Girl, Interrupted

by

Susanna Kaysen

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Susanna Kaysen Character Analysis

The author of Girl, Interrupted, as well as its main subject, Susanna Kaysen was just eighteen when she was admitted to the McLean psychiatric facility to be treated for Borderline Personality Disorder. After a little over a year of instability, recklessness, seeing patterns, and experiencing circuitous thought patterns, Susanna voluntarily admitted herself to McLean on the recommendation of a therapist with whom she’d spoken for only twenty minutes. Susanna’s stay at McLean is a nontraditional but educational passage into womanhood, and as she adjusts to life on the psych ward, she learns lessons about the nature of the mind, the blurry line between sanity and insanity, the ills and shortcomings of the mental health industry, and the joys of finding human connection in the unlikeliest of places. With her razor-sharp wit and dedication to exposing the flawed ways in which mental health professionals diagnose and treat mental disorders, Susanna excoriates those who label others “crazy” even as she lays bare the dark humor of finding oneself stuck with such a label. Kaysen reflects on her time at McLean with tenderness and courage, creating a portrait of herself which symbolically mirrors the painting that gave her memoir its title: Girl Interrupted at Her Music by Johannes Vermeer. Like the painting, Kaysen’s memoir is relayed in a nonlinear, anecdotal way which allows for only an “imperfect” glimpse of the woman within it, yet which contains and reveals multitudes.

Susanna Kaysen Quotes in Girl, Interrupted

The Girl, Interrupted quotes below are all either spoken by Susanna Kaysen or refer to Susanna Kaysen. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
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). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage edition of Girl, Interrupted published in 1994.
Chapter 1 Quotes

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. And it is easy to slip into a parallel universe. Most people pass over incrementally, making a series of perforations in the membrane between here and there until an opening exists. And who can resist an opening?

Related Characters: Susanna Kaysen (speaker)
Page Number: 5
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An odd feature of the parallel universe is that although it is invisible from this side, once you are in it you can easily see the world you came from. Sometimes the world you came from looks huge and menacing, quivering like a vast pile of jelly; at other times it is miniaturized and alluring, a-spin and shining in its orbit. Either way, it can’t be discounted. Every window on Alcatraz has a view of San Francisco.

Related Characters: Susanna Kaysen (speaker)
Page Number: 6
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 10 Quotes

Take it from his point of view. It was 1967. Even in lives like his, professional lives lived out in the suburbs behind shrubbery, there was a strange undertow, a tug from the other world--the drifting, drugged-out, no-last-name youth universe--that knocked people off balance. One could call it "threatening," to use his language. What are these kids doing? And then one of them walks into his office wearing a skirt the size of a napkin, with a mottled chin and speaking in monosyllables. Doped up, he figures. He looks again at the name jotted on the notepad in front of him. Didn't he meet her parents at a party two years ago? Harvard faculty--or was it MIT? Her boots are worn down but her coat's a good one. It's a mean world out there, as Lisa would say. He can't in good conscience send her back into it, to become flotsam on the subsocietal tide that washes up now and then in his office, depositing others like her. A form of preventive medicine.

Related Characters: Susanna Kaysen (speaker), The Therapist
Page Number: 39-40
Explanation and Analysis:

Something also was happening to my perceptions of people. When I looked at someone's face, I often did not maintain an unbroken connection to the concept of a face. Once you start parsing a face, it's a peculiar item: squishy, pointy, with lots of air vents and wet spots. This was the reverse of my problem with patterns. Instead of seeing too much meaning, I didn't see any meaning. But I wasn't simply going nuts, tumbling down a shaft into Wonderland. It was my misfortune—or salvation—to be at all times perfectly conscious of my misperceptions of reality. I never "believed" anything I saw or thought I saw. Not only that, I correctly understood each new weird activity. Now, I would say to myself, you are feeling alienated from people and unlike other people, therefore you are projecting your discomfort onto them. When you look at a face, you see a blob of rubber because you are worried that your face is a blob of rubber. This clarity made me able to behave normally, which posed some interesting questions. Was everybody seeing this stuff and acting as though they weren't? Was insanity just a matter of dropping the act?

Related Characters: Susanna Kaysen (speaker)
Page Number: 41
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 14 Quotes

Swish, click. Before you knew it, she'd be back. Click, swish, "Checks," swish, click.

It never stopped, even at night; it was our lullaby. It was our metronome, our pulse. It was our lives measured out in doses slightly larger than those famous coffee spoons. Soup spoons, maybe? Dented tin spoons brimming with what should have been sweet but was sour, gone off, gone by without our savoring it: our lives.

Related Characters: Susanna Kaysen (speaker)
Page Number: 55
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 16 Quotes

Cynthia was depressive; Polly and Georgina were schizophrenic; I had a character disorder. Sometimes they called it a personality disorder. When I got my diagnosis it didn't sound serious, but after a while it sounded more ominous than other people's. I imagined my character as a plate or shirt that had been manufactured incorrectly and was therefore useless.

Related Characters: Susanna Kaysen (speaker), Polly, Georgina, Cynthia
Page Number: 59
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 17 Quotes

“We'll find you a new [boyfriend] in the cafeteria," said Georgina. "I’m sure Wade knows somebody nice.”

"Let's forget it," I said. The truth was, I didn't want a crazy boyfriend.

Lisa looked at me. "l know what you're thinking," she said. "You don't want some crazy boyfriend, right?" I was embarrassed and didn't say anything. "You'll get over it," she told me. "What choice have you got?" Everybody laughed. Even I had to laugh.

Related Characters: Susanna Kaysen (speaker), Lisa (speaker), Georgina (speaker), Wade Barker
Page Number: 67
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 21 Quotes

Therapists had nothing to do with our everyday lives.

"Don't talk about the hospital," my therapist said if I complained about Daisy or a stupid nurse. "We're not here to talk about the hospital."

They couldn't grant or rescind privileges, help us get rid of smelly roommates, stop aides from pestering us. The only power they had was the power to dope us up. Thorazine, Stelazine, Mellaril, Librium, Valium, the therapists' friends. Once we were on it, it was hard to get off. A bit like heroin, except it was the staff who got addicted to our taking it.

"You're doing so well," [our doctors] would say.

That was because those things knocked the heart out of us.

Related Characters: Susanna Kaysen (speaker)
Page Number: 87
Explanation and Analysis:

The student nurses were about nineteen or twenty: our age. They had clean, eager faces and clean, ironed uniforms. Their innocence and incompetence aroused our pity, unlike the incompetence of aides, which aroused our scorn. This was partly because student nurses stayed only a few weeks, whereas aides were incompetent for years at a stretch. Mainly, though, it was because when we looked at the student nurses, we saw alternate versions of ourselves. They were living out lives we might have been living if we hadn't been occupied with being mental patients. They shared apartments and had boyfriends and talked about clothes. We wanted to protect them so that they could go on living these lives. They were our proxies.

Related Characters: Susanna Kaysen (speaker)
Page Number: 90-91
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 23 Quotes

For many of us, the hospital was as much a refuge as it was a prison. Though we were cut off from the world and all the trouble we enjoyed stirring up out there, we were also cut off from the demands and expectations that had driven us crazy. What could be expected of us now that we were stowed away in a loony bin? The hospital shielded us from all sorts of things. We’d tell the staff to refuse phone calls or visits from anyone we didn't want to talk to, including our parents.

"I'm too upset!" we'd wail, and we wouldn't have to talk to whoever it was.

As long as we were willing to be upset, we didn't have to get jobs or go to school. We could weasel out of anything except eating and taking our medication.

In a strange way we were free. We’d reached the end of the line. We had nothing more to lose. Our privacy, our liberty, our dignity: All of this was gone and we were stripped down to the bare bones of our selves.

Related Characters: Susanna Kaysen (speaker)
Page Number: 94
Explanation and Analysis:

Valerie and Georgina picked me up under the arms and steered me down the hall to our room. My legs and feet felt like mattresses, they were so huge and dense. Valerie and Georgina felt like mattresses too, big soft mattresses pressing on either side of me. It was comforting.

"It'll be okay, won't it?" I asked. My voice was far away from me and I hadn't said what I meant. What I meant was that now I was safe, now I was really crazy, and nobody could take me out of there.

Related Characters: Susanna Kaysen (speaker), Georgina, Valerie
Page Number: 104
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 24 Quotes

In the cab Valerie said, "I've got something for you." It was my tooth, cleaned up a bit but huge and foreign. "l snitched it for you," she said.

'Thanks, Valerie, that was nice of you." But the tooth wasn't what I really wanted. "l want to know how much time that was," I said. "See, Valerie, I've lost some time, and I need to know how much. I need to know."

Then I started crying. I didn't want to, but I couldn't help it.

Related Characters: Susanna Kaysen (speaker), Valerie
Page Number: 109
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 26 Quotes

He started asking me, "What are you thinking?" I never knew what to say. My head was empty and I liked it that way. Then he began to tell me what I might be thinking. "You seem sad today," he'd say, or “Today, you seem puzzled about something." Of course I was sad and puzzled. I was eighteen, it was spring, and I was behind bars.

Related Characters: Susanna Kaysen (speaker), Melvin
Page Number: 116-117
Explanation and Analysis:

In February I asked Melvin, "You know those tunnels?"

"Could you tell me more about the tunnels?" He didn't know about them. If he'd known about them, he would have said, "Yes?"

"There are tunnels under this entire hospital. Everything is connected by tunnels. You could get in them and go anywhere. It's warm and cozy and quiet."

"A womb," said Melvin.

"It's not a womb," I said.

"Yes." When Melvin said Yes without a questioning intonation, he meant No.

"It's the opposite of a womb," I said. "A womb doesn't go anywhere.”

Related Characters: Susanna Kaysen (speaker), Melvin (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Tunnels
Page Number: 121-122
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 30 Quotes

[The mind is] full of claims and reasons. "You're a little depressed because of all the stress at work," it says. (It never says, "You're a little depressed because your serotonin level has dropped.")

Sometimes its interpretations are not credible, as when you cut your finger and it starts yelling, "You're gonna die!" Sometimes its claims are unlikely, as when it says, "Twenty-five chocolate chip cookies would be the perfect dinner."

Often, then, it doesn't know what it's talking about. And when you decide it's wrong, who or what is making that decision? A second, superior interpreter?

Why stop at two? That's the problem with this model. It's endless. Each interpreter needs a boss to report to.

The point is, the brain talks to itself, and by talking to itself changes its perceptions. To make a new version of the not-entirely-false model, imagine the first interpreter as a foreign correspondent, reporting from the world. The world in this case means everything out or inside our bodies, including serotonin levels in the brain. The second interpreter is a news analyst, who writes op-ed pieces. They read each other's work. One needs data, the other needs an overview, they influence each other. They get dialogues going.

Related Characters: Susanna Kaysen (speaker)
Page Number: 138
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 32 Quotes

If my diagnosis had been bipolar illness, for instance, the reaction to me and to this story would be slightly different. That's a chemical problem, you'd say to yourself, manic-depression, Lithium, all that. I would be blameless, somehow. And what about schizophrenia—that would send a chill up your spine. After all, that's real insanity. People don't "recover" from schizophrenia. You'd have to wonder how much of what I'm telling you is true and how much imagined.

Related Characters: Susanna Kaysen (speaker)
Page Number: 151
Explanation and Analysis:

I have a few more annotations to my diagnosis. 'The disorder is more commonly diagnosed in women." Note the construction of that sentence. They did not write, 'The disorder is more common in women." It would still be suspect, but they didn't even bother trying to cover their tracks.

Many disorders, judging by the hospital population, were more commonly diagnosed in women. Take, for example, "compulsive promiscuity." How many girls do you think a seventeen-year-old boy would have to screw to earn the label "compulsively promiscuous?” Three? No, not enough. Six? Doubtful. Ten? That sounds more likely. Probably in the fifteen-to-twenty range, would be my guess--if they ever put that label on boys, which I don't recall their doing.

And for seventeen-year-old girls, how many boys?

Related Characters: Susanna Kaysen (speaker)
Page Number: 157-158
Explanation and Analysis:

I often ask myself if I'm crazy. I ask other people too.

"ls this a crazy thing to say?" I'll ask before saying something that probably isn't crazy.

I start a lot of sentences with "Maybe I'm totally nuts," or "Maybe I've gone 'round the bend."

If I do something out of the ordinary--take two baths in one day, for example--I say to myself: Are you crazy?

It's a common phrase, I know. But it means something particular to me: the tunnels, the security screens, the plastic forks, the shimmering, ever-shifting borderline that like all boundaries beckons and asks to be crossed. I do not want to cross it again.

Related Characters: Susanna Kaysen (speaker)
Page Number: 159
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 34 Quotes

She had changed a lot in sixteen years. She was no longer urgent. In fact, she was sad. She was young and distracted, and her teacher was bearing down on her, trying to get her to pay attention. But she was looking out, looking for some- one who would see her. This time I read the title of the painting: Girl Interrupted at Her Music. Interrupted at her music, as my life had been, interrupted in the music of being seventeen, as her life had been, snatched and fixed on canvas: one moment made to stand still and to stand for all the other moments, whatever they would be or might have been. What life can recover from that?

I had something to tell her now. "l see you," I said.

Related Characters: Susanna Kaysen (speaker)
Page Number: 167
Explanation and Analysis:
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Susanna Kaysen Character Timeline in Girl, Interrupted

The timeline below shows where the character Susanna Kaysen appears in Girl, Interrupted. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1: Toward a Topography of the Parallel Universe
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Susanna Kaysen, reflecting upon her time in a psychiatric institution, notes that when she tells people... (full context)
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Kaysen writes that her roommate on the psych ward, Georgina, fell into the parallel universe “swiftly... (full context)
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Once one passes through the membrane, Kaysen writes, one finds that the rules of the parallel universe are not bound by the... (full context)
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The strangest feature of the parallel universe, Kaysen writes, is that although it is invisible from “this side”—the world of the sane—once one... (full context)
Chapter 2: The Taxi
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Susanna sits in a therapist’s office. The therapist notes that Susanna has a pimple and has... (full context)
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When the therapist reenters the office, he announces that he has found a room for Susanna in a place where she can rest for a couple of weeks. Susanna hears a... (full context)
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An insert of a scanned document labeled “INQUIRY CONCERNING ADMISSION” to McLean Hospital describes Susanna as “profoundly depressed [and] suicidal; promiscuous; desperate.” A second insert, a memorandum from the therapist... (full context)
Chapter 3: Etiology
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In a brief list, Kaysen considers the etiology behind her mental illness (the word “etiology” is a term used in... (full context)
Chapter 4: Fire
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One girl on the psych ward, Susanna writes, set herself on fire with gasoline before she was even old enough to drive.... (full context)
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...on the ward knows why Polly set herself on fire, and nobody dares to ask. Susanna wonders, over and over, what the moment of decision to kill herself had been like... (full context)
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One morning, Susanna awakes to somebody crying loudly, but does not think much of it, as mornings on... (full context)
Chapter 5: Freedom
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...found within twenty-four hours, but this time, she has been gone for three whole days. Susanna writes that Lisa isn’t hard to identify—she is rail-thin and sallow-skinned, with huge bags under... (full context)
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...has been taken away so that Lisa cannot hang herself. What the nurses don’t understand, Susanna says, is that Lisa would never hang herself. Once Lisa is back on the ward,... (full context)
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Susanna asks one of the nurses whether Lisa is being doped up with meds, but the... (full context)
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...month or two, Lisa begins spending more time away from the TV—primarily in the bathroom. Susanna notices that Lisa goes to a different bathroom every time and has lost a significant... (full context)
Chapter 6: The Secret of Life
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One day, Susanna has a visitor—a man. It is not her “troublesome” boyfriend, who is no longer even... (full context)
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Her father’s friend, Jim, beckons Susanna over to a window and points down to the parking lot, where his red sports... (full context)
Chapter 7: Politics
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In the “parallel world” which Susanna and her fellow patients inhabit, she says, things happen that had not yet happened in... (full context)
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...Wade is angry that he will never be as tough as his father. One day, Susanna, suspicious of Wade, decides to try and find out more about Wade’s father. Wade tells... (full context)
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To comfort the distraught Georgina, who misses Wade badly, Susanna suggests redecorating their room or cooking something in the kitchen. Susanna and Georgina go to... (full context)
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Susanna writes that later, during the Watergate hearings, a man—she can’t remember if it was E.... (full context)
Chapter 8: If You Lived Here, You’d Be Home Now
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Daisy, Kaysen writes, was a “seasonal event” at McLean. She came to the hospital every year before... (full context)
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...an incestuous relationship. Every morning, Daisy goes to the nurse’s station and impatiently demands laxatives. Susanna notes that even though Daisy always smells like chicken and shit, she has a certain... (full context)
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...has ever been inside Daisy’s room, but Lisa is determined to get in, and tells Susanna that she has a plan. Lisa loudly complains about constipation for several days, and eventually... (full context)
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Lisa enters Daisy’s room after offering Daisy the laxatives, while Georgina and Susanna watch from down the hall. Lisa stays in Daisy’s room for a long time, and... (full context)
Chapter 9: My Suicide
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Suicide, Kaysen writes, is a form of premeditated murder. The idea of suicide takes some getting used... (full context)
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While writing an American history paper she wasn’t particularly interested in, the seventeen-year-old Susanna realized that if she killed herself she wouldn’t have to complete the paper. Susanna didn’t... (full context)
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One afternoon, Susanna called her boyfriend Johnny, told him she was going to kill herself, hung up, left... (full context)
Chapter 10: Elementary Topography
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Kaysen writes that it is perhaps still unclear to the reader exactly how she ended up... (full context)
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Kaysen wonders if she was, at the time of her admittance, even in need of it,... (full context)
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Kaysen considers the therapist’s point of view. In 1967, even out in the suburbs, there was... (full context)
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Kaysen writes that her own point of view is more difficult to explain—she went along with... (full context)
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Prior to her admittance, Susanna had been having problems with patterns—tile floors and printed rugs and curtains. She saw things... (full context)
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In response to these confusing feelings, Susanna became combative, and found integrity in saying “no” and denying herself basic needs and comforts.... (full context)
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A scanned insert of one of Susanna’s hospital records reveals a fragment of her application for voluntary admission to McLean.  (full context)
Chapter 11: Applied Topography
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Susanna describes the layout of the psychiatric ward. At the entrance, there are two locked security... (full context)
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...patient—but if one requested the room, they were made to remain there in isolation. “Freedom,” Kaysen writes, “was the price of privacy.” (full context)
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...few hours at a time is placed in seclusion. Though seclusion is an undesirable punishment, Susanna writes that it works—it either calms one down or indicates that they need to be... (full context)
Chapter 12: The Prelude to Ice Cream
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Kaysen writes that the McLean hospital was positioned on a hill just outside of town, “the... (full context)
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Kaysen explains that a complex system of privileges dictated how many nurses were required to accompany... (full context)
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On trips into the outside world, however, the scale reset. Kaysen notes that “someone who had mutual escort or grounds would probably still be on group ... (full context)
Chapter 13: Ice Cream
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...on the day of one ice-cream outing. It is the week after Daisy’s suicide, and Susanna expects the group has been brought on such an outing to distract them from the... (full context)
Chapter 14: Checks
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...rooms and slip into common areas in five, fifteen, or thirty-minute intervals, “murder” time for Susanna and her fellow patients.  They watch their lives pass by five minutes at a time.... (full context)
Chapter 15: Sharps
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...them. The patients ate with plastic cutlery, as if they were on a “perpetual picnic.” Kaysen recalls that food eaten with plastic utensils somehow tastes different. One month, she remembers, the... (full context)
Chapter 16: Another Lisa
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A scanned insert from Susanna’s medical file reveals that one nurse, while completing checks, found Susanna engaged in sexual activity... (full context)
Chapter 17: Checkmate
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Susanna, Lisa Cody, Georgina, and Lisa sit on the floor in front of the nursing station... (full context)
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Lisa and the other girls implore Susanna to get rid of her boyfriend and “get a patient boyfriend.” Susanna, though, deflects their... (full context)
Chapter 18: Do You Believe Him or Me?
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Susanna Kaysen reflects on the initial meeting with the therapist who recommended her for admission to... (full context)
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Kaysen’s one piece of “hard evidence” in support of her claim is a document labeled “Nurse’s... (full context)
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Kaysen, however, tells her readers not to be so quick to believe her therapist, since she... (full context)
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A scanned insert of Susanna’s official admission note clearly displays the time of her admission to the hospital as 11:30... (full context)
Chapter 19: Velocity vs. Viscosity
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Insanity, Kaysen writes, comes in “two basic varieties: slow and fast.” She argues that the names for... (full context)
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Though viscosity and velocity are opposites, Kaysen writes, they often look the same. While viscosity causes “the stillness of disinclination,” velocity inspires... (full context)
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Kaysen wonders whether it is worse to overload or underload, and notes that the two poles... (full context)
Chapter 20: Security Screen
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Susanna, Lisa, and Daisy are sitting in their usual spot by the nurses’ station, sharing a... (full context)
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In order to open a window, Susanna explains, a staff person must unlock the “thick impregnable mesh” of the security screen over... (full context)
Chapter 21: Keepers
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Valerie, Kaysen writes, was about thirty years old. Valerie was tall, with tapered legs and arms, and... (full context)
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...the intricacies of American culture and easily shocked by any talk about sex—two things which Kaysen notes made her an “odd choice” to head a ward full of young women.  When... (full context)
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Therapists have nothing to do with the girls’ day-to-day lives on the ward. Susanna’s therapist urges her not to talk about the hospital all, and insists that their sessions... (full context)
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...their best to control their tics and mood swings while the students are around. “Consequently,” Susanna writes, “the [students] learn nothing about psychiatric nursing [during] their rotations.” The student nurses leave... (full context)
Chapter 22: Nineteen Sixty-Eight
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The world didn’t stop, Kaysen writes, just because she and her fellow patients weren’t in it. On the TV, the... (full context)
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Susanna notes that the fantasies the girls had of dismantling authority, rioting in the street, and... (full context)
Chapter 23: Bare Bones
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Kaysen writes that for many of the girls on the ward, the hospital was as much... (full context)
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One thing Susanna notes is that families are almost entirely absent from hospital life. She and her fellow... (full context)
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All of the girls on the ward like Torrey, Susanna says, because of her “noble bearing.” Torrey is an amphetamine addict, and is the only... (full context)
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...between rooms to distract themselves, but tensions remain high. While sitting in the TV room, Susanna stares at her hand, and begins thinking that it looks like a monkey’s hand. She... (full context)
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The other girls notice what Susanna is doing and ask her to stop. Susanna insists that she doesn’t have any bones.... (full context)
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An insert from Susanna’s medical file, a progress note dated 8/24/67, states that Susanna has been doing “extremely well,”... (full context)
Chapter 24: Dental Health
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Susanna is eating when something happens in her jaw, and her cheek begins to swell. By... (full context)
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After several days of taking penicillin, Susanna’s swelling has gone down, but she has broken out in a rash. Valerie tells her... (full context)
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At the dentist’s office, the dentist tells Susanna to lean back in the examination chair and count to ten. Before Susanna can get... (full context)
Chapter 25: Calais is Engraved on My Heart
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...on the blackboard. As Alice arrives on the ward, the other girls size her up. Susanna thinks that she doesn’t look “too crazy.” Alice introduces herself, and pronounces her last name... (full context)
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...away to maximum security, and her name is removed from the chalkboard. Georgina, Lisa, and Susanna tell the nurses that they want to visit Alice, and the nurses allow them to. (full context)
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...saw in Alice’s room, and their nurse notes that Alice’s behavior is “not that unusual.” Susanna, perturbed by what she’s seen, wonders aloud if one of them could snap and engage... (full context)
Chapter 26: The Shadow of the Real
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Susanna writes that her analyst, Melvin—though dead now—was a man of whom she was once very... (full context)
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After Melvin said many wrong things about Susanna to her face, she began to want to set him right. She felt irritated to... (full context)
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Melvin encourages Susanna to commit to analysis rather than just talk therapy, and flatters her by telling her... (full context)
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Because Susanna’s sessions with Melvin are in a separate area of the hospital from the rest of... (full context)
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The nurse tells Susanna that the tunnels allow one to get anywhere in the hospital, but can often be... (full context)
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One day, Susanna asks Melvin if he knows about the tunnels. Melvin asks Susanna to tell him more... (full context)
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Susanna reveals that Melvin died young of a stroke. Susanna learned only after his death that... (full context)
Chapter 27: Stigmatography
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Susanna and her fellow patients are encouraged—if they’re well enough while still institutionalized—to apply for gainful... (full context)
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Susanna notes that there is “always a touch of fascination in revulsion,” and that members of... (full context)
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After she gets out of McLean, Susanna stops telling people that she had any association with the hospital, and soon the Susanna... (full context)
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An insert from Susanna’s file—a letter from the head psychiatrist at McLean to the New England Telephone Co.—speaks of... (full context)
Chapter 28: New Frontiers in Dental Health
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Susanna’s one-and-a-half-year stay at McLean is nearly up, and she is nearly twenty years old. It... (full context)
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After the session with the social worker, Susanna finds Valerie and complains about how ridiculous it is that the social worker wants her... (full context)
Chapter 29: Topography of the Future
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It is Christmas in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Susanna has not yet been hospitalized. A friend’s brother takes Susanna to the movies, where she... (full context)
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When her future husband returns from Paris, Susanna is in a bad state. She has just endured her “bone” episode and her tooth... (full context)
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One night, Susanna returns to the hospital from one of these dates and tells Lisa and Georgina that... (full context)
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Susanna tries to picture her future as a married woman, shutting her eyes tight and thinking... (full context)
Chapter 30: Mind vs. Brain
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Kaysen writes that no matter what they call it, most people like to think that they... (full context)
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...merely functions of the brain. The problem of interpreting  the brain is an endless one, Kaysen says, as “each interpreter needs a boss to report to.” Something about this interpreter-boss model... (full context)
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To illustrate her point, Susanna invokes the experience of being on a train, next to another train, in a train... (full context)
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The train conundrum is not an optical illusion, Kaysen notes, since an optical illusion contains two realities. The train conundrum allows one to suspend... (full context)
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...different things. The mind has schematic issues, while the brain has chemical and electrical ones. Kaysen takes issue with this dichotomy, though. Rather than treating chemical-electrical problems with medicine, she argues,... (full context)
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A scanned insert from Susanna’s case file reveals a “formal diagnosis” of “schizophrenic reaction, paranoid type (borderline)”. Her prognosis reveals... (full context)
Chapter 31: Borderline Personality Disorder
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Kaysen, borrowing from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, clinically describes the presentation of... (full context)
Chapter 32: My Diagnosis
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Susanna Kaysen did not read “the charges against [her]” until twenty-five years after her time at... (full context)
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Susanna had to hire a lawyer who would help her obtain her records from the hospital,... (full context)
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Rather than refute it outright—though she clearly is in some disagreement with it—Kaysen begins to annotate her diagnosis for her readers. She makes her way through the DSM... (full context)
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If the diagnosis had been bipolar illness or schizophrenia, Kaysen says, she would be “blameless” in falling ill, and would be seen as a “real”... (full context)
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Kaysen notes that she sees what is diagnosed as “borderline personality disorder” as simply a description... (full context)
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Kaysen, as an adult, feels that her misery “has been transformed into common unhappiness,” and so... (full context)
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The result of such constant, overwhelming scrutiny, Kaysen says, was “chronic emptiness and boredom”—yet another major hallmark of BPD. Susanna felt anger at... (full context)
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Announcing that she has a few more annotations to make, Kaysen considers the following sentence: “the disorder is more commonly diagnosed in women.” The DSM does... (full context)
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Though Susanna avoided “premature death,” one of the major “complications” of her disorder, she admits that she... (full context)
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Kaysen wonders if she was just “flirting with madness,” the way she flirted with her teachers... (full context)
Chapter 33: Farther On, Down the Road, You Will Accompany Me
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Kaysen writes that most of her fellow patients got out of McLean eventually. She and Georgina... (full context)
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A few years after Georgina left Massachusetts, Susanna ran into Lisa in Harvard Square. Lisa introduced Susanna to her child, and both women... (full context)
Chapter 34: Girl, Interrupted
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The first time Susanna went to the Frick museum in New York, she was seventeen, and accompanied by the... (full context)
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Sixteen years later, Susanna is at the Frick again, with a “new, rich boyfriend.” Though the two of them... (full context)
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When the two of them arrive at the museum, Susanna instantly recalls having been there before and remembers the painting she “love[d]” in high school.... (full context)
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...no longer urgent, just sad. She is looking out, hoping that someone will see her. Susanna notes the title of the painting for the first time: Girl Interrupted at Her Music.... (full context)
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Susanna’s boyfriend comes up behind her and asks her what the matter is. She implores him... (full context)
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Susanna writes that since that visit she has gone back to the Frick many times to... (full context)
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One final insert from Susanna’s patient file—her discharge form—lists her intake date, September 4th 1968, and her date of discharge,... (full context)