Monday, 26 March 2012

Unbearable Lightness by Portia de Rossi

I found this memoir completely by accident. I was looking for an Ally Mcbeal soundtrack at my library when this book came up in my search. I had always been a fan of Portia de Rossi. I thought she was one of the most beautiful women I had ever seen and had an amazing style. I knew she is also the wife of Ellen DeGeneres. On Ally Mcbeal she played a bitch very convincingly but eventually got pushed out of the limelight by Lucy Lu's character, Ling.

I had no idea that Portia de Rossi suffered from anorexia.

I picked up the book in the library and flipped through it. I landed upon a page where Portia described herself as someone who wasn't beautiful. I was in complete shock that she had such serious low self-esteem. Here was someone I had idealized and she hated herself.

I took the book home and read it cover to cover in one night. It was that good. But it was not an easy read. Portia goes into detail about what went through her mind as she descended deeper and deeper into anorexia and became more obsessed with losing weight. There was no generic description of "I starved myself and exercised excessively." I read some other reviews where people complained about the details. I on the other hand found it fascinating. I just kept reading and shaking my head at how Portia would turn a simple meal into a complicated mathematical problem of how much she had to exercise so she wouldn't accidentally gain weight.

There is also the story of how Portia hid being a lesbian and was in constant fear of being found out. She was terrified that if she was outed that she would lose the career she had worked so hard for. Eventually, Portia learns that being a lesbian is tied to her feelings of self-hate and partly the reason why she is anorexic.

Sadly she nearly killed herself in the process. If it wasn't for her loving family, Portia probably would have eventually died. The climax of her disease was when she collapsed while filming her first starring role in a movie. However, it is not that image that sticks in my head. Portia describes a day after having dinner with her family where she panicked so much about gaining weight that she started to do sprints in public wearing high heels.

My only complaint about the book is that Portia rushes through the end. Her recovery from anorexia is described only in a chapter or two. She touches briefly on why her disease emerged in the first place but I really wish she had gone into why she was anorexic and just what she had to do to recover.

The most moving moment in the book is when she tells her family that she is a lesbian. I cried at the reaction of her brother and laughed a little at the reaction of her grandmother.

In the end, this is one of the best memoirs I have ever written. How she was able to recall the details of her own mind I will never know. Some say this is the best book on anorexia to have ever been written. I have never read any other memoirs on the topic, but I have a feeling they will never capture the detail about how an anorexic mind works the way Portia de Rossi has.

My rating is a very enthusiastic Photobucket

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