Unbearable Lightness by Portia De Rossi, copyright, 2010.
Read by: Portia De Rossi
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Audio
Source: Personal Collection – Purchased New
Reason for Reading: Portia is my favorite lesbian!
Unbearable Lightness is Portia De Rossi’s heartbreaking memoir of her struggle to turn herself into something other than she is. I wasn’t really old enough to watch Ally McBeal, but I remember loving De Rossi on Arrested Development years later. I have always thought that Portia was a tremendously beautiful actress, but I had previously been unaware that she was struggling with an eating disorder.
Imagine being thirteen-years-old and being told by a modeling executive that your bum is too saggy. Portia De Rossi began her modeling career in Australia when she was just twelve years old and quickly started on a path of crash dieting. When she began to feel that the starving, binging and purging cycle was working for her, it stuck and eventually became a way of life. That is, until she traded it it for the starving-only lifestyle. We look at actresses as successful as De Rossi and we are in awe. We think to ourselves how wonderful their lives must be. Their faces are on magazines, they are raking in the cash, so surely that must equate to enviable happiness. De Rossi’s life was not like that. It seems that the more “success” Portia found professionally, the more unbearable her life became. Every minute of every day was taken up by thoughts of maintaining her body, continuing to lose pounds, and concealing her sexual identity. Terrified of becoming “fat”, terrified of losing control and terrified of being cast from the closet, this 5’7” actress was ravaged by anorexia that took her to an astonishing 82lbs.
“As I sit up in bed staring into the darkness, my feet making small circles to start my daily calorie burn, I feel depressed and defeated. I know what I ate last night. I know what I did. All of my hard work has been undone. And I’m the one who undid it. I start moving my fingers and thumbs to relieve the anxiety of not beginning my morning workout because I’m stuck here again having to answer the voice in my head.”– Unbearable Lightness, prologue.
Intense and painful are the two words that come to mind in describing this memoir. To be inside the mind of a person suffering from an eating disorder is disturbing. In the beginning, there were points when I thought to myself, ‘gee, this doesn’t seem that bad.’ I was expecting something far more difficult. It was somewhere around that point where I started finding the book a bit annoying. It seemed that Portia was going on, ad nauseum, about the initial stages of her eating disorder and after a while I started to become bored with it. It didn’t stay this way for long however, as she eventually gets into the really shocking details of her ordeal and from there on it is just one unfathomable occurrence after another. As it goes on, it becomes more and more unreal the life that she is living and the abuse she is inflicting upon her body all in the name of fitting in.
The most interesting part of the book, I thought, was Portia’s road to recovery, which, I felt, she did not spend nearly enough time talking about. The bulk of the book really just covers the downward spiral up until the point when she has that “skrew it” moment when, after collapsing at work and receiving a reality check, she begins to see the light. It is, unfortunately, only the epilogue that covers her road to recovery; on the audiobook, this is about an hour in length. I would have really liked to learn more about how her life changed as she began to wiggle free of anorexia’s grasp, came out of the closet and began living a more self-accepting life.
If you know someone who you think might be struggling with an eating disorder, this is a must read for you, but everyone can stand to learn a lot from this wonderfully crafted chronicle of suffering.
RATING: Hard to Bleat