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The film “Girl, Interrupted”

The film “Girl, Interrupted”, based on the book by main character Susanna Kaysen, is an in-depth and creative exploration of the inner workings of the sixties American psychological institution and the battle between what one might consider mentally ill and normalcy. The film explores how the actions exhibited by common everyday individuals can be considered a sickness, because mental health, not unlike beauty, is in the eye of the beholder – whether or not you are considered clinically sane can very well be based on the individual that you have in place to evaluate you.

A great deal of the film is devoted to shining a light on the dreadful treatment conditions of mental health institutions and deplorable shortcomings of the institutions mental health professionals. This film and the book to which it is attached dared to explore the inner workings or dismissive behaviors and mental health conditions that we set aside on a daily basis and dismiss as being absolutely normal. Toward the end of the film Kaysen asks, “have you ever told a lie and enjoyed it” in reference to her roommate in the facility; I would have to venture to extend that in asking ‘have you ever told a lie and enjoyed it?

Ever been just a little too blunt in your methods of expression and perhaps had it interpreted in the wrong way, or maybe considered ending it all? ’ These are the crimes of mental health behavior committed by the main characters in this film, the question is where they stop being normal and become a mental health condition. Susanna Kaysen spent the beginning of the film kicking herself for having checked herself into a mental hospital with a bunch of crazy people when there was absolutely nothing wrong with her because after all…“she had a headache”.

It doesn’t initially occur to her or the viewer that many people, as discussed by Jared Leto’s character, contemplate ending it all; they think about hanging themselves like Daisy or taking that bottle of aspirin but what distinguishes them from being “normal” or clinically insane is the act of execution. Susanna Kaysen may have felt sane, but having taken an entire bottle of aspirin while drinking a bottle of vodka was pretty substantial proof that she had a mental health disorder.

Did I agree with the diagnosis of the mental health professionals in the film? In a way – I more so agreed with the diagnosis of Whoopi Goldberg’s character. Do I think that Susanna Kaysen was crazy, no, absolutely not, but I do believe that she needed that down time and the availability of psychiatric professionals to work through the issues that she was having. Nurse Valerie was right; Susanna Kaysen came into Claymoore the spoiled and lazy daughter of big chief MIT professor and his socially driven wife.

She professed herself as a writer but hadn’t actually written anything – Valerie and others believed that this was because she was too lazy to apply herself. The people in her parents’ social circle questioned Susanna’s refusal to attend college, wondering what she would do with her life. Neither they, nor Valerie realized that Susanna and the other ladies did have some mental health issues. Is lying a mental illness? No, everyone lies; the illness comes in with how often you tell those lies, how much you enjoy it and the reasoning behind the telling of the lie.

Is being the aspiring writer daughter of a popular economist a mental health condition? No but it is when it begins to hinder daily function. Susanna Kaysen was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, an immensely controversial medical condition characterized by an extreme fluctuation in moods, interpersonal relationships, behaviors and an unstable self-image. Is this a real psychiatric condition? Yes, when it begins to hinder ones ability to function in daily activities.

The layman’s definition of Borderline Personality Disorder would be a person who takes time off of work or school to “find themselves” and never does; it is the medical professions notion that an individual has no idea who they are or what they want, and these elements are reflected in that individuals mood and personal relationships. A person with a Borderline Personality Disorder can easily jump from happy to being frustrated or depressed because the foundation of a Borderline Personality Disorder is a conflict between what you want and what is expected of you.

Susanna Kaysen was breed in a world of scholastic overachievement; here father is world-renown economist Carl Kaysen, a former MIT professor and presidential advisor, thus one can only imagine how much pressure bust have been placed upon Susanna during a time when writing was not considered an actual job or career (this can easily be viewed in the scene with Susanna and her high school guidance counselor when her counselor asked what she planned to do with her life and when hearing, “I plan to write”, repeated the question as if writing was not a profession).

I agree with Susanna’s diagnosis as handed down by both Melvin and Valerie because it is my belief that the diagnoses were the same – Melvin’s diagnosis was the clinical term for what Valerie had already told Susanna was wrong with her. Susanna Kaysen was a former pampered princess who discovered fairly early on that what her parents and their friends thought was best for her was not what she really wanted, in many ways forcing Susanna to play two different “characters” in her life until the day that those two characters collided in a Massachusetts bathroom, resulting in the taking of a bottle of aspirin.

The movie presents Susanna as having had visions, seeing things, parts of her past that were triggered by events in action before her, yet came upon her at times that made her appear mentally unstable, and in effect, she was. Susanna Kaysen lost her grip on reality in the same way that millions of Americans lose theirs – by trying to be something that they are not, not understanding how difficult it is to play two characters at once.

The reactions of Susanna’s classmates, her teachers, parents and their friends in contrast to the scene with Toby and her behaviors in Claymoore make clear that she did in fact have a Borderline Personality Disorder. She was psychologically stuck between two worlds and had lost any sight that she may have once had on effectively dealing with the two. The diagnosis and proof of it is not blatantly portrayed in the film, but is brilliantly interwoven in the films undertones.

You have to watch the film and figure out why it is that Susanna is acting the way that she does-what has to be taking place in her world that caused her to attempt suicide. Once you take Susanna’s actions and place them against the conversation with her mother at her father’s birthday party, the discussion with her high school guidance counselor, Mrs.

Gilcrest’s statements at her father’s birthday party and her parents actions when asked to sit in on her therapy session with Melvin, it becomes far more clear how Susanna ended up in the position that she did; her entire life was about keeping up appearances and performing in the manner that the socialites of her parents circle expected her to perform. There was an image in place that could not be tarnished by non-conformity. Susanna Kaysen was treated with medication and three therapy sessions per week, a course of treatment that was largely unnecessary and without logic.

If an individual is having trouble coping with the pressures of their life the answer is never to medicate them, because that is how they end up where Susanna started, taking a bottle of pills; this is why Susanna turned to Daisy’s medicine cabinet on the night before Daisy killed herself, because she started with the thought that you can medicate your problems and that idea was reinforced by them forcibly medicating her at Claymoore.

People with Borderline Personality Disorder do not need medication because all medication will do is provide a temporary release from their problems, it, in effect, sets their problem down and allows them to step away from it for a while, not understanding that the problem will not improve, it will still be there in its same place and position once the medication wears off. Susanna Kaysen’s issues did not begin to resolve themselves until she stopped opening her mouth for medication and started opening it to speak, because the only cure for a Borderline Personality Disorder is finding a way to unburden yourself.

Susanna checked herself into Claymoore because that was what her parents wanted and she had a friend of theirs, a mental health professional, telling her that was what she needed. That she needed 24-hour monitoring, hospital employees constantly interrupting her rest and forcing her to take medication that was unnecessary because she needed structure and around the clock attention, when in actuality, she could have attained a more suitable course of treatment by finding a quality outpatient therapist.

Susana needed someone to listen to why she was having trouble coping and to allow her to unburden herself. Borderline Personality Disorder is, in many ways, a medical term denoted by sheer cowardice; the inability to stand up for what you want and believe in. Susanna Kaysen tried to kill herself because on some psychological level she felt that taking her own life was easier than standing up to her parents and saying, ‘mom and dad I understand who you are and what you want, but my life is not your life and I have to do what’s best for me – what makes me happy.

’ Had she reflected on a way to do this, she would have never had to experience what she did. The cure for Borderline Personality Disorder is finding an outlet of expression, somewhere that you can go to be yourself; being removed from your element and allowed to function and express yourself in the way that you want – being able to dump all of your thoughts, feelings and expression on someone else…like therapy. Susanna was, in all honesty, able to cure herself by deciding that she would use Dr.

Wick for her intended purpose, to listen to her problems and help her work them out. Psychologists are not in place to cure people with mental illness they are more so in place to listen to them, to give them an avenue of expression in hopes that in hearing themselves express their problems and issues aloud, that they will figure out what those issues really are and repair the damage that they are doing to themselves.

If Susanna had been given daily or near daily therapy sessions with Dr. Wick without the administration of medication from the beginning she would not have had to spend so much of her life in a psychiatric institution, she would have been forced to confront her problems head on much earlier on and would have likely began to address them a lot sooner.

This is why I have ethical issues with the way that Borderline Personality Disorder was portrayed in this film, because it gave off the idea that Borderline Personality Disorder is something that can be cured with medication and it is not. Borderline Personality Disorder is a condition that can only be cured with courage, strength and the understanding of ones needs that comes with truly knowing who you are and what you want in life – no pill can give that to you, it’s something that you must figure out on your own.

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