We were not allowed to veto Bink's medication. But since we were invited into the psychiatrist’s consulting room on a regular basis, it seemed sensible to find out more.
Sertraline was the first (of many) she was put on. It was the elixir of life, that drug. Lily the Pink’s Medicinal Compound. The first genuine miracle invented by the human race.
1. It had no side effects. That’s right. Absolutely none whatsoever. At all at all at all.
2. It was also astonishingly easy to come off. The moment you wanted to. Though you wouldn’t ever want to, because it solves world poverty. But if you did. You could stop just like that. No negative repercussions or withdrawal symptoms. At all at all at all.
3. If you don’t trust us we can’t work with you.
Hello? Where did that come from? Have no parents ever asked any questions before?
Well no, I don't suppose they would. All the other adolescents in that ward came from families who wouldn't know how, even if they had the energy left over from surviving their own lives.
I happened to mention all this in passing, a couple of months ago, to a reputable psychiatrist – still mystified as to why anyone would lie so blatantly to a patient and her family – and she very kindly took the time to reply: “Ah, there is a good explanation. In the early years of SSRIs, we really thought they had no ‘discontinuation’ symptoms and were very safe to start and stop. It was only much later that they were discovered, so the doctor probably really was not trying to deceive but we would all have been unaware.”
It was good to get this explanation at last. Genuinely.
However... um... forgive my being awkward, but it still leaves two very obvious questions unanswered.
First, if the drug was so new and unknown that the body of medical knowledge didn’t yet include such basic stuff as the way it completely screws your head when you come off it, and that you can find yourself addicted to it for years and years and years, why experiment on our daughter? Have we learnt nothing from thalidomide?
And secondly, how then was it possible for my brother (well-educated but nonetheless a layman) to allay our terror a few months later – when we thought Bink must be schizophrenic, so dire were the effects – simply by looking up this drug and what it could do, on something we'd barely heard of called the 'internet'?
Be that as it may, what the psychiatrist didn’t bother to mention, to us and even more crucially to Bink herself, was that you weren’t supposed to imbibe alcohol while on it.
A couple from our church, with the hospital’s permission of course, took Bink out to Pizza Express. When they delivered her back, they were asked what she’d consumed.
A pizza. A salad. A glass of red wine.
Shit. Fan. Convergence of.
I must still have considerable residual anger over Bink’s time in the Unit: just thinking about the way our kind friends were treated roils my guts.
How about giving them information before they took her out, rather than demanding it of them when they brought her back? How about an apology for not advising them properly? How about the hospital's taking responsibility for the omission, rather than rebuking those solicitous enough to give her a generous treat, as if they were recalcitrant schoolchildren smoking behind the bike sheds?
And of course the reprimand dished out to the adults was nothing to the scolding given to Bink herself.
It’s exhausting: remembering. Anger is.
Let’s end on a positive note. A reader has just asked whether Bink get to her therapy session last Thursday?
Yes, kind friends, she did. “She’ll never make it,” Shaun had said with his customary encouraging Eeyore jollity.
But I knew she would, somehow.
As I wrote yesterday, mothers can be annoying like that. Knowing stuff without knowing how.
So give me grace to be right on this one too: that the Priory offers Bink the turning point we've all been praying for – for so many, many long years – to a glorious future of freedom.