I have mentioned before that one of the most important things – perhaps, the most important – that I have learnt, having one of my children blighted with so terrible a disease that her own mind (with all the phenomenal and astonishing energy it formally used for creativity) turns in on itself like a cancer and eats itself from within, is to trust my instincts.
If I had listened to my instinct all those nearly twenty years ago, instead of to all the professionals and even friends who were professionals telling us Bink must be hospitalised, it’s possible her illness might have been a passing minor disorder, a quite manageable and even short-lived episode in her autobiography.
If my instinct could have held sway, half as long ago, as I sat sobbing in bed at midnight, when half the family were in the pub with Bink and Gatsby, I excluded – upset not by the personal hurt, but the awareness, a year or two before anyone else – that Gatsby would steal Bink away and do her terrible damage, how many years and much destruction could have been spared us all?
Instinct is why I have no dealings with Robin: why I self-exclude from any meeting about “Robin”’s future. Bink and I are fine with this. I’ve told her it’s a conversation we can have when she is well and happy, if she still wants to change her name, for herself, not because she’s been told by therapists, not because she’s running away from the dear person she is. But at the moment, the very thought of “Robin” sets such a jangling tinnitus in my ears that I can’t find Bink in all the raucous. So I still say no, sorry, not unless you won’t call her “Robin” in front of me.
Because that’s what my instinct tells me. And it’s often been right before. When everyone else has been wrong.
So here’s a thing. I’m listening to my instincts again this morning.
Thursday night, I was a wreck. Friday I woke – if that’s what it is, when you stumble into the vertical from a night of silent yowling – a zombie.
Last night? Zonk. Woke utterly refreshed at six fifteen, to listen to Clare Baldwin in the footsteps of Dorothy Wordsworth.
(And find, hilariously, Shaun still in the kitchen setting his younger brother to rights, not having gone to bed at all. Well, they don’t get together much. And it is Ireland...)
Which is curious. Because on the face of it, yesterday should have been much more worrying than Thursday.
On Thursday evening (I dread reading what I posted, my mind was so scrambled and scribbled) Bink couldn’t speak or move and paramedics were called to check her over. In the white-knuckle ride of Bink’s illness of the last two decades, this is nothing. She was safe, she was attended to, she went to bed.
True, it’s distressing and unpleasant to talk for some minutes to someone you love very much, and hear nothing back but the faintest scrabbling of a mouse in a cupboard. But it’s not huge, it is? It shouldn’t be big, as anxieties go. She was in the care of the professionals: safe, surely?
Then why so worried, mother?
Yesterday, on the other hand, she disappeared completely.
After the upset of Thursday night, I had arranged that I would ring around midday to talk to her. It was one minute past as we pulled in at our destination, to climb the mountain Shaun and his siblings had raced and tumbled on before tea at their Granny’s every long afternoon in every long summer holiday. She was in the bathroom, they would ask her to ring me in ten minutes.
Up. And conscious. Good.
Twenty-five minutes later, Bink not there.
All the way up that mountain: ringing Priti who delivered her flowers, the time she disappeared; Alex, as he knows Bink better than anyone; Serena, unobtainable half way up a Norwegian mountain with her mini-Viking on his first skis; Ben, not answering at work.
Where would Bink go? Is she just in a park? Has she turned up at home?
Telephone conking out. Using Shaun’s. Texting. Racking all thoughts and family ideas. How long can I reassure her therapist enough to prevent police involvement?
Not a conventional way to enjoy the mountain of an Irish childhood.
(In truth, once I’d sent message or text down every alley, I handed Shaun’s telephone back and got on with the view. A mistake, as it turned out. Next time I looked, he had four missed calls from a concerned Serena...)
The one person I almost knew she would be with – her therapist too – had his telephone off, as she did herself. He suffers debilitating ME and often rests.
We came down again through the gathering mists over the dazzling lough, charged my telephone in the prettiest converted-chapel café, and in the car home, enough hours elapsed for her to reach her destination, I rang a schoolfriend’s husband and asked him to nip round the corner from their house and see if he could find anyone in.
He arrived five minutes after she did.
So Bink has escaped her regime for a night or two. And I am left analysing why I was so worried on Thursday night.
And not at all, yesterday.
Given what I’ve discovered, over two decades, about the infallibility of maternal instinct.
On the face of it, there is plenty to be worried about.
Bink has no plans beyond Easter, her due date of discharge.
Given this latest escapade, she may have no plans beyond tomorrow, if the treatment centre won’t have her back.
On Thursday evening, she shut down. Couldn’t speak or move.
Yesterday, she was in as much distress and exhaustion.
She has been following the regime as assiduously as strength allows. Good. Very good. But extremely fatiguing. For the first time in years: without medication to dull the pain; getting up every morning with the day; attending meetings, listening to others, discussing, examining, engaging.
Thursday, her body and speech shut down.
Friday, she walked out into the sunshine and went for the weekend, for her birthday, to the most sensible, wise and loving friend she has.
Admitted, it would have been easier if she’d told someone what she was doing. Less mountain-and-telephone-battery-wasting for the rest of us. More certain of a place to return to tomorrow.
But she couldn’t. She had energy to take a bus and a train and a walk, all the way to her friend’s, which is very exciting indeed.
No more, for permissions and therapists’ meetings and signings of exeat forms... which might well have been refused anyway.
Admitted, too, I was very slightly sad she didn’t stay very slightly longer to see her flowers at their freshest and taste her birthday cake at its moistest and know of all the various cards and presents and birthday surprises either still waiting for her or now flown away.
And most of all, admitted that my mind tells me there is still much to do and to worry about before Bink is safe and well and has a future.
But in the face of her doing something healthy, and independent, and joyful for her birthday...
Well, my maternal instinct seems quite relaxed.