovery to the philosophy of Stoicism, among other things.

His book Courage Under Fire talks about his experiences.
posted by joe lisboa at 12:00 PM on August 19, 2011

was reading an npr bit on this guy the other day--he lost his legs in a climbing accident, and now designs prosthetic limbs at MIT.
posted by JBD at 12:02 PM on August 19, 2011

Some background on his ordeal:

He was held as a prisoner of war in the Hoa Lo prison for the next seven years. Locked in leg irons in a bath stall, he was routinely tortured and beaten. When told by his captors that he was to be paraded in public, Stockdale slit his scalp with a razor to purposely disfigure himself so that his captors could not use him as propaganda. When they covered his head with a hat, Stockdale beat himself with a stool until his face was swollen beyond recognition. He told them in no uncertain terms that they would never use him. When Stockdale was discovered with information that could implicate his friends' 'black activities', he slit his wrists so they could not torture him into confession.
... and ...
Stockdale was part of a group of about a 11 prisoners known as the "Alcatraz Gang": George Thomas Coker, George McKnight, Jeremiah Denton, Harry Jenkins, Sam Johnson, James Mulligan, Howard Rutledge, Robert Shumaker, Ronald Storz and Nels Tanner; which was separated from other captives and placed in solitary confinement for their leadership in resisting their captors. "Alcatraz" was a special facility in a courtyard behind the North Vietnamese Ministry of National Defense, located about one mile away from Hoa Lo Prison. In Alcatraz, each of the 11 men were kept in solitary confinement, where cells measured 3 feet by 9 feet that had a light bulb kept on around the clock and they were locked each night in irons by a guard

posted by joe lisboa at 12:03 PM on August 19, 2011

Buck Brannaman

Go watch the movie Buck. For a man with scars on his back from being beaten as a kid, he does some amazing things with horses and people.
posted by BlueHorse at 12:05 PM on August 19, 2011

Jon Stewart just had the author of The Long Run on ... seems like it would fit your bill. (NYC fireman crushed under bus, comes back to compete as an elite athlete.)
posted by cyndigo at 12:06 PM on August 19, 2011

also having to do with ppl surviving mountain climbing accidents: the movie Touching the Void, which is pretty mindblowing.

i haven't seen 127 hrs yet, but it's supposed to be powerful too.
posted by JBD at 12:07 PM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

some moth podcasts:

drowning on sullivan street (best to listen without knowing what's going to happen. it's dramatic, and shocking, and generally makes me cry. i've listened to a lot of their poscasts, and this one is the most powerful i've heard.)

another moth talk by the same guy about other details of that experience--recommended.

couldn't find the moth link, but here's andrew solomon talking about working with cambodian women in resettlement camps.
posted by JBD at 12:27 PM on August 19, 2011

One of the illnesses that Marsha Linehan treats is Borderline Personality Disorder. When I was struggling with many of those issues myself, I really enjoyed the book Get Me Out of Here, the story of a woman who slowly fought her way out of it. It gave me a lot of hope.
posted by imalaowai at 12:29 PM on August 19, 2011

My previous, similar question got a lot of good answers.
posted by desjardins at 12:34 PM on August 19, 2011

I recently watched Sherwin Nuland's moving lecture on his personal experience with electroshock therapy to deal with severe, life-threatening depression. He ends the talk with this excellent quote:
For people under thirty…[who] are either on the cusp of a magnificent and exciting career, or right into a magnificent and exciting career, anything can happen to you. Things change. Accidents happen. Something from childhood comes back to haunt you. You can be thrown off the track. I hope it happens to none of you, but it will probably happen to a small percentage of you. To those to whom it doesn’t happen, there will be adversities. If I, with the bleakness of spirit—with no spirit—that I had in the 1970s, and no possibility of recovery as far as that group of very experienced psychiatrists thought, if I can find my way back from this, believe me, anybody can find their way back from any adversity that exists in their lives. And for those who are older who have lived through perhaps not something as bad as this, but have lived through difficult times, perhaps where they lost everything as I did, and started out all over again, some of these things will seem very familiar. There is recovery. There is redemption. And there is resurrection. There are resurrection themes in every society that has ever been studied, and it is because not just only do we fantasize about the possibility of resurrection and recovery, but it actually happens. And it happens a lot. Perhaps the most popular resurrection theme, outside of specifically religious ones, is the one about the phoenix. The ancient story of the phoenix who every 500 years resurrects itself from its own ashes to go on to live a life that is even more beautiful than the one before.
posted by lrrosa at 2:38 PM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

This question comes at just the right time for me. Last night I met the most amazing woman, Zdenka Fantlova. She's a survivor of Theresienstadt, Auschwitz and Belsen; she nearly died of hunger; she's witty, calm, matter-of-fact, aged 90 and could easily pass for under 70. She came to my production of an opera composed in Theresienstadt; she'd known the composer and librettist.

Her book, The Tin Ring, talks about her experiences. Last night she said to me: "When people are told about the camps, all they are shown are gas chambers and the figure six million." She wanted, she said, to talk about the life that people actually lived there.

Times interview here.
posted by Pallas Athena at 3:31 PM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

the laura hillenbrand article ideefixe posted above didn't link--it's here.

she seems to have coped well with the psychological issue of life changing suddenly and drastically. so i guess she has come back from the brink, mentally.

full physical recovery is unlikely for severe CFS cases, though, so she endures, like many of us have to.
posted by JBD at 5:09 PM on August 19, 2011

Tammy Duckworth is the first person I thought of.

Also surprised nobody's mentioned Elissa Wall, Jaycee Dugard, and Elizabeth Smart.
posted by SisterHavana at 6:10 PM on August 19, 2011

"The Survivors Club: The Secrets and Science that Could Save Your Life" by Ben Sherwood.
posted by maurreen at 2:39 AM on August 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

A still-in-progress survival story: "I don't think there's ever closure..." Dr. William Petit's family was murdered.
posted by salvia at 12:04 PM on August 20, 2011

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