Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen

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Last updated: January 30, 2019

Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen In April 1967, 18-year-old Susanna Kaysen is admitted into McLean Hospital, a residential psychiatric facility in Massachusetts, after attempting suicide. She denies that it was a suicide attempt to a psychiatrist, who suggests she take time to regroup in McLean.

Susanna is diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, and her stay extends to 18 months. Although she plans to stay only a few weeks, Kaysen remains at McLean for two years. Kaysen tells the story of the people and experiences she encounters at McLean in nonchronological essays.Fellow patients Polly, Cynthia, Lisa, Lisa Cody, Georgina and Daisy contribute to Susanna’s experiences at McLean as she describes their personal issues and how they come to cope with the time they must spend in the hospital. Susanna also introduces particular staff members, including Valerie, Dr. Wick and Mrs. McWeeney. Susanna reflects on the nature of her illness, including difficulty making sense of visual patterns, and suggests that sanity is a falsehood constructed to help the “healthy” feel “normal.

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She also questions how doctors treat mental illness, and whether they are treating the brain or the mind. During her stay, Susanna undergoes a period of depersonalization, where she bites open the flesh on her hand after she becomes terrified that she has “lost her bones. ” Also, during a trip to the dentist, Susanna becomes frantic after she wakes from the general anesthesia, when no one will tell her how long she was unconscious, and she fears that she has lost time. After leaving McLean, Susanna mentions that she kept in touch with Georgina and saw Lisa, who was about to board the subway with her son.


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