End of 2001
We never discovered how Bink got the injury to her face. The charge against Shaun was quietly dropped.
I didn’t care.
All I cared about was Bink’s state of mind, or lack of. What we had witnessed was terrifying, far beyond anything we could deal with. This was why we had taken her back to the Florence Nightingale, despite all the damage I knew they’d been doing to her. She had been nothing like that when we’d first taken her in, two months earlier. Yes, she’d had OCD: a very significant difficulty, making her desperately unhappy. But she hadn’t been, like, mad.
If she was that demented... I don’t think we could imagine a future at all.
The word Shaun and I asked of each other, not even knowing what it meant, was, “Schizophrenia?”
My brother is professor of nano-materials. He knew how to use the internet long before we did. A day or two after he and his family returned home to Oxford after Christmas, we received some pages of print-out.
The drug Dr Ratched had put Bink on, very much against our wishes and hers. Which had “no negative side-effects” and which you could stop “at a moment’s notice, without any issues of withdrawal at all.”
And here were all the horrendous symptoms of coming off it suddenly, described on the internet, for anyone (who know how to use the internet) to read. And Dr Ratched had said there were none.
Was she ignorant or mendacious? Which would be worse?
Bink must have stopped taking her unwanted medication as soon as she got home, acting (sensibly) on the information she’d been given: that she mustn’t combine it with alcohol; and that she could stop it whenever she wanted.
She wasn‘t mad at all. She was simply exhibiting the known symptoms of sudden withdrawal. Palpitations, extreme terror, hallucinations. It was exactly as I had feared: the pills had made her very much worse.
Did no one in the Unit have any compassion at all? Could they not have thought to allay our wretchedness, as my brother so kindly had? We had been worried out of our own minds.
And of course, now we knew this, we realised with sinking dismay that we needn’t have taken her back into the Unit at all. Just stayed with her, and calmed her, and held her while the effects of the drug wore off, however many days or ghastly weeks that might have taken.
2002 began dull and leaden. Bink back in. Back on medication. Back incarcerated and beyond our reach.
We could do nothing. Except pray. Which we must have been doing almost incessantly, even though my confidence in prayer had been pretty effectively demolished when all our church prayed for Alexander a few years earlier. So it wasn’t because I had any faith in prayer left that I’d gone on praying.
Just, there was nothing else we could do.
Day after day, week after week, no change, no hope, no access. No communication at all.
Unless Bink herself specifically requested it. And she wasn’t talking to me.
It was a Monday morning in late January when I got the call.
I was writing a script for Thought for the Day, for Radio 4 the next morning. Racking my brains, as I always do, for something interesting, about an item in that day’s news, with a faith perspective, which hasn’t been said many times before. Bit of a bum brief, really.
Staring out of my attic study window at our neighbour’s roof in Parson’s Green. No inspiration there either.
When the telephone rings it breaks my attention, but it’s welcome because I’m stuck anyway.
“Hello,” said a familiar voice.
Wow. “Hello, Bink!”