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Girl Interrupted

Essay by   •  March 10, 2011  •  1,297 Words (6 Pages)  •  1,773 Views

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In this stimulating true story, Kaysen speaks of her experience as an eighteen-year-old patient in a psychiatric hospital in the late 1960's. "People ask, how did you get in there? What they really want to know is if they are likely to end up in there as well. I can't answer the real question. All I can tell them is, it's easy" (pg. 5). The doctor who referred her diagnosed her with a borderline personality disorder within twenty minutes of interviewing her. The doctor also perceived her as extremely depressed with a pattern-less life. Recent activities included having a relationship with her English teacher, attempted suicide, running away from her parent's home and having a troublesome boyfriend. Kaysen wrote, "I had an inspiration once. I woke up one morning and I knew that today I had to swallow fifty aspirin. It was my task: my job for the day" (pg. 17). The doctor explained she just needed a "rest" for a few weeks, but Kaysen ended up spending nearly two years at McLean Hospital. During that time, she developed many friendships with quite a few of the other teenage girls. Among the patients admitted to her ward, Kaysen describes Polly, a kind patient with disfiguring, self-inflicted burns to her face and body. Lisa, another patient, entertains Kaysen with her flee attempts and embellished hatred for hospital authorities. Kaysen's roommate, Georgina, struggles to keep a relationship with Wade, a vicious and unstable boyfriend from another ward, who tells the girls apparently strange stories about his father with the CIA. The obsessions of roasted chicken and laxatives make a newly arrived patient named Daisy the object of attention. Daisy eventually leaves the hospital and commits suicide on her birthday. In addition, Torrey, who is an ex-drug addict, was placed in McLean by her parents because of her promiscuity. Her parents eventually remove her against her own will and bring her back to Mexico where she believes she may return to her junkie ways. Lastly, there was Alice Calais. She was the most disturbing out of all the patients because she ultimately has a breakdown and covers herself in her own feces. During her stay, Kaysen bites open the flesh on her hand after she becomes terrified that she has "lost her bones." In addition, during a trip to the dentist, Kaysen becomes worried after waking from the general anesthesia and no one will tell her how long she was unconscious. She fears that she has "lost" time. Kaysen constantly questions her own mental state throughout the novel, and becomes wrapped up in her world of depression, anger, hatred, and grief. At first, Susanna is dead set against cooperating with her doctors. She seems to be a strong woman trapped in a diseased mind. There was a specific event that really captured my attention in this book; a friend of Kaysen's came to visit her. His name was James Watson and he offered to take her away from the hospital. You almost expect her to willingly take this opportunity, but surprisingly, she rejects it because she is convinced that she should stay the course of her treatment. Throughout her journey, she is forced to find her self and put the pieces back together before being admitted back into the "real" world. Kaysen receives a marriage proposal from her boyfriend and accepts it. She is then released. Some years after leaving McLean, Kaysen visits the young women who are still there. She also runs into Lisa, who has a child and lives respectably on her own. In the final chapter, Kaysen reveals the cause of the title of the book. She stands in front of a painting at a museum and that painting now holds very different meanings; the changing interpretation reflects Kaysen's life experience.

Kaysen challenges the readers to question the conservative ideas of the mentally ill. Kaysen not only focuses on her individual strength and growth, but on the shame that society has on mental illness and the frustrations of treatment. "I wasn't convinced I was crazy, though I feared I was" (pg. 159). This book clarifies that recovery is possible and describes how that happened for her. Another argument Kaysen makes is when she dissected the medical definition of her disorder, she believes it is much more commonly diagnosed in women than in men. She constantly wonders what degree sexism influences the diagnoses. "The disorder is more commonly diagnosed

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