Bink had accepted her place at Cambridge to start in the Michaelmas term. And had been accepted for treatment for OCD in the Bethlem Hospital as soon as there was a bed available.
The second surely even more miraculous than the first.
On the downside, we still had nowhere to live...
Amazing parents though I’ve had the privilege to have, they were nearly ninety now. And like most nearly-ninety-year-olds, their house was… hmmm… well, a bit old, and unmodernised, and not as spic-and-span as it might have been, nor their cleaner as diligent as she could have been. And Bink has a bit of a problem with all of this kind of rough and tumble of a house’s hygiene.
But their extraordinarily kind next-door neighbours, whose cleaner was a lot more conscientious, were going to Australia for five weeks and they lent us theirs. Which made Bink very happy. She kept going round it saying what a lovely clean house it was…
I was in constant communication with the Bethlem about when they could take her, and how to help her get ready for admission. She needed to be clean, and have all her clothes clean, and be in a clean environment. And all that OCD stuff. Before she could be treated for her OCD.
“Don’t enable her illness!” I was told repeatedly.
Not for the first time, I wondered if any of these therapists had ever tried living with OCD.
If I don’t enable her, she’ll never ruddy get there, will she? If she doesn’t manage to do all these loopy things she has to achieve before she can get into hospital, we’ll still be here in ten years’ time waiting for her to get into hospital.
Isn’t that your job, to fix her OCD?
(We had to do the same before she could go into the Priory, a few weeks ago. We’ve promised no one will touch her room. Which is a bit of a bummer, really, because our house is now our only source of income; and Bink’s bedroom is the only room with en suite facilities; and every weekend we fill our house with a hen party of gezillions of hens wanting to shower all day, and we only have one shower between all of us.
Still, what’s a few poor reviews on Airbnb – and another source of income gone – if it means Bink can get well, eh…?)
Meanwhile, because she’d had to turn down a well-paid job in order to accept treatment, it occurred to me that perhaps she might be able to claim Job Seeker’s Allowance to go some small way towards making up for it. And it was then that I discovered what we should have been told years before: ever since she’d got ill she’d been entitled to Disability Benefit, and I to Carer’s Allowance.
What a difference this could have made! I lost about two thirds of my income since Bink became ill.
And if we’d also been told – by any of the many mental health professionals we’d been in touch with over six years – that we could have claimed a Disability Grant for her to have her own shower at the Vicarage when she first got ill, she never need have ended up in the Florence Nightingale Unit and might hardly now be ill at all.
You’d think, if you work in something as vague and amorphous as mental health, you might at the very least do the one thing you know will be helpful, right? At least telling you you’re entitled to benefits can’t ever actually damage you…
When our children were much younger and one of them had a very traumatic time in hospital, we were offered a few sessions of family therapy. In the very first session the psychologist did the single most helpful and important thing it was possible to do: she said Alex was unhappy at his school; advised that we should move him to another; and procured for him a virtually free place in the one and only school where he was truly and blissfully happy: Finton House, in South London, with an integration policy on Special Needs.
That’s what I call a shrink being seriously useful.
The other person I needed to look after was Rose, now two and a half and surely, after our beautiful isolation in Scotland, ready to benefit from other children to play with. I went to look round a nursery school in Newnham, the other side of Cambridge... and as I did so, realised with a wave of astonishment and joy that I was standing in my own nursery school! And with it all the happy years, going to school on the back of my mother’s bicycle, when any ailment could be solved by her warm and lovely embrace and ready reassurances, came flooding back to me.
And here was the very same room I hadn’t daren’t enter… I had been offered the choice but no one thought to tell me what they actually did in there, so for all I knew, there might have been a wild ravening lion eating up all the little children. And I discovered too late and to my devastating disappointment that I could have learnt to read earlier than I did. How I regretted my foolish cowardice! (It never occurred to me that the grown-ups could have been to blame.)
It was as wonderful as it had been. The owner had a policy of children playing in the garden every single day, come rain or snow or hurricane. Gumboots, sou’westers and a healthy attitude to jumping in puddles.
I took the form home and Bink helped Rosie fill it in. “Is there anything you don’t like to eat?” it asked. “Chairs,” Bink wrote to Rosie’s dictation.
Alas, it didn’t prove quite so easy to step back into the happiness of my own nursery years. Far less move my family back to the friendly city I longed to stay in now…