Friday, December 16, 2011

Abducted by Unbearable Lightness

Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain is a book by Portia De Rossi that I finished a couple of weeks ago. I was listening to the audio version, which was amazing because it was read by Portia herself.

The story mainly centers around two great struggles in Portia's life. One being her own struggle to accept that she was gay and the role that would play in her life in Hollywood. The other being her growing eating disorders.

The story jumps around a lot, between her childhood, her relationships, and the time she spent acting on Ally McBeal. But even with all the jumping around, the story actually comes off seamless. Portia does a fantastic job of giving you the information that you need to know, when you need to know it, in order to best understand how her eating disorders came to be.

Which I did understand, fully! I don't think I've ever really put much thought into how someone grows into having an eating disorder. I guess in some naive way I just assumed that someone would wake up and just decide to stop eating. Okay, I realize how crazy and small minded that sounds, but like I said, I've just never really thought about it. But in listening to this autobiography, I really enjoyed hearing about how it started as something she did to prepare for photo shoots and other jobs, and then became an means to have more control in her life.

One of the stories that she told that made the biggest impression on me was this one about her eating an entire pack of gum.

So, on this totally normal day, Portia goes to work on the set of Ally McBeal and then stops by a shopping center on her way home to pick up some clothes or something. After she is done shopping she heads to her car and when she gets in she has a piece of gum. She chews it briefly and then spits it out. She never allows herself to really eat a lot of gum because it is one of those little things that add to your calorie intake that she just can't tolerate. After spitting out the first piece of gum she decides to go ahead and have another, and then another, and then another. And before she knows it she has finished the entire pack of gum. Her anxiety gets the best of her and she ends up running laps in the parking garage, weaving through all the other cars.

But the part that really bothered her was not that she looked like a crazy person to all the other shoppers, no, it was that a perfectly normal, uneventful, carefree day could end with her losing control. If you know what events are going to trigger you to lose control, you can avoid them, but if you lose control over nothing, what is going to stop it from happening again. That was one of the biggest meltdowns in the book and I remember when she was reading that part, I stopped what I was doing and was just staring at my laptop. I just couldn't believe she was really going so nuts!

The hardest part about reading the book is that the entire novel is devoted to her struggle and the epilogue is the only part devoted to her recovery. I knew how long the audio book was, and as I was watching the time running down I was starting to plead with her to "JUST GET BETTER ALREADY!!!" Only because it was so heartbreaking to listen to, not because it was boring or anything like that, by any means. But I will say that the epilogue was entirely satisfying.

In the end, Portia was so honest and open about her life. It was a great novel and very captivating to listen to.

I would give it an abduction rating of:


Kate @Midnight Book Girl said...

You know, normally I'm not a big fan of the "oh poor me, I've had such a tough life even though I'm a gorgeous rich celebrity" book, but when this came out I remember being intrigued by it. And of course I was a Ally McBeal fan and I remember all the controversy over how thin Portia DeRossi was. I'll have to give this a read, even though normally reading books about eating disorders (Winter Girls, Hunger) tend to make me want to eat because whatever the opposite of anorexia and bulimia is, that's what I have.

Unknown said...

And how cute a couple are Portia and Ellen? I would so love to have them as friends. They would be hella fun at parties.

fakesteph said...

I think this book would stress me out too much. I'm glad you liked it though!

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