Book Review: Girl, Interrupted

I finished reading Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen, this past Friday night.

During my last year in high school, a lot of girls spent copious time (at the beginning and end of class, as they walked from class to class, in the cafeteria, after school waiting for their ride) reading the book. So after seeing the movie again recently, I decided to pick up a copy of the book and give it a whirl. I'm very glad I did, because it differs from the movie (no surprise there) in some very valuable ways.

I had seen the movie a few times before, but I hadn't really analyzed it from the borderline personality disorder point of view. I hadn't been sensitive to the commentary it was making on this disorder. Well no surprise that compared to the book, the movie made almost no commentary at all about the disorder. The movie was a little more sequential and thorough in regards to a plot, than the book--but the book was informative and entertaining enough to keep me reading through.

It's a little choppy when the author intersperses censored copies of her medical records throughout the chapters. What made you want to turn the page to read more was the way the author described her internal struggles.

It was easy to see her point of view when she said that some of those symptoms associated with borderline, could just as easily be teenage angst and confusion, or adult morality and scruples questions that any normal, healthy person might face on a day-to-day basis. The trick was figuring out and correcting where your thought process went awry. And the author did an excellent job of explaining how she herself realized when her decision-making capabilities couldn't be trusted. The chapter titled Mind vs. Brain was illuminating for me... particularly when it came to the description of her internal monologue.

Here's some text I pulled from two pages from that chapter, describing the internal dialogue and where it can go wrong for someone who is borderline:

"Mental illness seems to be a communication problem between interpreters one and two...

Interpreter 1: there's a tiger in the corner!
Interpreter 2: no, that's not a tiger--it's a bureau
Interpreter 1: it's a tiger, it's a tiger!
Interpreter 2: don't be ridiculous, let's go look at it...

If you are not crazy, the second interpreter's assertion, that this is a bureau, will be acceptable to the first interpreter. If you are crazy, the first interpreter's viewpoint, the tiger theory, will prevail."

I really liked the author at the end of the book, and felt that I could understand her and appreciate the struggle she'd been through. Very interesting and positive look at mental illness, compared to the majority of negativity associated with mental illness and mental health care facilities.

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