Autumn and winter 2001
Troubled though Bink already was, broken and splintered and fragmented though she was soon to become in the Florence Nightingale Unit all those years ago, she never lost her spirit.
She never has.
(It strikes me suddenly what a momentous thing I have just written. I savour it for a moment. Bink is still Bink. She always will be. Incomparably – and still, somehow, despite everything indomitably – herself. And that strengthens my faith that the true, restored, glorious and well Bink will one day re-emerge, shaking out her wings to dry in the warm springtime.)
In a later, and happier, hospital than the Florence Nightingale, the therapist wrote the word ‘Procrastination,’ on the board, told the patients to discuss this with relation to OCD, and left the room. There was a dazed group stare. Eventually Bink pitched in, broke the word down into its component parts and explained how it was approximately Latin for ‘mañana’. The group stare was now substantially more dazed.
“You’re a complete freak,” one of them said.
She was, yes, considerably crippled by what they did to her in the Florence Nightingale. But never completely crushed. One mealtime, a member of staff, in an act of completely unprovoked verbal antagonism, exclaimed, “I hate all Christians.”
“That is as irrational and prejudiced,” Bink responded calmly, “as if I were to say, ‘I hate all homosexuals.’”
Note that, unlike him, she did not say that she did. She was using it as an example of the inappropriateness of such bigotry.
Note too, that Bink had no idea – an omission very quickly and no doubt aggressively corrected by the authorities – of the sexual orientation of the member of staff in question. He, however, knew very well her faith orientation, and it was in direct response to this intelligence that he had made his remark.
And note, finally, who was the adult in the equation, with the duty of care and presumably therefore respect towards the other: and who the patient, the adolescent, the one who was supposedly there because she was ill and in need of help, who had no such obligation to those supposed to be caring for her.
Which of the two do you suppose was disciplined for misdemeanour? I’ll give you a clue: it wasn’t the staff member.
She was even more indignant at the inability to engage in intelligent debate, than at the injustice.
In one of the endless and fatuous therapy sessions Bink now attended instead of education, patients were asked to draw a desert island. Bink, whose skull was presumably bored inside out by now, drew on her beach a pig’s head on a stick.
“They probably haven’t read Lord of the Flies,” Serena explained, as Bink marvelled at the lack of response this provoked.
“Even if you don’t get the reference,” she replied, with some justification, “it’s pretty bizarre not to comment on it. At all.” All they said, Bink relayed to us in the sort of mumsie voice you would use for the dangerously demented, was, “You don’t seem to have put any food on your island.” (Dear.) “Do you think it might be helpful to share with the group why that might be?”
Sadly, the therapy was not all harmless.
Bink – who was, don't forget, very vulnerable herself – was locked up with some seriously damaged adolescents. One had been attacked by his own father, with knives, before he was twelve, and was lucky to have survived. Another had been stolen as a toddler from her tribe in Africa, sold into slavery and had lost touch with all her birth family. (Or so she believed, anyway.) One of the less abused had come in as heterosexual Daniel and discovered herself to be homosexual Sue.
(None of these conditions, you have no doubt already observed, remotely relevant to what Bink herself was suffering from. Would you subject a stroke patient to chemotherapy? It would be about as appropriate.)
Each discussed his or her abuse in their therapy sessions. Bink’s difficulties had originated with peer pressure. What could she say? “I was teased at school”?
It sounds a bit lame, doesn’t it?
Soon, she too was sharing her trauma of abuse. We weren't supposed to know this. Nor that she had confessed to being the abuser herself. Of little children. The fact that we didn't believe it for a moment didn't make it any the less sickening: however ill she had been was before she went in, she had never been delusional.
(And of course, because this information was a breach of confidence, we couldn't ask her about it. Nor therefore find out, for quite some time, that she never believed it either.)