Saturday, August 11, 2012

Girl, Interrupted

This book tells a TRUE story of how in the late 1960s a young woman, Susanna Kaysen,  is LITERALLY sent to live, by a psychiatrist to McLean Hospital. Here is the story of how she spent the next 2 years.

In McLean Hospital, the patients that Suzanna was in company with were a very unusual group. But they all fit well together. First, there was Polly. Then, there was Lisa, who was a known runaway but was always back in a day or two. She was always better at night. She made cocoa for herself and anyone else, as well as doing their nails. Lisa would be calm during the day and more of herself at night. Whenever Lisa needed a vacation, she would runaway and be back again later.

Susanna's roommate, Georgina, was originally admitted during her junior year in college. She was in a movie theater watching a movie when her entire world went dark. She had a boyfriend that she met in the cafeteria. What she liked about him was his rage. One thing about Georgina was her continued fantasy that her father was a C.I.A. operator w/ dangerous friends.

Daisy was a patient who was there seasonally. She had 2 passions: laxatives and chicken, which were something she was COMPLETELY impatient for. Daisy's father, who had supplied the chicken was in love w/ his daughter. No one was ever in daisy's room, but Lisa found a point to get herself in. Around Christmas, Daisy's father had bought her an apartment. Later that year, Daisy left McLean to be at her apartment for Christmas. One afternoon in May, word had been sent that Daisy killed herself.

Before arriving at McLean, Susanna had a boyfriend who wrote good poems to her. She had called him up and informed him she was going to kill herself. By which she swallowed 50 aspirin. Realizing it was a mistake. When she was at the hospital, she had her stomach pumped which brought her around to reality. Because of her legal age, Susanna was signing herself into McLean. Either that or a court order was issued. On the ward, there were various rooms for the patients, but there were 2 other rooms. The living room - everyone hated it and thought it more for the staff really. Then there was the T.V. room - where everyone hangs out. The hospital was famous and housed many many great poets/singers. Ray Charles being the most famous. Sylvia Plath spent time there as well.

A week after Daisy had killed herself, as a special treat for the patients, the staff had taken them for ice cream. One day a second Lisa arrived. They called her by her full name, Lisa Cody. Cody & Lisa began to make trouble after the Real Lisa had something in common. Lisa Cody eventually disappeared from the ward and was never found. After the Real Lisa escaped, 2 days later she was back. She stated she had seen Lisa Cody and she was a real junkie.

Lisa had a court-appointed attorney whom she often threatened to call if she didn't get her way. Although he hadn't stopped her from being committed. When Lisa threatened to call him, the head nurse would get involved. The head nurses name was Valarie, who was about 30. Half a dozen nurses and an aid or were on duty during the day. The night staff consisted of 3 BIG women. Occasionally there was a different woman who called the patients "honey". The night staff would give them a hug if need be. The day staff stuck to a NO  Physical contact policy.

Mrs. McWeeney was a night nurse that mutually did NOT get along w/ Valarie. None of the patients liked her. After it seemed the world was over after Kennedy's assassination and M.L.K, the patients in the ward thought outrage and the world was taking it out for them. The hospital shielded the patients from anything they wanted. As long as they were willing to be upset, the patients didn't have to get jobs/work or go to school. The costs to stay at McLean was $67.00 daily (1967 dollars). After an incident and Susanna looked at her hand, she thought her palm looked different. If she spread her fingers out, her hands looked more human. When she turned her hands over, her veins were bulged. After she poked deeper & deeper to feel bone, they were hard to find. After she put her hands in her mouth and bit (hard), there was successful blood. She had thought she had NO bones in her hand.

It was a typical December day when the patients discovered the tunnels that you could leave either in or out. It was also around this time that Susanna got a new therapist Melvin. When Susanna began telling people she was an inpatient at a hospital like this, she thought of the stigma that followed. She she stopped telling people.

As Susanna was heading towards a release, she worked in the Harvard Billing Office. When she realized she was at the face of sexism in the workplace, it was one of the reasons she became a writer. To set her own rules. Luckily, Susanna received a marriage proposal in 1968 and the hospital had let her out. She knew who she was going to be - a writer and the world around her didn't want to accept it.

Susanna's Formal Diagnosis on her discharge was a  Recovered Borderline Personality Disorder. Before her stints "wrist-banging", Susanna had an earlier period of "face scratching". Looking back on her high school days, Susanna was the first person in the school's history not to go to college. After most of the patients were released from McLean, Georgina & Susanna kept in touch. Whenever Georgina went over to Susanna's apartment, she never got along w/ Susanna's neighbor who was about 10 years older than them. Later on, luckily Georgina got herself married, living on a farm in western Massachusetts.

A few years after that, Susanna ran into Lisa at Harvard Square. She had a little boy w/ her - a son, Aaron. She was a single mom in Brookline and she had COMPLETELY changed. Sixteen years later, Susanna was w/ her rich boyfriend in New York. When they had gotten to an art gallery, Susanna read the title of a painting "Girl Interrupted". Interrupted by her life, just as Susanna had been. She felt an emotion to the painting.

In 1999, a film was made based on this book and Susanna's experiences at McLean/"Claymoore" Hospital w/ Winona Ryder as Susanna and an Oscar-Winning performance by Angelina Jolie as Lisa and Whoopi Goldberg as Valerie.

Susanna today


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