"Sometimes the only way to stay sane is to go a little crazy-.
Susanna Kaysen's memoir was originally published in 1993, but it portrays events from 1967 to 1969. Twenty-five years later, she hired a lawyer to get access to the medical records giving her diagnosis, and some of these are actually published in the book. .
Each short chapter focuses on an aspect of her experience, though they are not always in a chronological order, but more as if she has written them just how she remembers them, explaining fully her story of the people she met and the treatment she received. .
She writes; "it is easy to slip into a parallel universe. There are so many of them: worlds of the insane, the criminal, the cripples, the dying, perhaps of the dead as well. These worlds exist alongside this world and resemble it, but are not in it.".
Within the two years at Mclean Susanna finds herself questioning the boundaries between confinement and freedom, friendship and betrayal, and madness and sanity at a time when it seemed the whole world was going crazy. .
The book itself begins in 1967. Susanna Kaysen is an 18 year old; bored, neurotic, self-obsessed and given to little psycho-dramas to attract attention - in other words, a western-world teenager of privileged conditions, only perhaps a little more extreme than most. She isn't clinically insane; the only treatment she needs is some basic behavior management and some simple attention from her parents. .
At 18 she is living in a boarding house in Cambridge, Mass., and coping poorly with her life - in her own words "Reality was getting too dense. all my integrity seemed to lie in saying No". After having her stomach pumped after a drug overdose, she has a brief interview with a doctor she has never met before and she is told she needs a rest for a few weeks. She is sent to McLean Hospital (renowned for its famous patients including Sylvia Plath, James Taylor and Ray Charles) where she voluntarily admits herself - little knowing she shall spend the next 18 months there.