Susanna Kaysen's Journal-Memoir, Girl, Interrupted

Susanna Kaysen's Journal-Memoir, Girl, Interrupted
Sane or normal people have wondered at one time or another what it is like in a
hospital that houses the insane. Susanna Kaysen opens the door to the reality and true
insanity of being a patient in a mental hospital renowned for famous ex-patients,
including Ray Charles Sylvia Plath, and James Taylor in her book, Girl, Interrupted. She
stays focused on reality and her idea of perception as well as the friendships she acquires in her two year stay at McLean Hospital and her recovery period once she is released.
Girl, Interrupted, written by Susanna Kaysen, is a documentation of her tay in a
psychiatric hospital including events building up to her taxi ride to the hospital and her recovery period outside the hospital. Susanna voluntarily admitted herself into McLean Hospital on April 27, 1967 after just one visit with a psychiatrist who had pushed her into thinking she needed ?rest?. She was told that she would only be staying for a couple of weeks. Those couple of weeks turned into six hundred seventeen days.

Susanna?s roommate, Georgina, was admitted after a tidal wave of darkness had
broke over he head in a theater. When she realized noone else was experiencing this
sensation, she knew she had gone crazy. along with Georgina, Suanna was friends with a
group of girls including Lisa, Polly, and Cynthia. Lisa never slept and rarely ate so she was always thin and yellow. She was very independent and often ran away. Even though she was always caught, she yearned for that freedom that she had tasted on the outside. Polly was a girl who had set herself on fire using gasoline at an age when she wasn?t even old enough to drive. Her neck and cheeks were scarred the most, but strangely enough she was never unhappy. Kind and comforting to others, Polly never complained and always had time to listen to other people. Not much was said about Cynthia except that she would have electric shock therapy once a week and would come back crying.

Susanna randomly mentions encounters with other patients but they never stay
fixed in the storyline. One such character was Wade, Georgina?s boyfriend. Wade was
seventeen and enraged about almost everything. Susanna recounts listening to him tell
stories about his father one day. According to Wade, his father was spy who had killed
dozens of people with his bare hands and lived in Miami, for the accessiblity to Cuba.
Another character mentioned, who was probably the most disturbing was Daisy. Susanna
remembers Daisy being a seasonal patient who usually came to the hospital just before
Thanksgiving and stayed through Christmsas every year. Her two passions were laxatives
and chicken. Every morning she would drum the nurse?s station for her Colace or Ex-Lax
and twice a week her father would bring and oven-roasted chicken baked by her mother
and wrapped in aluminum foil. Daisy?s father would often stay long periods of time. Lisa made the assumption that he could not believe that he had made her and wanted to have sex with her to make sure she was real. Not long after Susanna arrived, Daisy?s father bought her an apartment to move into. Soon after, Daisy committed suicide. Lisa Cody was another brief character introduced who wanted to be like the original Lisa in
everyway. They started out close but eventually the old Lisa got tired of it. One day Lisa Cody just disappeared never to be heard from again. On another occassion, a girl named Alice Calais was admitted to the hospital. At first she was very quiet and timid. Everyone liked her except Lisa, who did not like anyone really, and after about a month she exploded like a volcano at which point she was taken to maximum security. Susanna and her group of friends wnet to visit her one day in maximum security. Susanna describes her ward a vacation compared to maximum security which had bars on the windows, no doors on the bathrooms, and no toilet seats. The rooms were cells with nothing in them except bare mattresses with people on them. When they got to Alice?s room they noticed a distinct smell and the walls were smeared with dsomething that also covered Alice?s entire body. Lisa pointed out to Susanna that it was Alice?s own feces that she had smeared her body and the walls with. They never visited Alice again.

Out of all the characters Susanna encounters, she appears to be the sanest.
Although she often went into deep analytical thought about suicide, perception, and time. She was always obsessed with time. What time is it? What was the length of time in which the psychiatrist had decided to put her away? How long did the anesthetic have her out at the dentist?s office? She always had to know. On one occassion Susanna talks about insanity coming in two basic varieties: slow and fast. Viscosity as the predominant quality of the slow form. For example, time is slow, perceptions are dulled and thickened, body temperature is low, and the immune system is half asleep. Then she goes into a deep discussion about the counterpart of viscosity: velocity. With velocity there is too much perception and every muscle fiber and platelet is endowed with a mind of its own. Then comes the comparison between the two which is repetitive thought and the I?m-no-good thought.

Susanna Kaysen was discharged on January 3, 1969. She kept in touch with
Georgina, who eventually moved into a barn with her boyfriend and bought a goat.
Susanna and her new boyfriend visited her once. She also ran into Lisa in Harvard Square
one day with a little boy. Lisa was still thin and yellow but she had a three year old son and was working and going to temple. She seemed to be doing ok for herself. Her new
rich boyfriend and her took many trips on which he would often attack her character.
Whatever it was he was attacking Susanna would comfort him by telling him it was ok to
spend money at which point the attacking would stop. On one occassion Susanna and her
boyfriend visited the Frick. She viewed a Vermeer titled Girl Interrupted at Her Music
which she remembered seeing twenty years ago with her high school English teacher. She
had made a connection with the painting all those years ago and now she realized that the
girl had been interrupted from her music just how she had been interrupted from her life.

While reading Susanna Kaysen?s Girl, Interrupted, I opened my eyes to the reality
of insanity in this world and how we perceive insane people is the same way they perceive
us. We all have the same thoughts and processes going through our mind, but the ones
who are considered ?crazy? actually say it out loud whereas the rest of us keep it to
ourselves. Maybe Susanna Kaysen wasn?t really insane, but I do not doubt the people she
was institutionalized with were. Her perception and depth of reality is a bit more sane
than what most of us ever acquire in our own lives. That is what makes this book worth
the time and effort of reading.

Susanna Kaysen's Journal-Memoir, Girl, Interrupted 8.2 of 10 on the basis of 758 Review.