Kaysen was not committed to McLean by her parents, but the depression that landed her there seems to have resulted from her inability to measure up to their image of what she should be. As Kaysen memorably puts it in Girl, Interrupted, “Lunatics are similar to designated hitters. Often an entire family is crazy, but since an entire family can’t go into the hospital, one person is designated as crazy and goes inside.”
Kaysen does not know if she was crazy in 1967, and she does not know if she is crazy still. As she said about that period of her life in an interview, “I was desperately unhappy, but I’m not sure it’s the same thing.” Indeed, Kaysen’s diagnosis, something called “borderline personality disorder,” partakes more of a sense of social maladjustment than of mental disorder. The symptoms of this malady seem to consist of “uncertainty about several life issues,” such as self-image, sexual orientation, and long-term goals, which manifest themselves as promiscuity and excessive shopping. As one of her psychiatrists tells her, a “borderline personality” is “what they call people whose lifestyles bother them.” Kaysen cannot help but note that the diagnostic manual says that this vaguely defined mental illness is “more commonly diagnosed in women,” adding, “Note the construction of that sentence. They did not write, ‘The disorder is more common in women.’ It would still be suspect, but they didn’t even...
(The entire section is 1056 words.)
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