Since the awful, terrible decision we made that week – listening to professionals when I should have listened to myself – I have often trumpeted the wisdom of maternal instinct.
It’s not really instinct, though, is it? It’s just blindingly obvious. Someone takes a couple of dozen quarter-century-old extremely mild-in-the-first-place sleeping pills and immediately rings her therapist. She’s not trying to kill herself, is she?
Sure, she wants something. But it ain’t death.
We sat in the dismal A&E of the Chelsea & Westminster for hour after dreary and pointless hour. It was Robin who had called the ambulance and up he popped, debonair jack-in-the-box, sporting a Starbucks for himself and one for Bink. (He could have been useful and brought G&Ts. And a few decent books.)
He didn’t stay long.
After midnight, Bink still incarcerated alone with shrinks behind curtains on metal poles, I thought, “They must have pumped her stomach by now. Surely it would be more helpful to send her home to bed?”
I even considered barging in, ringing the bell for Time and saying, Come on children: that’s enough now.
I’d do it now, no question. Correction: these days, I’d send the ambulance away in the first place, make a pot of tea and ask Bink what she really needed.
They never pumped out her stomach at all. There was nothing in those pills. She didn’t even feel drowsy. Except, presumably, whatever is appropriate at the 3am it was before we got her away.
What I feel most regretful about is poor Ben. He was just thirteen. He’d started boarding school, on a clergy bursary, a few weeks earlier. Just home for Half Term, his sister takes an overdose and he is abandoned with our kind neighbour – and virtually no explanation – till the small hours. I’d always thought bumptious Ben the most robust of us all. But nobody is indestructible.
And what on earth did they think they were doing, keeping her up all night instead of making a sensible appointment to talk to her the next day? Aren’t adults supposed to set an example? Do 95% of shrinks have no nous at all?
The following morning, we were rung up and offered a place for her in hospital. The last thing she needed. I knew that.
She needed something, though.
The advice hounded us all day. A bed won’t always be available. Take it while you’ve got the chance. Most chillingly, our ex-psychiatrist friend: “Anyone who has attempted suicide will again.”
I knew this wasn’t true. Alex had nearly killed himself, aged ten, after his head teacher failed to tell anyone in the staff room that he had Special Needs. Debriefing him, I had explained that suicide is wrong, and saw the cogs in his brain tick round as he ruled that solution out of his calculations for ever.
Besides, Bink hadn’t attempted it. Not even slightly. When Bink wanted to do something, she did it.
“You’ll never forgive yourself.” Hard words for a mother to resist. From an old friend.
And of course, Robin wanted her hospitalised so desperately I could smell his fear down the telephone.
It was the beginning of Half Term. She had a fortnight off school anyway. She could spare a bit of it, I reasoned.
Two or three days. What harm could it do?