I didn’t want to watch the season finale of Fix My Life when it aired on OWN Saturday night. I didn’t want to see my Olympic hero’s story, because I knew her past life would be thrown in her face, while her present life would be exploited for ratings. And as I took a few moments out of my Monday morning to watch Iyanla Vanzant try to fix Debi Thomas’ life, it was pretty much what I expected.
Thomas, who was the first African American to win a medal at the winter Olympics, is currently living in what some people would refer to as squalor. After two failed marriages, she’s been living in a trailer home with an alcoholic and abusive boyfriend while helping him raise his two kids. Meanwhile, Thomas lost custody of her own son a couple of years ago.
Vanzant and the producers staged the show perfectly just to show how dysfunctional Thomas’ life has become, from trying to get Thomas to admit that she was punched in the face by her boyfriend, Jamie, to making sure everyone knew that Thomas was living in a bedbug-infested trailer home.
What I saw before me was a woman who was coping with some deep-seated issues. Someone who thought she could save her alcoholic boyfriend before she could think about saving herself. I saw someone who lost her career because of her own mental-health issues, but I also saw someone who needed more help than Vanzant could provide.
Vanzant has made a career out of airing other people’s dirty laundry on national television with her so-called tough-love tactics. But Vanzant failed Thomas, along with a lot of other people she has tried to help.
Out of what was shown during the show, only a few minutes were dedicated to Thomas’ mental-health issues. And that segment only included Vanzant asking Thomas about her previous diagnosis. Then Vanzant paraded in three specialists to take Thomas’ boyfriend to rehab, followed by an offer for Thomas to have a 90-day stay in Chicago to partner with a life coach and get therapy.
You can never tell what goes on behind the scenes of these shows, but one thing's for sure: Instead of trying to embarrass Thomas on national television, maybe Vanzant should have focused more on her mental-health issues.
Vanzant probably means well, but her law degree isn’t a mental-health degree.
I wasn’t shocked or even surprised to see that neither Thomas nor her boyfriend completed their inpatient therapy programs. I also wasn’t shocked to see that Thomas was living in a women’s shelter but went back to her boyfriend, who allegedly is no longer drinking.
Vanzant didn’t fix Thomas’ life. She bullied her into making rash decisions, which is something that doesn’t fix a lifetime of mental illness. If anyone’s life needs fixing, it’s Vanzant’s. She needs to realize that her show and her tactics are deplorable and exploitative. All of which never fix anything.