Susanna Kaysen reflects on the initial meeting with the therapist who recommended her for admission to McLean. The doctor reported that he interviewed Susanna for three hours. She insists the meeting lasted twenty minutes, though she concedes that she might have spent a little more than an hour in his office while he called the hospital, her parents, and finally a taxi company to take her away. She knows that they can’t both be right, but wonders if it even matters which one of them is.
In this section of the novel, Susanna explores the theme of perception versus reality as she meticulously attempts to construct, deconstruct, and reconstruct the hazy morning of her hospitalization. Though the day is far in the past, and (as she herself notes) may not really matter anymore, it matters deeply to Susanna that she gets to the bottom of what happened to her.
Kaysen’s one piece of “hard evidence” in support of her claim is a document labeled “Nurse’s Report of Patient on Admission,” which she obtained from McLean. The time of admission is recorded as 1:30 PM. Susanna believes she was in the therapist’s office before 8 AM, but concedes that because her sleep cycle was off, she might have been wrong. She posits that if she left home at 8 and spent an hour travelling to a 9 AM. appointment, twenty minutes of time with the therapist would put her schedule at 9:20 AM. The trip from the doctor’s office to Belmont took about half an hour, and Susanna remembers waiting fifteen minutes to sign herself in, plus another fifteen minutes before reaching the nurse who admitted her. Susanna concludes that this means she would have arrived at the hospital at half past twelve, which seems to support the doctor’s recollection of a three-hour interview.
Susanna carefully goes over the timeline of that fateful morning, sticking to her own recollection of events but leaving room for error. She knows that her sense of time and space was a bit unhinged at the time, as her sleep schedule had been erratic and, of course, her state of mind was poor enough to warrant her hospitalization. Nevertheless, she insists that something is off, and turns to the records from her case file in order to elucidate, perhaps just a bit, the details of her hospitalization.
Kaysen, however, tells her readers not to be so quick to believe her therapist, since she has more evidence. There is an Admission Note from a doctor at McLean who took an “extensive history” from Susanna before she reached the nurse—the hour of admission on his report reads 11:30 AM. Susanna endeavors to reconstruct the morning of her admission with this in mind. If the doctor at McLean admitted her at 11:30, subtracting the “half an hour [of] bureaucracy” puts Susanna’s arrival at McLean at 11 AM. Subtracting the half-hour taxi ride puts her exiting the admitting therapist’s office at 10:30 a.m. Subtracting the hour the doctor spent making phone calls takes her back to a 9:30 AM end to her meeting, which lines up with her original view of a twenty-minute total conversation. “Now,” Kaysen writes, “you believe me.”
Susanna ultimately triumphs in this section as she successfully makes a case for her version of events. The back-and-forth is exhausting, and is meant both to mirror the obsessive, circuitous thoughts Susanna experienced in her youth and to highlight the ways in which men in positions of power are able to skew the facts in their favor when faced with a relatively defenseless and naïve young woman.
A scanned insert of Susanna’s official admission note clearly displays the time of her admission to the hospital as 11:30 AM.
Susanna’s point of view is validated by this document proving that she was admitted to McLean at 11.30 AM.