Wednesday 18th March, 2015
A few days after she came home, Bink had an appointment at Fulbourn Psychiatric Hospital, on the edge of Cambridge.
When I was at school, it was the most common playground taunt. Yah, yah, you’ll get sent to Fulbourn! We had an image of shuffling patients escaping in pyjamas and coming to get us...
Now my daughter was one of them.
If she was fortunate.
Goodness knows how she was supposed to reach the hospital on her own – she had become completely incapable of independence – but kind, helpful Ben offered to drive her.
The appointment was at three thirty. To be comfortably on time, they would want to leave at around two.
And as ill luck – or design – would have it, just before two...
Who knows how much is design in the mind of the mad? How much she intends? Or her dæmons intend...
After all, if she were cured, her many dæmons would be homeless.
When someone changes the name she wishes to be called by, as Bink had recently to Lara, there is a transition period. There has to be a time of grace.
I know, because my sister changed her name when she left home at the age of eighteen.
It takes a while to remember.
And so it should, because it also takes a while for those who love you to say goodbye to the old name and become familiar with the new.
How much did I do on purpose? Could I really not remember to call her Lara every time?
Presumably I, too, must be a little mad, for Bink to have inherited mad genes.
Just before two, I happened to call her Bink.
Refused to get in the car. Refused to leave for her appointment.
On and on and on.
The minutes ticking by.
I had to promise – absolutely PROMISE – I would NEVER do that again.
Lara, I can’t promise. I did it by mistake. How can I absolutely promise that I will never do that again?
You have to. You have to you have to you have to.
For goodness’ sake. You have an appointment in an hour and a quarter… little more than an hour… rather less than an hour.
It’s at least an hour’s drive. With no hold-ups.
Poor Ben, waiting patiently, while the appointment slipped away.
Slightly mad I may be – we all may be – but instinct told me I mustn’t allow myself to be bullied in this way.
(Sound instinct? Or my own slightly mad stubbornness?)
At last we got her in the car...
Very, very late.
I rang the hospital after they’d left.
The first thing you need to know about living with someone with a serious mental illness is that you are absolutely hamstrung.
They won’t talk to you.
They can’t talk to you.
No one can talk to you.
I long ago lost count of how many dozens and dozens of times I have explained that I’m not asking for any data.
I’m giving it.
You don’t need to tell me anything. You don’t need to break anyone’s confidence. You are not in breach of any data protection.
I AM TELLING YOU SOMETHING.
My daughter has an appointment at half-past three. She is going to be very late for it. Please see her anyway.
If you possibly, possibly can.
They were. Very late.
Even so, Bink wouldn’t get out of the car. After they arrived.
She wouldn’t move from a corner of the hospital carpark.
She still wanted me, or Ben, or the nurse, or someone, to promise her something impossible.
Or something mad. I can’t even remember what.
Fifty five minutes into her hour’s appointment, she agreed to see her psychiatric nurse or whatever it was.
Who told her her appointment was over.
(So they won’t be bullied either. If you don’t get there on time…)
I telephoned again after Ben told me.
For once, for once in my life, for once in all the twenty years or more Bink has been ill, I spoke to someone sympathetic.
Who said – though she couldn’t tell me anything, because of Data Protection – that they would give her another appointment. She couldn’t tell me when. Data Protection. Some time. I shouldn’t worry.
On being pressed and pressed and pressed, she said probably not more than weeks. Or months.
And that any time I needed any help or support, I could ring them back again.
Almost worth her being late, just for that.
(Believe me, from experience: it is far, far, infinitely worse to be promised it. And not given it. Than never promised it at all...)