Lent Term 2012
Meanwhile I was doing all I could to get Bink an appointment with a psychiatrist, as she had requested repeatedly throughout the Christmas holidays.
I looked up the name given me by the psychiatrist I had met in the Cambridge BBC studio; rang her office; mentioned my contact, as instructed. She too had written to her.
Though I was still fobbed off with all the usual objections to treatment. Wrong area. Wrong method of referral. Nothing on the NHS.
I contacted our MP’s office.
I’d lost count of the number of times I’d sat in his surgery, Bink in tears, trying to fathom how on earth we could get help for her. His PA had a file an inch or two thick, of all the ways in which mental health system had abused and abandoned her, mis-drugged and mistreated her.
Of course he would support the referral.
Back to the shrink’s office.
And so it goes.
Measuring out my life in telephone calls. In hassles and chasing up and campaigning. In trying to work the system. In a desperate bid for help...
I asked Helen, the superb psychologist, the question that was now tormenting Bink herself, as it had me for many a long year.
What had the drugs done to her?
She had been so sharp, so quick-thinking, before she was first medicated at the age of 16. It was only after she went into hospital and was forced onto drugs that she flipped into the world of the insane.
We have some idea of the effect of drugs on adults, Helen said. But that doesn’t tell us what they do to the still-developing brain of a sixteen year old...
Are there any worse words a mother can hear?
How could I pass this back to Bink? Yes, your brain was indeed wrecked when you went into the Florence Nightingale Unit.
As I’ve always thought.
In March I was the speaker at a Ladies’ Guild lunch. Knowing my concerns, the organiser had seated me next to the President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists.
I begged this eminent shrink the same question over the poached salmon. What had the drugs done to her? Could there be permanent damage? Both Bink and I have been seeking the answer for some time, I said, but no one will give us a straight answer.
And anyone who does, she said, is lying.
Nobody knows. The research is led by the States. It’s illegal in US to conduct medical research on anyone under eighteen. This sets the pattern for the rest of the world.
We simply don’t know what effect that kind of medication has on anyone under eighteen, because the research has never been done.
So we prescribe it instead.
* * * * *
Bink was dreading coming home for Easter. Because of our au pair, she explained.
It made sense. They were not dissimilar in age, the au pair had had a troubled childhood, she looked to us as her new family... When Bink was at home she felt displaced: in both Rosie’s affections, and mine.
So she made Bink’s life difficult...
In that case, Bink, the au pair must go.
Not just for me?
Of course, just for you! I’m not having you unable to come home.
(Reason enough, had the au pair been the best in the world – unless Rose would have suffered by losing her. Weighing up one offspring’s needs against another is never easy, though we now know the child’s must always trumps the adult’s.)
It would be kind, though, Bink, if I could leave it till after Easter. To give her as much notice as possible. Can you cope with that?
She’ll be gone before you come home for the summer.
I couldn’t have known, when I sacked that au pair, that Bink might not come home again.
Not for a very, very long time.
A reaction as unpredictable as her response to the smart new shrink.
It was quite a long time before I started to see what was happening to her.