Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Girl, Interrupted By Susanna Kaysen

Girl, Interrupted
Release Date: 18th May 1993
Publisher: Virago
Format: Paperback
Pages: 168

Synopsis: In 1967, after a session with a psychiatrist she'd never seen before, eighteen-year-old Susanna Kaysen was put in a taxi and sent to McLean Hospital. She spent most of the next two years on the ward for teenage girls in a psychiatric hospital as renowned for its famous clientele -- Sylvia Plath, Robert Lowell, James Taylor and Ray Charles.

Review: This is another book that has left such an impact on me. For one I suffer from a mental illness so I can relate to Susanna in the book. Girl, Interrupted is a memoir of Susanna Kaysen when at the age of 18 was placed into a psychiatric hospital. Two years she spent inside recovering from her mental illness. Two years she was safe and free inside from the outside world. Mental illness changes you, it's a journey and it's a very hard one. We watch Susanna struggle and get worse before she gets better. Others aren't as fortunate. Some mental illnesses stay with you forever.

After being place on a ward with fellow teenage girls and mental health suffers. She begins to get to know them and each are unique. Each suffer from a different illness. Susanna has a personality disorder, Lisa is a sociopath, Cynthia is a depressive, and Georgina and Polly are schizophrenic. We get an inside look at each of these illnesses and how they affect people.

For me what's scary is that, if I had been born 20 or so years before, I would have been placed in a mental health hospital. That is a scary thought. From Girl, Interrupted we get to see the kinder side of Mental hospitals. Still it's a scary prospect from Susanna we learn that it is tough and hard. The workers and outside world look down on you, we are not mad. We are just ill. It's an illness just like anything else. What really struck me was how accurate Susanna wrote about how people react when people realise you are mentally ill. Even 10 years after this book has been published some things like this are the same. Susanna talks about how they react and the horror when they realise that if she is mad, how different is the other person. Are they nearing the edge of insanity? Also how people act that mental illness is contagious, it is not. It hurts the person more when you shy away, it makes them feel worse. You are just doing more damage. You will make the person think they are worse then they really are. Simple things like this can change someone for the worse.

We saw the inside workings of a mental health hospital and it was really interesting. Yes, there is some shocking ways they used to treat people but also get to see how the girls lived their daily lives. We watched them get checked every five minutes and how they always had to be accompanied when they went out. We saw how the patients reacted to the workers and vise versa. The patients became friends and they knew how each other thought and how they acted. I liked watching each patient interact with one another and really despite the illness they are just normal teenage girls.

I found Susanna very relatable and the novel was both full of wisdom and humour. We get to see how she was before and after the hospital and really it did help her. This book has helped me personally and had an impact. It shows that you are not alone, there are others suffering the same way you are. I loved this book, it was great. It had humour and wisdom but most of all reality. It is a memoir after all. Another thing i loved was how Susanna managed to get all the records from her file from the hospital. It just adds something more to the book and it's really interesting. This book is one of many I've bought on Mental Illness and it's one I will keep to refer to for a long while. I will leave you with a quote that really jumped out at me.

“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” (159).

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