On The Borderline

How a Zen-friendly psychologist revolutionized the treatment of patients once thought hopeless.Katy Butler

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© Jerry CookeOn the morning of September 21, 1993, a shy and intelligent American woman who had never practiced Buddhism took an elevator to an upper floor of Duke Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina. Her name was Susan Kandel, and she was 37. Panicked and miserable because her trusted therapist had recently moved to another state, she walked onto an open breezeway and jumped, expecting to fall ninety feet to her death. She landed instead on a maintenance workers’ platform forty feet below and was taken to the emergency room with three broken vertebrae. A month later, wearing a body brace but not paralyzed, she was involuntarily committed to John Umstead state psychiatric hospital, an aging brick building on the outskirts of Durham, N.C.

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