December 12, 2010
Scary Skinny: Portia's Unbearable Lightness...
Some books are interesting or entertaining, the rare one will wallop you in some way. Unbearable Lightness, a memoir by actress Portia de Rossi, is one of those rare reads.
De Rossi is best known for her TV work on Ally McBeal and Better Off Ted, and especially for her coming out and marriage to Ellen DeGeneres. With Unbearable Lightness she bravely stands on her own.
De Rossi's story of coming out, dealing with depression, and battling an eating disorder, is heartbreaking. A simple sentence like "You are what other people think of you" says a lot about her state of mind.
This book was an eye-opener for me. It is a step into a scary world of eating disorders. Anorexia is scary and lonely and exhausting. De Rossi defined herself by what she thought were other people's expectations of skinny blond actress perfection, and avoided dealing with the real issues in her life by making skinny her only value.
And she became skinny. Scary freaky skinny. 82 pounds. And when she fell off the starving herself wagon, and she did, then she went ballistic at a Mexican restaurant, or stopped at 7/11 on the way home from dinner to stock up for a binge in the car: "There's a big difference between eating and what I had just done. What I'd done was an act of defiance." Of course she wasn't defying anybody, as no one was as obsessed with her weight as she was. She was fooling herself.
After her first day on Ally McBeal, de Rossi's debilitating insecurities kicked in, so she exerted control over the only thing she could, and punished herself with the same action --- she binged wildly. Her inner voice: Go on, eat it, you fat piece of shit. You're pathetic,. You can't even handle one day of work without bingeing. you have no self-control. You don't deserve this job.
I read this book because of an interview I saw on TV. I surged though it at first, then put it aside as was so distressing to read. I picked it up and put it down several times, eager to read it and afraid of what was coming next: I'd never known a day where my weight wasn't the determining factor for my self-esteem, My weight was my mood, and the more effort I put into starving myself to get it to an acceptable level, the more satisfaction I would feel as the restriction and the denial built into an incredible sense of accomplishment.
De Rossi says eating disorders are about control, insecurity and loneliness. These are issues for every adult, and her experiences with them were so intense they were debilitating, and this book is a must-read. She gets through it, and it is inspiring that she is now healthy and happy.
Unbearable Lightness is smart and brave, and it will help people who struggle with depression, loneliness, food, self-image, sexuality, self esteem, or feeling like an outsider. So, if you are human, this book will impact you. And if you are battling an eating disorder, it could help save you.