Her diagnosis was Borderline Personality Disorder and it meant that she was a threat to herself and that she suffered from severe depression.
Other patients in McLean Hospital are girl similar to Susanna although some of them are in worse condition, while the others just seem to be different than what is considered normal. However, they are labeled as sociopaths only because they do not fit in within the regular norms of the society.
Fictional patients from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s nest are men and they are similar to Susanna and the girls in McLean Hospital because most of them are no threat to anybody.
Susanna is not crazy, she is only an adolescent girl trying to find her place in the world.
People have different definitions of what is sane and what is insane, but psychiatrists have the authority to declare a person mentally stable or mentally unstable.
Power is the dominant factor because patients have to accept the terms which are presented by the doctors.
The main distinction between the sane and the insane is related to the fact of who holds the power because the people in power or in charge make decisions about a person’s well-being and they have methods of evaluating that are based on the standards in their profession. In this case, people who hold the power are doctors in a mental institution, psychiatrists, and they believe that their processes of assessing who is sane and who is not are the only relevant ways of labeling a person’s state of being. Therefore, to some point, it is true that the distinction between the sane and the insane is a matter of who holds the power.
Sanity is the state of existence which is socially accepted and approved by the medical professionals who determine who is sane and who is not. Sane people do not hurt other people and they do not possess a threat to themselves. They are not violent or self-destructive while the insane people are. Insanity is treated in mental institutions and people who suffer from mental illnesses which prevent them from functioning normally need psychiatric help. However, as in the case of Susanna, some people are not really insane, but confused and normal people are usually confused.
Power is the state in which one person or group of people have the authority to make decisions which affect the lives of other people in a significant way. These decisions have influence on the quality of life of those people and therefore power should be exerted with great caution so that nobody gets hurt. In Susanna’s case, she does not accept the fact that she has a diagnosis at first, but later she acknowledges that her attempts of suicide whether they were deliberate or subconscious have a deeper meaning.
Susanna was never crazy in a way which would make her really dangerous for herself and for the people around her. She was confused and suffered because she felt that her life was unfulfilled and she did not have any goals. However, she ends up in McLean Hospital to have a rest and to recover her mental strength. “People ask, how did you get in there? What they really want to know is if they are likely to end up in there as well. I can’t answer the real question. All I can tell them is, it’s easy” (Kaysen 1).
Susanna is a highly intelligent girl and she does not see herself in any role in the world and that is why she escapes to her imagination. In the hospital, she meets other girls who become her friends, but who are also mentally unstable. Some of them attempted suicide, like Polly while others are different because each case is different. At first glance, Susanna does not belong to a mental institution, but there she is because it was suggested by the doctor she visited. By saying that it is easy to end up in such a place, she suggests that it could happen to anybody. People are aware of that and that is why they ask her about her case in particular because nobody saw her as a crazy person.
Susanna was never crazy in a severe way, but she did suffer from depression and had suicidal attempts. Although she did not accomplish to kill herself, she did attempt to do it and that is why she was a threat to herself. That is a mental disorder as well and it has to be treated which is why Susanna was hospitalized in the first place. She seems normal compared to other in-patients because of her high intelligence, but depression and attempts of suicide are real and can make a person hurt themselves.
Susanna does not believe in her diagnosis because she thinks of herself as sane and so does McMurphy in the movie One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest when he says to the patients “You’re no crazier than the average asshole on the street” (Forman, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest). The similar situation is in McLean hospital as well because almost all of the girls seem to be mentally stable, although some or more educated and intelligent than others. Lisa, for example could be considered to be an eccentric person, but she did have a mental disorder as well: “She rarely ate and she never slept, so she was thin and yellow, the way people get when they don’t eat, and she had huge bags under her eyes” (Kaysen 4). This kind of behavior was unacceptable and she could not be released from the hospital before becoming normal and normal behavior is determined by doctors.
Susanna is a reliable narrator because she is aware of her own flaws and the kind of behavior which led her to seek help in McLean Hospital. They use electroshocks in the hospital which nobody is fond of and it is rare. There are other patients who really seem to be crazy like Polly, who burnt herself and Daisy who used to come to McLean seasonally. Georgina’s condition seemed like an existential crisis, similar to Susanna’s case and the two of them were roommates. Both of them saw a sort of “darkness” which led to being institutionalized.
Susanna was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder which meant that: “Affective instability is common. This may be evidenced by marked mood shifts from baseline mood to depression, irritability, or anxiety, usually lasting a few hours or, on rarely, more than a few days” (Kaysen, 50). This was all true in Susanna’s case and had to be treated. However, most intelligent people suffer from similar problems and are not hospitalized, which is why there is the doubt whether Susanna really is crazy or not. Compared to the patients in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, she is sane as well because the fictional patients from the movie are either nervous, delusional, paranoid or just shy. All of these characteristics make them similar to average people who can be seen every day in the streets which is why the audience must feel that anybody could end up in a mental institution. As for Girl Interrupted, “The book begins or ends various chapters with pages from her medical file; she describes the drugged, heavy feeling that is depression” (Cross 48). Many people who live in a civilized society suffer from depression and that is why they can relate to Susanna’s case easily which is why not many people would consider her insane.
Susanna’s treatment can be seen from the following sentence: “Susanna Kaysen tells how, because a psychiatrist accused her of picking at herself (she was eighteen, it was a pimple), she was listed as “assaultive” on her commitment papers, and ended up locked in McLean Hospital for almost three years” (Elliott 6). Therefore, it is obvious that people can relate to a person who cannot identify their role in a modern society. Anybody could end up in a mental hospital like Susanna because intelligent people tend to think too much about their own state of mind. “In her memoir, Girl Interrupted, Susanna Kaysen says that one of the pleasures of mental health is how much less time she has to spend thinking about herself” (De Man 120).
Susanna is not insane if she is compared to ordinary people that can be seen every day in all places. She is just a confused girl suffering from depression which is caused by her ambivalence towards her role in the society. Being an adolescent is hard and that is why Susanna suffers as well. This is not uncommon and neither is her diagnosis because people are fragile beings. There is not a single person who is completely sane at all times. Certain events can provoke specific behavior and it can be self-destructive because people are emotional beings.
Forman, Milos, dir. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest . United Artists, 1975. Film.
Kaysen, Susanna. Girl, Interrupted. New York: Vintage, 1994. Print.
Cross, Alice. "Reviewed Work: Girl, Interrupted by Douglas Wick, Cathy Konrad, James Mangold, Anna Hamilton Phelan." Cinéaste 25.3 (2000): 48-49. Print.
Elliott, ""Self-Inflicted" Violence." Off Our Backs 31.5 (2001): 6-9. Print.
De Man, George. "Silent Reading: Southern Gnostic and the State of the Union." Agni 51 (2000): 99-124. Print.