This isn’t proving quite as plain sailing as I’d assumed.
Well, of course not. I am, by nature, insanely optimistic. If I weren’t, I would have topped myself by now.
Bink rang home again, again terrified of being expelled from the Priory. She wanted me to get her an assurance, in writing, that she wouldn’t be thrown out with nowhere else to go.
“Why, Bink? I don’t think it’s going to happen.”
“So I can stop worrying and get on with things.”
Yes, I could see that. Bink can get herself into a complete state about something so unlikely the rest of us would just get on with things anyway. Still, I couldn’t promise her it was impossible.
“Why are you so frightened? Has anyone said anything?”
Unpicking this unlikely statement, it seemed that she had pushed and pushed and pushed – she does this: it’s partly why she would make a terrifying barrister – until the person she was pushing said, well, I suppose, if you absolutely couldn’t engage with the programme, it is conceivable… Obviously, no one can promise her she could never be asked to leave.
I am reminded of extremely abused and damaged children, pushing foster parents to extremes to see what it would take to lose them.
After about twenty minutes, going round and round in ever more frustrating circles, I suggested the first thing she should do was find out when her next therapy session is.
“I can’t do that first. I’m twenty minutes late for a cooking session.”
“Bink, hang up and go to your cooking session!”
“But we need to finish this conversation.”
“I can’t while we’re discussing this.”
“I think we finished ages ago.”
“Then why did you go on talking to me?”
“Because I didn’t know you had a cookery session! Bink, I can’t help you if you don’t go to your sessions.”
“I can’t do that till we’ve finished this.”
“I can’t help you with this unless you do that. You rang me up for advice. My advice is, go to your cookery session!”
At some stage over the next five minutes she told me to stop panicking about her cookery session.
Bink has a point. In a very mild way compared with Bink herself, I was indeed panicking. I wasn’t screaming so loudly I could be heard down the street, or setting fire to the kitchen because I couldn’t work out how to call for help from someone in the next room. But I was focusing so hard on one thing that I couldn’t think about anything else.
Bink is my daughter. Her madness hasn’t come out of nothing.
Over the last decade and a half I have experienced panic attacks. In situations that most people would consider reasonably panic-making: losing our home; my husband’s breakdown; his having to give up work and the attendant prospect of our losing another, even more precious, home.
They have been few in number, they haven’t lasted long, and they haven’t really incapacitated me. I’ve never even felt I couldn’t control them if I wanted to. But they were enough for me to imagine, if I multiply them by a factor of several hundred, a little of what it must feel like to be Bink… all day and every day. No wonder she has accepted chemical coshes, just to keep breathing.
Bink has often asked what I mean by “well”. I fall back on what I assume most people would mean: well enough to function. But she doesn’t like my using the word and in a sense, she is right. Bink will never be “well.” Not if well means never being overwhelmed by emotions; never having intrusive thoughts; never panicking in untoward circumstances.
None of us is well, if this is what well is.
One of my most successful, intelligent and admired friends – honoured by the Queen – recently told me of unwelcome thoughts, dominated by worry. Just as Bink’s are.
Bink doesn’t have to be completely “well”.
Just well enough to function.
I think of the joys in my own life. Well enough to work. Well enough to fall in love. Well enough to feel the sunshine on her face.
Well enough to have children of her own… and break her heart over them.
Bink loves the flowers, card and chocolates I arranged to be delivered to her room. She says, laughing, that other patients are threatening to ring their mothers and demand their own.
What she doesn’t know – and I believe she isn’t reading my blog at the moment, so it is safe to share with you – what she doesn’t know is that tomorrow she will have more. I have an arrangement with the florist, and with Bink’s prayer group. We are taking it in turns.
She will have flowers every week. While I am alive – and she is in hospital – she will.
And a letter from my nearly-101-year-old father every day. While he is.