I can’t remember when I last felt so happy about Bink.
Her graduation, five and a half years ago, was a pretty stunning day, Bink looking fab, golden hair flowing over her shoulders, stepping forward with grace and confidence... and we, with no idea how ill she was underneath.
When she came home from the Bethlem Hospital a dozen years ago, the first weekend she was allowed, having changed beyond recognition in just ten days, was a good time too... though we didn’t realise she would be discharged far too soon with nothing in place to survive.
That’s about it, I suppose. A couple of occasions, since she first went into the Florence Nightingale Unit aged sixteen, in 2001.
And now this, today.
No illusions about how ill she is. No fear that the Priory will kick her out prematurely, without any support to help her.
Just about the best news since Bink was twelve years old.
(Ah, add one more good time. That evening when the police – with Serena, and Shaun’s two sisters – came home with her at last, after she had disappeared for two days, early December 1997. The first intimation of her illness, had we but known how to read it. But she was alive. Blessedly, wonderfully, still warm and breathing and alive! That was a pretty good day, too. Eventually.)
Yesterday she rang and we spoke for over half an hour. Shaun and I walking though the gangling Scots pines of the Highlands, springy moss underfoot, lurid toadstools glistening in their startling frocks, sun slanting through the branches and seals bobbing in the estuary. I, hoping for a repeat of the red squirrels Shaun saw scampering in their lanky skywards playground a day or two ago.
While Bink chatted and chatted. Upbeat. Cheerful. And thoroughly engaged with it all.
She told me of the first addiction meeting she’d been to, an evening or two ago.
“They asked who’d been clean for a year. Then six months.
“Then,” she said, “they asked if it was anyone’s first meeting. So I went forward for my badge. And everyone clapped and congratulated me and cheered me on...” She described her medal to me in detail. The only word I remember from it is Hope. Will you understand, if I tell you she sounded like a six-year-old excited by her sticker from the dentist’s, that I am not being in the slightest patronising?
I am, in truth, moved to tears by her innocent and so-trusting… well… hope.
Tears of joy. And anger.
My daughter has been ill for over two thirds of her life. Longing for treatment for nearly two decades, since she was diagnosed aged 15. We live in – and fund – a Welfare State. We share in a world-class NHS. That Welfare State and that NHS claim to treat us when we are ill.
Instead, the system has been content to pay for her to stay ill. For disability benefits, and crisis teams, and psychiatric wards where the emphasis seems entirely on containment and damage-limitation and not at all on cure. On so-called “supported accommodation,” more abusive than prison.
And in all that time it couldn’t spend a fraction of that amount giving her treatment enough to heal.
Bink has now, at last, got extremely fortunate. Someone extremely generous has agreed to pay for private treatment. Only because Bink’s mother had the extreme cheek to ask, because she is extremely tenacious and bolshy… and extremely heartbroken. So heartbroken that she would have done anything, almost.
Rant over. I am content.
Good news is that, when she has to give up her books to embark on the much stricter programme, she will be allowed to keep her Bible.
And the icing on the cake, that she is reading a pre-publication copy of my next novel. And said it is my best yet.