I've had Helen Raven's "Heat Trace" on my mind, on and off, for the past couple of years. I loved it, but I was at a loss to explain her Bodie. Doyle was fine, I could track his slide into depression and planned suicide. Bodie was "more difficult".
I managed to get an appointment to see Dr Ross, who took early retirement from government service in 2005 but still retains a small consultancy.
Naturally she couldn't talk about the specifics of any CI5 cases she had been involved in, and I was unwilling to divulge all the reasons for my interest in certain matters. Nonetheless, after some verbal fencing, she did give me a great deal of helpful information. Curiously, much of what she volunteered seemed particularly applicable to our current case review.
When Dr Ross was first involved with CI5, her diagnostic yardstick was the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-II (1974 printing). It was considered to be forward-thinking at the time because it replaced the 'mental illness' of homosexuality with the category 'sexual orientation disturbance'. She said that later versions of the DSM removed this particular category altogether, as psychiatric medicine became less concerned with labels and more focussed on whether an individual's sexual orientation or urges were causing them distress or functional impairment, above and beyond any societal disapproval or discrimination.
Then, without prompting, she talked at some length about a group of mental heath disorders known as "dissociative disorders". There are various classifications, and individuals do not always fit all the criteria, but some of the features of the different types include:
- amnesia, particularly blanking out of traumatic events;
- identity disorder – the so called "split personality", where an individual switches identities when under stress. The individual may or may not be aware of this other "person" living in their head;
- fugue states, where the individual suddenly "takes off" away from their life, becoming unaware or confused about their identity;
- depersonalisation disorder, where the individual feels as though they are "out of themselves", detached from their body.
Treated, usually with psychotherapy, these disorders may resolve fairly quickly, may take years, or may never fully resolve.
I asked her what would happen if someone suffering from a dissociative disorder did something, or allowed something bad to happen that they would never have considered if they were healthy. What repercussions would there be during treatment, for example?
She sighed, and said, "Most psychotherapy is aimed at helping people regain what they have lost, integrating their past experiences and allowing them to express and feel the associated emotions. In this case however..."
She seemed at a loss for a moment, and then began again, choosing her words with conspicuous care.
"I would have to consider whether the benefits outweighed the risks involved in treatment. Even if he was prepared to cooperate, if he suppressed the memory of what he did then it may be damaging to attempt to enable him to remember. The shock of realising what he had done might cause a further episode.
Ask yourself this – is he happy? Is he living a useful life? Does he have friends to support him, a lover? If the answer is yes to all of these, then perhaps it's best to leave well enough alone.
I'm in a meddling profession – I'm paid a great deal of money to do my job and I do it very well. It's just that... sometimes meddling is precisely the wrong thing to do."
The interview was over. As I got up from my seat to leave, she asked me if I found my Obsessive-Compulsive disorder at all disabling and offered me a follow-up appointment.
Also, this should be considered a lay person's attempt at solving a puzzle, not a professional opinion. Feel free to disagree with me!*