Tuesday, January 05, 2010


‘Can I put music on? You make me nervous. I need to relax.’
She moves as she talks, someone used to a minimum of delay between the expression of a desire and its satisfaction, skating in her stockinged feet across the blond ceramic floor to a café-style table with a laptop, mobile phone, scattering of letters and iPod speaker dock. She moves with a petulant slouch, like a child dragging a sled full of presents it didn’t want. Slumps down on a chair, winds through the iPod, taps on Bulletproof by La Roux.
‘Just turn it down a little bit though, Mila. We need to be able to chat.’
Suddenly she seems to really see us for the first time, a slapped, darkly glittering look. After a pause, she slowly eases off the volume.
‘So. What’s happened tonight, Mila?’
‘My life is over, that’s what’s happen tonight. I’m pregnant and my shitty low-life boyfriend won’t call, won’t answer my messages on Facebook. I don’t want to live anymore.’ She picks up a pen simply to throw it down again. It skitters across the debris on the table and off across the room.

Mila has two friends from the Bi-Polar help group with her. They sit in the bedroom area of the flat, on a narrow sofa just the other side of the arch, a tidy audience of two, coats on, hands patiently folded in their laps. I half expect them to raise up points cards.

This time baby I’ll be-ee bullet proof

She rifles through the cards on the table, looking for something.
‘Where my cigarette? I need cigarette.’
One of the men jumps up.
‘I’ll go out and get some for you, Mila.’
I risk an appeal to her humanity.
‘Do you mind not smoking whilst we’re here? Only we don’t smoke, and we’ll end up stinking of fags the rest of the night.’
Another slapped look. The gothic corset she is wearing seems to shrink a size.
Who call you?’ she says.
‘We did, Mila,’ says the one still sitting down. ‘We were worried.’
‘Get me cigarette,’ she says, then turns sideways on the chair, folds one leg over the other and wraps her leopard-print jacket tightly around herself.
‘Do you want me to go out and get you some?’ Her friend stands irresolutely. If he had a cap he’d be turning it in his hands, but as it is he simply stuffs them into the pockets of his furry gilet to check for money.
He leaves. The other one adjusts his position on the sofa.
‘Mila – we were told you’d taken some pills.’
She shrugs. ‘Paracetamol.’
‘When did you take these paracetamol?’
‘How many did you take?’
‘Okay. Anything today?’
‘No. Nothing. Wine. That’s it.’
‘And how are you feeling now?’
‘How am I feeling? I’m feeling fucking shit, that’s how I’m feeling. My low-life boyfriend make me pregnant and now he not have anything to do with me. I want to kill myself. That’s how I’m feeling. Who call you, anyway?’
‘Your friends.’
She looks through to the man sitting on the sofa. He smiles and nods. She sighs and looks back again.
‘I would show you pregnant stick, but one of the symptoms of the Bi Polar is hiding stuff away.’
The stick is just behind the open laptop. I hand it to Mila.
She holds it up to her face to scrutinise the line, then flourishes it in the air like a tiny flag – ‘Yay!’ – then grunts, and throws the stick away in the direction of the pen.
‘I’m sick,’ she says. ‘But I’m not going to hospital.’
‘Mila – what would you do tonight if we weren’t here?’
‘I would find new way to kill myself.’
‘You see, hearing that makes it difficult for us to just leave you at home. It wouldn’t be right if we just went away and left you in this kind of state. I think you need someone to talk to tonight, somewhere safe.’
‘I’m not going to hospital. I’ve been there before. You wait hours and hours and hours, nothing happens, you go home. It’s pointless.’
Suddenly there is a rush of freezing night air down the corridor, a slamming door, and the other friend hurries in.
‘I’ve got the cigarettes, Mila,’ he says breathlessly, handing her a pack of menthol.
She stands up and shucks off the jacket.
Looking at her standing there, I find it hard to imagine the help group meeting. What would their reaction be to someone in a black sequin corset and gold lame hot pants?
‘It’s cold out, Mila. Are you going to put some trousers on before we go.’
‘What you mean? These are trouser.’
And she stares at me as she slowly unwinds the polythene from the packet of cigarettes.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like the trademarked bipolar cry for attention (yes, I'm allowed to make these jokes). But it puts the friends in an awkward situation, and so they make it an awkward situation for you, who have no option but to make it A&Es awkward situation.

The answer? Decent mental health care in the UK, I suppose, but how do we do that?!

Rach said...

How very sad Spence that it takes people to that level...xx

Spence Kennedy said...

Nick - It is awkward - and v unsatisfactory. When she said that she'd wait hours in A&E and then get sent home, she wasn't far from the truth. Because she'd had quite a bit to drink, she wouldn't get seen for a psych r/v until she'd sobered up. By which time I'm sure she'd self d/c. It's frustrating. I wish there was some other provision for patients who present with suicidal intent / emotional disturbance of one kind or another. What we have atm seems to be a very blunt tool - especially given that this patient (and many of the others we go to) must have significant contact with psych services already, so they'd surely have a better idea how to proceed, in more appropriate surroundings.

Rach - Mental health issues cut across so many people's lives in this country. It's quite staggering!

Hope you're coping in all this snow, btw. I can't remember the last time it was this deep! x

paul said...

'She moves with a petulant slouch, like a child dragging a sled full of presents it didn’t want' brilliant, again.

Spence Kennedy said...

Cheers, Paul!