As a result of this blog, Bink has been telling me more about her time in the Florence Nightingale Unit.
Apparently the staff did notice her hunger strike. By the time she’d visibly lost about 15% of her body weight. Which was how she managed to see Robin again: she told them she wouldn’t eat anything until they’d kept their promise – and he, his – that he would visit her there.
Another patient was due to be taken out by her granny. The staff chose that particular evening to keep all the patients at the table, not allowing them to get down until Bink had eaten something.
Which she wasn’t going to.
So this poor lass wasn’t allowed to see her granny. More to the point perhaps, her granny wasn’t allowed to see her… while they all sat there, waiting for Bink to do something she had made clear she wouldn’t do. Goodness knows whether the hapless grandmother had travelled ten miles or a hundred, but far more likely the latter because Bink was the only one with family in London.
This is the point at which I want to weep with rage. For the love of God, someone tell me: how does that help to cure an adolescent’s mental illness? How can it possibly be part of hospital care? To punish her – and her grandmother – because another patient is on hunger strike?
Indeed, how was it appropriate to punish any of them at all? What was it supposed to be: a place of healing or a detention centre?
It is a while before I can say anything. “Were they angry? The others I mean.”
“With the staff, maybe. Not with me. We all knew they were being dicks. The other girl said she would have just drunk the milk if it had been her, but she didn't blame me.”
The staff backed down eventually. They had to. When Bink decides, she does: she would have sat there for days.
That’s the thing about a show of strength: it’s worth doing your calculations before you embark, isn't it?
“Tell me – exactly, in your own words – what Robin did wrong,” I ask.
“Touching me repeatedly. Professing affection. And losing my poetry and drawings.”
This is a new one on me: I’d rather have my house ransacked and every stick of furniture stolen than lose one poem or work of art I’ve created.
As a result of Bink's hunger strike, Robin visited her in the Unit. Once. She gave him everything she’d written and drawn while there. And then the Unit told Robin they were in charge of her treatment, so he sent all her work to the Unit and she never saw it again.
“Why didn’t he send it back to you?”
“Because they said he wasn’t to contact me.”
“Why not send it to us? Or return it with a letter explaining that he wasn’t allowed any more contact?”
“Exactly. That would have been enough. Because he was a drip.”
“He must have been terrified of his previous misconduct.”
“Yup. What pissed me off was the Unit repeatedly saying, ‘We know you’ve fallen in love with your therapist...’ I wasn’t in love with him at all. I just wanted him to keep his promises.”
I realise something with a nauseous chill.
Psychiatric nurses, obviously, are not trained to the same level as psychiatrists. “If you don’t eat we’ll punish everyone, so all the others will hate you.” Inappropriate, of course it is. But you can imagine it. I’ve seen teachers doing this kind of thing: it happened throughout my schooling and I survived, more or less.
Far worse to do it with someone mentally ill, of course. Though, even so...
But the bar for psychiatrists and their appropriate conduct is set a lot higher, surely.
So: they all thought she was in love with Robin, did they?
There came a time – eventually... far too late – when we rescued Bink from the Unit. The psychiatrist, however, wanted her back in there.
Guess what she did. It sickens me even to say it.
She promised her Robin.