Girl Interrupted

Published: 2021-10-07 10:20:08
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“Girl, Interrupted” – Effects Mental Institutions Have on People Susanna Kaysen states that “[m]ental illness seems to be a communication problem between [two interpreters in your mind]” (pg 139). In Kaysen’s Girl, Interrupted, Kaysen is put in a mental facility at the age of 18 for a borderline personality disorder. The author is torn throughout the book if mental institutions are helping her and her fellow patients or bringing them down more. Also, the author argues that being put in a facility like this not only helps patients by teaching them independence, and helping them to build relationships with trust, but also sets them free.
It is through Kaysens relationships with Lisa, Valerie, and ultimately herself that the facility is shown to slowly help patients with their social skills, communication, and trust problems. Kaysen’s relationship between her and her fellow patient Lisa is the first example of how the author argues that institutions help patients to get out and gain independence. Kaysen shows that after spending so much time in the facility, both she and Lisa are doing better; “I’m living in Brookline, I’m a suburban matron in Brookline. I’ve got the kid, I take the kid to nursery school, I’ve got an apartment.
I’ve got furniture” (pg. 163). With this quote, the author establishes that not only did Lisa get out of McLean hospital, but she has a child of her own that she is taking care of very well. This demonstrates Lisa’s independence because it shows how she was able to get out of the hospital, and make a life of her own instead of depending on the attendants working at the facility. Also, Kaysen refers to a few incidents where Lisa is put in seclusion and kept away from the other patients for a couple days; “Seclusion worked.
After a day or night in there with nothing to do, most people calmed down” (pg 47). This quote from the novel demonstrates how being in isolation and having some time to your own thoughts can help those with mental illnesses establish more independence. This is because when secluded, you must care for yourself instead of relying on others, which Lisa had to do. The second example that Kaysen refers to in the book is the patients connection with the head nurse Valerie; “Valerie was strict and inflexible and she was the only staff person we trusted.
We trusted her because she wasn’t afraid of us” (pg 83). This quote exemplifies that being in this hospital helped Kaysen and the other girls to form relationships with people other than the patients. The author refers to the trust all the patients have with Valerie, and being in the hospital helped them gain this trust. Kaysen talks about how Valerie is unlike any of the other doctors because she does not treat them like they are crazy; “Valerie was a relief from that. The only phrase she used was acting out, and she used it correctly, to mean “getting in my hair and driving me crazy”.
She said things like “cut that out” and “you’re a bore”. She said what she meant, just as we did” (pg 84). Because of the bond Kaysen and the other patients have formed with Valerie, they have learned to be more social and to experience a relationship with trust and loyalty. The patients were able to gain trust for Valerie because she treats them like normal people, and does not single them out because they are mentally unstable. Finally, the relationship between Kaysen and herself is the final example in the novel. Throughout the novel, the author finds herself arguing a lot with her own thoughts.
Kaysen states that “[m]ental illness [is] a communication problem between interpreters one and two” (pg 139), referring to the two interpreters in her head controlling her thoughts. The writer also states; “I knew I wasn’t mad and that they wouldn’t keep me there” (pg 42), knowing that she would be able to make it out sometime soon by showing everyone that she was not crazy. Kaysen proves this by explaining to her doctors and therapists her thoughts and emotions. By trying to prove to them she is not crazy, she comes to terms with her problems and realizes she is not mad.
Before this, the author says that if you were to act out like this is the hospital you would be put in seclusion, and “[s]eclusion worked” (pg 47). Being put in seclusion helped the patients because it let them have time to their own thoughts, and to be by themselves. This, intern made the girls do things for themselves, making them want to get out and pursue that. After Kaysen spent this time in the hospital, she was able to face her fears and come to terms with her diagnosis. This in the end, set Kaysen free because she was able to get out and live her life without having to be analyzed.
Through the author’s relationships with Lisa, Valerie and herself, Kaysen is able to portray that mental institutions help those who are put in it by letting them gain independence, be more social and set them free. Kaysen states that she “got better … and can’t explain why” (pg 158). Essentially, in order for those who have a mental illness to get better they need to get professional help, and this can be found in a mental institution. Works Cited: Kaysen, Susanna. Girl, Interrupted. New York: Vintage Books, 1994. Print.

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