“I was trying to explain my situation to myself. My situation was that I was in pain and nobody knew it, even I had trouble knowing it. So I told myself, over and over, You are in pain. It was the only way I could get through to myself. I was demonstrating externally and irrefutably an inward condition.”

Eighteen-year-old Susanna Kaysen was sent to McLean Hospital in 1967 after a session with a mysterious psychiatrist to undergo psychiatric treatment for depression. In a ward famous for housing clientele like Sylvia Plath, Robert Lowell, James Taylor, and Ray Charles and its progressive methods, Kaysen spent two years of her life with other teenage girls who were able to afford such innovative treatment. It was there she was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder.

In her horrific and sharp memoir, Girl Interrupted, Kaysen recalls vivid portrayals of the fellow patients and their caretakers. She leaves us with a razor sharp and unforgettable portrayal of mental illness and recovery. She redefines society’s standards for what qualifies as insanity. These are her most poetic and illuminating quote from the memoir that would later be turned into the famous movie:

“Our hospital was famous and housed many great poets and singers. Did the hospital specialize in poets and singers or was it that poets and singers specialized in madness?”

“Was everybody seeing this stuff and acting as though they weren’t? Was insanity just a matter of dropping the act?”

“Insanity comes in two basic varieties: slow and fast.”

“But I know what it’s like to want to die. How it hurts to smile. How you try to fit in but you can’t. You hurt yourself on the outside to try to kill the thing on the inside.”

“I told her once I wasn’t good at anything. She told me survival is a talent.”

“Crazy isn’t being broken or swallowing a dark secret. It’s you or me amplified. If you ever told a lie and enjoyed it. If you ever wished you could be a child forever.”

“As far as I could see, life demanded skills I didn’t have.”

“Have you ever confused a dream with life?”

“I needed to be alone, I felt. I wanted to be going on alone to my future.”

“The only way to stay sane is to go a little crazy.”

“When you’re sad you need to hear your sorrow structured into sound.”

“When I was supposed to be awake, I was asleep. When I was supposed to sleep, I was silent. When a pleasure offered itself to me, I avoided it.”

“Have you ever confused a dream with life? Or stolen something when you have the cash? Have you ever been blue? Or thought your train moving while sitting still? Maybe I was just crazy. Maybe it was the 60’s. Or maybe I was just a girl… interrupted.”

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Lauren Martin
Just another girl in the world...and founder of Words of Women

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