When Bink had been in the Florence Nightingale for a few days, in late October 2001, I had rapidly researched – as parents do – enough to know that a referral to the Maudsley Hospital in South London would have been far more appropriate, as the Maudsley specialises in OCD.
When I suggested this the next time we saw Dr Ratched later that week, she said (forgive my repeating this deliciously dreadful unintentional, quoted in a much earlier post) that we didn’t want “a sledgehammer to crack a nut.”
A few months later however, after we’d rescued Bink from the Florence Nightingale and indeed from Dr Ratched, she suggested it herself. (I struggle to understand anything that psychiatrist did in the wrecking of our daughter’s life. If I had to attempt any observation at all, I’d find it hard to avoid the appearance of control being far more important to her than either care or cure.)
But by then Bink was very much more ill, by a factor of many, many. And understandably determined never to let any psychiatrist near her again.
Nevertheless we somehow managed to get a referral to a child and adolescent psychiatrist in the Maudsley Hospital, and persuade Bink to give her a chance.
One of the first things I told Dr Heyman, over the telephone before we even met, was that medication had done Bink a very great of damage. She was obviously not persuaded: if it was wrongly administered, she said with a slightly patronising laugh, it was hardly the fault of the drug!
Bink only met her twice. The first was in the hospital itself. For the second meeting, she very kindly came all the way to our Vicarage in Parson’s Green.
A classic way of treating OCD (as I mentioned a few days ago) is by “exposure.” The patient confronts her fears; is required deliberately to perform the action she is most frightened of; and thus it is demonstrated to her that the consequence is not, as she had feared, World War Three breaking out.
Nothing too awful happened when you trod in dog poo after all. Nobody died. Nobody even even came out in spots. Your fears are (in theory; eventually) overcome.
The difficulty is that Bink never thought WW3 would break out. Indeed, Dr Heyman said Bink was the only patient she had ever met with OCD (and she specialised in the disorder) who was rational about her condition.
Bink never feared her maternal grandmother would expire of some dreadful wasting disease if she didn’t walk around the house anti-clockwise seventy times seven. Nor that her brother’s face would be consumed by some pernicious parrot-green parasite if she didn’t comb every blade of grass on the lawn to face in a Northerly direction. Nor anything fanciful whatsoever, as a result of performing or not performing her rituals.
The consequence Bink fears, if she doesn’t perform certain tasks, is that she herself will suffer almost unendurable stress, pain and panic.
Unfortunately, Bink is right.
When Dr Heyman came to our house she made Bink go into our bathroom and touch the wall.
(She didn’t – as Bink’s therapist in the Bethlem did some years later – persuade Bink to the point of being motivated to do this herself. She was still only seventeen: it wasn’t difficult for a doctor to make her do something she didn’t want to do.)
The consequence? She refused ever to see Dr Heyman again.
There are some who interpret demon possession, as described in the New Testament, as a spiritual condition, quite different from mental illness. The cure for it presumably being exorcism, not clinical care. I am not theologically qualified to comment either way. This may well be correct for all I know. (Or care.)
What I am qualified to say, as a mother, is that I have seen Bink in the grip of something which, as a writer, I would describe as the very devil himself. Her reaction, after Dr Heyman’s visit, was that of a prisoner in thrall to some evil, powerful and seriously vindictive diabolical force.
She had transgressed its rules and she must suffer its dire penance.
I can’t even remember what she had to do, what actions she was made to perform, to expiate her sin. I just remember realising this dreadful agency in charge of her life was stronger than Bink herself; that it was deeply, deeply wicked; and that it was going to make her pay for what she’d just done, or face the most terrible torment.
It would have been well if the doctor had understood this too.