Advent 2011 [cont…]
When do you decide it is worth complaining? How much of your life do you pour out, trying to improve the system?
So much has been done to Bink over twenty years, her illness exacerbated by so many appalling so-called cures and treatments and helps, it would impossible to know where to start. Or stop.
(Now I think about how he behaved, I myself, too, suddenly want to prosecute Gatsby. How dare he? Do that to her? You wouldn’t treat a cat, a dog like that... But as so often, a human being may have less protection. Is there a law against ruining someone’s life?)
Nevertheless, on this occasion I thought it worth saying something.
GPs should not shout at patients.
If I complained at Reception, I’d be given some pointless, time-wasting Patient Feedback Form, which would blast a several-hours’ hole in my life and of which no one would take the slightest notice.
Besides, Bink still needed help.
So I asked for a double appointment with the Senior Partner, for Bink and me together. Foolishly assuming he would want to know that his first mate had just behaved towards one of his patients like a surly yob on the street.
He didn’t even listen. No attention whatsoever. Didn’t make a note of it, or show the slightest flicker of interest...
I gave up. If he wanted to run his surgery like a cock fighting arena…
So we moved on to Bink’s needs.
And why, he turned to her sternly, have you brought your mother with you?
What? You, too!
Bink said nothing. She was barely well enough to answer courteous and kind conversation, let alone field a fresh foray.
She’s ill, I said. Slowly.
Very, very incredulously.
And extremely – if silently – furious. This, a doctor?
That’s what it means. Mental illness. That you can’t do stuff. For yourself. You need others to help.
That’s. Why. We’re. Here.
(Ye gods. She’s EFFING ILL.)
Don’t. Just don’t show how angry you are.
Don’t sink to their level.
After a few slightly more civilised questions, he said he would call the Crisis Team. They would visit that very same day.
Result! Perhaps he did deserve his Senior Partnership after all.
I’d never heard of the Crisis Team. Why had she never been offered this before?
I asked him. He smiled, somewhat smugly. You have to be Senior Partner to know these things.
We left, mollified.
More important to get help than lodge a complaint, isn’t it?
They did indeed call round that same afternoon. One tattooed. One dyed. Both large and listening.
We sat round the kitchen table, all four of us – occasionally other members of the family walking by and chipping in – for a good two hours.
We gave them tea, and cake. And talked and talked... How many years Bink had been ill. The treatment she hadn’t been given. What it meant in daily disabilities. How painful it was.
She wasn’t sure she could stay studying at Cambridge…
What hopes we had, at last, of a team that came out the very same day! That prompt, they must be efficient.
Why had this never happened before?
When Bink and I had told them everything we could, how depressed she was, the continual panic she was in, how much she needed help; when they had nodded and listened and sympathised; when we’d all had numerous mugs of tea and they had eaten all our cake...
They got to their feet, and thanked us, and prepared to make their goodbyes.
What can you do? How can you help? What is available for her?
Nothing will come of nothing! Speak again…
You said – they quoted her words back at her – you don’t think you’re at imminent risk of taking your own life.
We’re the Crisis Team.
There’s nothing we can do.
If you’re not a suicide risk.
Where do you start?
Why didn’t you ask that the moment you walked in?
Why have you spent two hours eating all the cake in the house. Wasting our entire afternoon. All that emotional energy. Getting our hopes up. Bink’s time and mine. All the things we could have been doing.
Your time, too. Tax-payers’ money.
HOW CAN YOU BE YOU SO STUPID?
Much more to the point, how did that Senior Partner get to be a frigging doctor at all, let alone in charge of a surgery, WHEN HE HASN’T A CLUE WHAT THE CRISIS TEAM IS FOR?
What’s the point?
How much of your life do you waste complaining?
If they had studied for a year how to fly-tip as much guilt and failure as possible over Bink’s head, to make her life even worse, they couldn’t have come up with anything more effective.
All that evening she berated herself. Giving the wrong answer to the trick question.
If only I hadn’t said I wasn’t suicidal! Why did I say that? Why didn’t I say I was about to kill myself?
They might have helped me...
Forget it, Bink. They wouldn’t.
No one does.