15 November 2012
For this applied paper I chose to read the novel Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen. In her biography she writes about her time at McLean Hospital, a residential psychiatric facility in Massachusetts. She tells about the experiences she had there, the people that she met, and most importantly her diagnosis; Borderline Personality Disorder. Through reading her novel I was able to see what caused her diagnosis, the symptoms that she portrayed, and the treatment she received to have the status of recovered. Through out the novel, Susanna portrayed a number of abnormal behaviors that interfered with her ability to function. The first symptom, and probably the most important, Susanna had thoughts of suicide and eventually attempted it. Her motives ranged, using anything as a reason to kill herself, as she says in the book “My motives were weak” (Kaysen 36). From not wanting to write a paper to making a stupid remark, she used these as reasons to kill herself. Unfortunately, at age 16, Susanna took 50 aspirin and swallowed it with a fifth of vodka. Family had found her about to pass out, and so they rushed her to the hospital to have her stomach pumped. This attempt occurred in 1965. Along with the suicide attempt, she possessed self-mutilating behaviors as well. She took part in an act that she called “wrist banging”. She would slowly bang her wrists on the edge of a metal chair, causing her wrists to swell and bruise. She used this behavior through her stay at the hospital and the time ranged, from a half hour to multiple hours and would do it in the evening. She also had a short period of face scratching as well. Susanna had some abnormal symptoms that displayed her anxiety and depression. One of these was her obsession and difficulty with visual patterns. She states that when she looked at “oriental rugs, tile floors, and printed curtains” she saw other things within them (Kaysen 40). In addition, when she looked at people’s face’s she could not keep the connection that it was a physical face. There was a specific place that she would visit called The Frick. There were paintings and illustrations through out this and these constantly caught Susanna’s attention. She would relate to these canvases and feel as if they were talking to her and trying to tell her something. The fact she “never ‘believed’ anything I saw or thought I saw” (Kaysen 41) causes her behaviors to be very abnormal. These behaviors were constant in her life, always an issue for her. Susanna also had a problem with time. There were a couple events in the novel that caused her to have extremely intense anxiety. She was put under anesthesia at the dentist and when she wakes up she portrays very frantic behavior that she has lost time. She constantly demands that someone tell her how much time had passed. This specific event was so upsetting to her that it caused to start crying. She said it was like “he’d dropped me into the future, and I didn’t know what happened to the time in between” (Kaysen 109). In one event, Susanna was listening to music and all of the sudden felt that she was back in time, back to her being teenager. This caused her to become very frightened, depressed, and agitated at the thought that she never had a satisfactory childhood and lack of communication with her parents. There was one specific event that occurred that was very abnormal. Susanna became very paranoid because she could not find her bones in her hand. She felt that she was only skin, “I wanted to see that my hand was a normal hand, with bones” (Kaysen 102). Through out this anxiety attack she kept repeating, “I’m not safe, I’m not safe.” This prompted her to bite into the flesh of her hand to make sure that she did have bones underneath. This abnormal behavior revealed that she felt a disconnection from herself, that she wasn’t a real person and lasted 6 hours. In high school, Kaysen was involved in...