Monday, November 29, 2010
Unbearable Lightness by Portia DeRossi - Review
"I didn't decide to become anorexic. It snuck up on me disguised as a healthy diet, a professional attitude. Being as thin as possible was a way to make the job of being an actress easier . . ."
Portia de Rossi weighed only 82 pounds when she collapsed on the set of the Hollywood film in which she was playing her first leading role. This should have been the culmination of all her years of hard work—first as a child model in Australia, then as a cast member of one of the hottest shows on American television. On the outside she was thin and blond, glamorous and successful. On the inside, she was literally dying.
In this searing, unflinchingly honest book, Portia de Rossi captures the complex emotional truth of what it is like when food, weight, and body image take priority over every other human impulse or action. She recounts the elaborate rituals around eating that came to dominate hours of every day, from keeping her daily calorie intake below 300 to eating precisely measured amounts of food out of specific bowls and only with certain utensils. When this wasn't enough, she resorted to purging and compulsive physical exercise, driving her body and spirit to the breaking point.
Even as she rose to fame as a cast member of the hit television shows Ally McBeal and Arrested Development, Portia alternately starved herself and binged, all the while terrified that the truth of her sexuality would be exposed in the tabloids. She reveals the heartache and fear that accompany a life lived in the closet, a sense of isolation that was only magnified by her unrelenting desire to be ever thinner. With the storytelling skills of a great novelist and the eye for detail of a poet, Portia makes transparent as never before the behaviors and emotions of someone living with an eating disorder.
From her lowest point, Portia began the painful climb back to a life of health and honesty, falling in love with and eventually marrying Ellen DeGeneres, and emerging as an outspoken and articulate advocate for gay rights and women's health issues.
In this remarkable and beautifully written work, Portia shines a bright light on a dark subject. A crucial book for all those who might sometimes feel at war with themselves or their bodies, Unbearable Lightness is a story that inspires hope and nourishes the spirit.
What I Can Tell You:
Wow! I don't know of a more honest book. Portia is brutally candid and this book had me from the first page. I saw this at the library and read it in 3 days in the middle of a million things going on.
As I read this book, I wondered how many woman are in the same place Portia was. The calculating, the weighing, the stress, the anxiety, the fear. Portia sheds light on how much work it takes to be anorexic and how it affects the people around you.
A seemingly strong woman, with a blossoming career who would have known the nightmare she was living. If nothing else, this book will enforce the fact that anorexia is a disease. It is not something an individual has control over. It is not something someone steps into lightly. It is a sickness often stems from a deeper problem. Self doubt, self loathing, and insecurities manifest into something that completely overtakes an individual without them even knowing it.
My heart goes out to Portia who was unwavering in her honesty as she bears her soul for all to see. She is a beautiful person who wrote a book that she be a must read for therapists and anyone who has ever loved/loves someone suffering from this disease.
A must read.