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 the 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 get jobs or go to school. We could weasel out of anything except eating and taking our medication.
Title: Girl Interrupted
Author: Susanna Kaysen
Susanna Kaysen an eighteen- year- old in 1968 let’s us in an unsettling world (well that’s my take) of what it feels like being in a mental health hospital. What it’s like being locked up in a psychiatric hospital. An asylum.
How did she end up in an asylum you ask? Well she signed herself in.
Yes! And she stayed there for 18 long months!
During her stay in the hospital, McLean Hospital, 115 Mill Street, Massachusetts, Susanna meets other ladies. Young, in their teenage years just like she was, with more disturbing mental cases. From how she describes them, one can easily conclude that Susanna was held in a wrong place. She didn’t deserve to be there. But you start questioning her sanity when she bites her hand searching for bones.
She introduces us to Georgina, her close friend and patient in the hospital but doesn’t disclose how Georgina’s state of mind was like. Throughout the book, Georgina’s reason for being held in a mental health hospital wasn’t shared which leaves readers with questions on whether she really deserved to be locked up.
Valerie, is one of the hospital’s keeper. Susanna describes her as a beautiful lady who knew exactly how to handle the patients. Valerie was also strict and didn’t bend any of her decisions which made Susanna and the rest of the patients in the hospital confide in her and respect her, unlike the rest of the keepers.
While reading through the book, Susanna shares her medical information and her progress while at the hospital. Making it easy for readers to flow with the turn of events. Towards the end of the book, Susanna and her friends, Georgina and Lisa (funny and crazy of all the patients) are discharged and even end up getting married and having families of their own!
‘Girl Interrupted’ provided me with an opportunity of appreciating sanity and also thinking twice about what the patients in a psychiatric hospital go through. Their challenges, their struggle to be accepted in the society and their special needs altogether. Though it focused more on the lady’s side, I wish the author could have also talked a bit more about the male patients in the hospital. But I figured she focused more on the former given the fact she was a female patient and also because of the strict rules the hospital had for its patients.
I got to learn about the book through a Twitter book club I joined three months ago, ‘The Read Club‘. It’s a Nigerian online book club with over 5,000 members who pick up a book to read through the week and then settle to a discussion on Sunday’s at 20:00hrs GMT +1. And what makes it an even more interesting online book club, is the fact that they provide the e-book! How cool huh?
After reading the first page of the book, I wanted to close the book and forget it all together. I was disturbed mentally! But I picked it up again seeing it was less that 60 pages long. That meant I could finish the book in less than two days which I did and was ready for discussion come Sunday.
It is an interesting read which is funny and sad based on the twists of events described. You might be tempted to start judging people like
I was I am, based on how they behave or interact with you. But at the end of the day, you’ll be glad that not once in your life, have you being been subjected to mental illness.