I have recently seen a TV series, Spinning out. It’s the story of a skater, Kat, who has an accident that interrupts her career and she has to find the strength to react to the trauma and return to compete, also overcoming the conflict with her mother, a former skater who left her career because of Kat’s birth. A mother emotionally absent and obsessed only by the fact that the two daughters would be selected for the Olympics.
It seemed a fairly “trivial” story, the usual story of the conflictual relationship of the parent who does not “see” their children and what they really want, because too busy reversing on them their own aspirations that they failed to realize in their life and of which they blame the children. And the usual story of the competitive sportsman who has to overcome a trauma to be able to win again. I just wanted to watch it because I love ice skating. But there’s something more in this show that made me want to keep watching it until the end to see where it was going with this.
Right from the start, the story deals with the topic of mental illness and faces it in a way that has given me a huge annoyance: the mother suffers from bipolar disorder and, after a few episodes, you understand that even her daughter has her own disease. Immediately, this seemed to me an extremely aggressive and confusing communication: mental illness is hereditary.
I’m not an expert, but out of personal interest, I’ve taken an interest in these matters, and I can say that it’s enough to get some information in order to safely say that it’s not true, mental illness is not hereditary, there’s no scientific evidence to prove this thesis but, on the contrary, it has been extensively clarified and demonstrated that mental illness affects due to disappointing and psychically violent inter-human relationships and certainly not due to the presence of hereditary genes.
I think it is very important to make it clear that mental illness is not hereditary, because there is a lot of confusion and the TV series I’m talking about bears witness to this (and unfortunately, it is not the only one). When I was a teenager, I had a friend whose mother suffered from schizophrenia and I remember very well how this friend of mine was worried that she or her brother growing up could develop the same disease. At that time, I didn’t have the tools to reassure her and I remained myself with a thousand questions without answers. It’s important that we know that there’s nothing predestined and inevitable about mental illness.
But there is also another matter that the series proposes and that prompted me to write about it to propose a different and opposite point of view: Kat is in conflict with her mother because her mother does not keep her disease under control with pills. Kat instead is “diligent” and regularly takes her pills and for this reason is in “balance”. But when she falls in love with her skating partner, Justin, she suddenly stops taking the pills and the disease emerges in all its disastrous set of excessive and self-injurious behaviour.
Here again I found two very “sad” messages that do not give any hope and that, in my opinion, must be condemned and rejected.
The first one is that mental illness cannot be cured, but it can only be controlled with medication. Unfortunately, this is a very widespread thesis, which creeps into the dominant culture and becomes a conviction to lifelong addiction. But even this is not true, and it must be said: the cure of mental illness exists, and it is not the drugs (which may eventually help in some cases, but do not cure), it is cured in the psychotherapeutic relationship.
Not saying this, not proposing even culturally in the editorial products the possibility to face the mental illness and to overcome means to tell of an impossibility that is not true. And this must be said, because you cannot and should not take away hope, especially to kids, but also to adults, that even if you had the misfortune to get sick you can get back to being fine.
The other thing I really didn’t like about the series is that the love relationship with Justin instead of pushing Kat to give the best of herself, leads her to destroy herself, the relationship itself and the possibility of being selected for the Olympics. But why should it be like this? Why is it shown that the relationship of love leads to giving the worst of oneself instead of making them better? It’s so sad, I don’t like it and it doesn’t have to be like this. It’s possible and you have to look for a love relationship where you’re mutually stimulated to be better and more beautiful. But that’s another story, and we’ll tell it another time.
Thanks to Chiara Fanasca for the translation of this article