To hope may be human, but don’t deceive us about possible cures

Not everything can be cured by the love of a good woman

Share

Scarcely a month goes by without research somewhere suggesting that an innate or progressive condition can be cured.The latest was a study in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, arguing that some children diagnosed with autism may grow out of it. As someone for whom my husband’s Parkinson’s is a fact of our lives, I detest such reports. You can only imagine the false hopes they raise, the lengths to which parents will go to place their child among the favoured few, and the guilt they will feel if they fail.

Fictionalised hope is, to my mind, even worse than the scientific kind. I was, frankly, amazed that David Russell’s film, Silver Linings Playbook, received the eight Oscar nominations it did. It’s a simplistic rom-com in the American mode, no more and no less, with the standard feel-good element. But publicity for the film focused on its supposedly sensitive treatment of mental illness, and specifically of bipolar disorder, once known as manic depression.

To be simplistic about it – but not as simplistic as this Hollywood effort – those with bipolar experience acute mood swings; they can be depressed for periods, but also enjoy “highs”. Drugs can help – the sort of drugs that, like many remedies for mental illness, have a numbing effect that deprives sufferers of the pluses – the exhilaration, verging on genius, that a “high” may bring – as well as the minuses of depression. This unwelcome effect of medication features, to a small extent, in the film, as do the bizarre social responses that can flow from “highs” and “lows”. But that’s about the best that can be said for it.

The message you are invited to take away is the age-old one: that everything can be cured by the love of a good woman. Unfortunately, it can’t. It may help, but it won’t ensure that everyone lives happily ever after. For another glimpse of mental illness that seems to resemble what would now be called bipolar, read the memoirs of Katharine Graham, long-time grande dame of The Washington Post. Her husband, Philip, was not easy to live with, to put it mildly. He turned to alcohol, had a breakdown, was committed to a psychiatric hospital and one day, while on weekend leave, withdrew to his study and shot himself. False optimism is quite as bad as the false pessimism Silver Linings Playbook affects to overcome. 

The taxman's reply cometh

A belated New Year’s honours list. In an Independent column before Christmas, I berated HMRC for fining my husband for an overdue tax return. Amazingly, his appeal was successful (and it had nothing to do with anything I wrote; the letter was in the post before my article appeared). So credit, where credit is due – because this hasn’t been an isolated experience of prompt service from officialdom.

Last summer we needed a new blue badge to match a new car registration. We had to send the original, so I photocopied a clutch of documents anticipating their likely loss, or at very least severe delays. The new badge arrived practically by return – from the north of Scotland. And my sister, who lives in southern Italy, recently sent her passport to the UK consulate in Paris for renewal; she received the replacement within 10 days. You may also have wondered, idly, where the annual complaints about Post Office queues went in December. Well, there were a lot fewer of them, because many Post Offices extended their hours in the run-up to Christmas. Thanks, everyone – and keep it up.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Cancer Research UK: Corporate Partnerships Volunteer Events Coordinator – London

Voluntary: Cancer Research UK: We’re looking for someone to support our award ...

Ashdown Group: Head of IT - Hertfordshire - £90,000

£70000 - £90000 per annum + bonus + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: H...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: Outgunned by a lack of military knowledge

Guy Keleny
Ukip leader Nigel Farage in Tiny Tim’s tea shop while canvassing in Rochester this week  

General Election 2015: What on earth happened to Ukip?

Matthew Norman
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions