It’s a fairly accurate portrait of me at eighteen, minus a few quirks like reckless driving and eating binges. It’s accurate but it isn’t profound.

Speaking in the chapter “My Diagnosis,” Kaysen confronts the judgment of her doctors some twenty-five years later. Labeled a borderline personality, Kaysen considers the aptness of the diagnosis. In responding to each of the elements of the borderline personality disorder, she concedes that much of her adolescent behavior fit the definition. Yet in her charge that the designation is “accurate” but not “profound,” Kaysen explores the nature of mental illness and how it is diagnosed. Fads rise and fall with the decades as one diagnosis succeeds another as the popular illness of the day. Many of the behaviors described could also, if examined outside the scope of mental illness, be excused as typical or harmless. Kaysen doesn’t argue that she was healthy; rather, she cautions her readers that a diagnosis isn’t the sum of a personality.