Further prayer-email during that long-ago, so-rare treatment Bink was at last given in the Bethlem Hospital Anxieties Disorders Unity. After five years (and an entire agonising adolescence) of waiting:
‘It's been quite an eye-opener for Bink, meeting people even worse off than she is.
‘Bob first got ill in 1980 (he’s 52 now) and was given treatment in the late ’80s. In those days the approach was harsher. He was made to smear his own faeces over himself.
‘And not allowed to wash it off.
‘Also, because he was frightened of broken glass, he was made to sleep with his bed full of it.
‘Surprise, surprise: he woke, badly cut.
‘Hard to imagine how this would make you less frightened of it, somehow. Or indeed more “normal”, if that’s something we’re aiming for: adjusted to every day life and able to function, anyway.
‘“Did it help?” I asked Bink, incredulous.
History didn’t relate.
‘Discouraging that Bob is back in for treatment. But Bink says he's leaving in a few days, a little better. For two years he couldn't leave his mother's house, at all.
‘Henry is also leaving. Unlike Bob, Henry has hardly improved at all.
‘When he came in his face was a terrible mess: probably rather like the whole of Bob’s body, after he’d been to bed with glass.
‘Henry can’t buy shaving cream.
‘Or indeed, toothpaste, soap, loo rolls, washing up liquid or any other basics you can think of.
‘Henry is frightened of shopping.
‘Sometimes, occasionally – I imagine like Bink with her washing – after many months of screwing himself up to it and going without, Henry can push himself to a point when he can face his fear. He will brave going into a shop. He will brace himself to fill his basket with all those essentials he has been without for many painful months. He controls his panic long enough to get to the check-out. He even succeeds in paying for it all.
Some people, I now know, have obsessions and compulsions around the dirt on money and can’t ever touch it. But Bink hasn’t reported this particular anxiety of Henry.
‘Something for Henry to be grateful for, at any rate.
‘Have succeeded at the monumental and life-changing task, Henry will then get out into the wide freedom of the open air, with all this hard won treasure which he needs in order to care for himself and not slice half his face off shaving.
‘Does he celebrate? Does he open the bubbly?
‘Does he even go home and enjoy the first safe shave in such a long time?
‘He does not.
‘He feels such overwhelming terror that he dumps it all in the nearest bin.
Still in all its new shopping bags.
‘Look on the bright side of Henry’s predicament.
‘Bink actually buys all her requirements. Which works out a lot more expensive even than Henry’s wasted shopping...’