Advent 2011 [cont...]
On that, however, I was very slightly wrong. That no one ever helps.
Remember our doctor friends, who came round the evening the GP shouted at Bink?
The very next day, they did not rest idle. I suppose when you see Bink close up, even on an evening when she is relatively sane but simply distressed more than any normal person ever gets distressed, it comes as quite a shock.
So our friend, the husband of the pair, did a bit of ringing round. And then rang me with the name of a Bedford psychologist, reputedly rather good. Whom he had spoken to.
And gave me her number.
I rang her straight away, of course.
And happened across one of those very, very rare and precious people – Professor David Veale, Bink’s psychiatrist in the Priory, seems the same – who, despite the fact that they work in mental health, abound with common sense and compassion instead of drugs, red tape, obstructions, loony theories and worse practices.
As with so many rarely-talented individuals (perhaps slightly fewer now that heads of schools and principles of colleges are appointed from among administrators and figureheads, rather than teachers and academics) she was being promoted out of what she was so uniquely good at – helping people – into what any half-competent person should be able to do – management – and my memory is that she wasn’t really treating patients much any more. And certainly didn’t have a vacancy.
And yes, she would see Bink straight away.
Bink still regards her as far and away the most helpful therapist she has ever had.
One of the things I had discovered very quickly when Bink was admitted to the Florence Nightingale Unit, aged sixteen, is that there are some things you may have been doing for years, as a parent, thinking them perfectly normal... until you step into a world where they are so deeply shameful that you risk being a pariah for even thinking them.
Caring about Bink’s schooling, for instance.
It seemed to me counter-intuitive, when she was admitted to that Unit (and still – I can confess here, among friends – does) to take Bink out of the structure of (a first rate, as it happens) school, for which she was having to get up in the morning and use her brain and get exercise on her bicycle to attend; and incarcerate her instead in a lock-up where the only stimulation was endless episodes of the Simpsons and inventing traumas for the therapy sessions; and the only exercise, available exclusively to smokers, five minutes in every hour outside the building, filling your lungs with toxins... and then spit her out again three months later when she had no ambitions or friends or reason to get out of bed left in the world... and consider this an improvement.
But I Was Wrong. This poisonous and damaging obsession with success-disguised-as-schooling was because I was An Evil Mother and cared about nothing except My Daughter’s Grades.
So of course I also very quickly learnt not to say that I thought she had been better off when she was attending one of the best schools in the country, rather than wasting her life in wall-to-wall Mickey Mouse therapy run by people who barely had a brain cell between them. Because then they would have been tasked with the very tedious job of correcting my thought-crime… as well as confirming their own prejudice that It’s Always the Mother’s Fault.
You could have knocked me down with the proverbial, therefore, when Helen – this kind and wonderful psychologist who had already seen Bink several times by Christmas – told me the reason she agreed to see her so urgently was in order to help save Bink’s university place, and enable her not to drop out of Cambridge.
A therapist who lived in the real world? Who recognised the value of education, and friends, and purpose... and even possibly a degree?
Here was a turn-up for the books, indeed.