By the end of the Michaelmas Term of Bink’s second year at Cambridge, when she came home for the Christmas holidays, she was no longer coping at all.
With anything. Let alone Cambridge.
Before we arrived in Bedford, in 2009, Shaun’s boss’s extremely supportive and caring and utterly wonderful wife gave us lots of help and advice, for moving in. (More like a vicar’s than a head’s wife, Shaun kept saying... somewhat surprisingly given how well he knew my mother, also a head’s wife.)
She told us that a particular doctor in the area had a reputation for being good with mental illness. (And, as it happened, was a Christian, along with his doctor wife. Whose mother – co-incidentally a retired-vicar’s wife – was one of the first people to befriend us in Bedford, when Bink took Rose to church on that first Sunday.)
This GP it was, who had put Bink on his favourite cocktail (why does it sound so lethal of drugs... and so glitteringly attractive when served in a dinky upturned-cone-glass with a paper umbrella perking out of it, brought to your hammock by the pool?) which put her to sleep for twenty hours a day throughout her first year.
Then failed to tell her that was why.
Bink’s main complaint, of all the drugs she’s been on, is that doctors don’t tell you. They don’t come clean about the side-effects. They don’t say what will happen if you double your dose because you are desperate. They don’t tell you that the IBS you’ve been consulting doctors and hospitals for, for ten years, is probably caused by your SSRIs.
In particular they don’t tell you that you will go complete stark batshit crazy if you ever try to come off them again.
I know, I know. GPs now only have an average of fifteen and a half secs per patient allocated for each consultation... But that’s not Bink’s fault, is it? If they haven’t got time to explain the stuff, they shouldn’t dish it out.
Likewise, if they don’t have time to research their advice...
So Bink and I sat in that GP’s surgery.
And asked about alternatives.
Therapy, for instance.
Nope. She’d only be entitled to four sessions, max. After a waiting list of months.
So we had to move onto his favourite subject of meds again. Seeing as he said there wasn’t anything else.
Ok, I realise at this stage we’d probably been in his room for our allotted 15 1/2 secs... And it may also have been true (Ben told me afterwards: they attended the same church) that one of his children was having an off-day.
But even so...
When Bink asked him a perfectly reasonable question about how she could know the side effects of what he was in the process of prescribing for her, he slammed his fist down on the desk.
Gave her his attention from his computer for a moment.
And almost shouted:
Get out, Bink!
Just get out!!
No, not “almost”. (Just sounds so awful, that a doctor shouted at a patient.)
He did shout.
Over and over, afterwards, I asked myself whether he could possibly have been joking. Did he think he knew us well enough? Considered himself our friend?
Was it supposed to be funny?
By the time we had biked the few minutes home, not just Bink but I was shaking with sobs.
Poor little Bink, utterly distraught. More than beside herself: several removes away.
So of course, I rang Serena.
Bollocks, Serena said straight away, and looked up the NICE guidelines. She was right, naturally: she always is. As ill as Bink was, with her medical history, she was entitled to at least twelve sessions of therapy.
Immediately: no waiting list.
Didn’t know or didn’t care? Or just didn’t like therapy… Given how cheap pills are.
I collected myself.
Come on, Bink! I rallied.
We’ll have friends over. Who would you like to see?
Thus it was that I rang a couple, less than half a mile away. Both doctors, as it happens.
Lit a fire. Opened a bottle.
And they came round and spent the evening with us.
Cheered us up.
And reminded us that some – maybe even most, if you give them more than fifteen and a half secs – doctors are goodies, really.