Enia T.'s Reviews > Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain

Unbearable Lightness by Portia de Rossi
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Jan 22, 11

Read from January 09 to 22, 2011

There are two reasons to write a book like this when you are stricken with a psychological illness like anorexia:

1) as therapy, to catalog the dark places you went, so that you can take it out once in a while and reread it to remind yourself of those dark places so that you never let yourself go there again

b) to give help and hope to those who are struggling with the same illness you vanquished.

Here's the thing though: if you're doing a), you don't publish it. If you're doing b), you publish it but you have to focus (at least) in equal parts on the illness and on the process of getting better. This is the part Portia got wrong.

The vast majority of the book is devoted to the details recitations on her "success" as an anorexic. To me, it reads like a user's manual to the disease. And she devotes very little time to the hard work of how she got better. This is, at best, irresponsible. If Portia is under the delusion that this book is "helping" people, I have news for her.
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Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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message 1: by Phoenix (new)

Phoenix you got all that certainly 100% correct kudos

message 2: by Phil (last edited Jan 09, 2015 02:29AM) (new)

Phil Ofish I saw a comment prior to yours that said basically the same thing. My reaction was to disagree-- if someone is going to share their story, they should be able to tell it any way they choose...without obligation to make it a self help manual for others. Then I read a reply to that comment from an anorexic who said that reading the book made her want to drop her calories from 500 a day to 300 a day...and then I realized that I was very wrong. Your comment was well stated and it disturbs me to think of the negative impact that this book could have on many people. Celeb writers have a built in readership for their books as a result of their public exposure..what a shame that this celeb used that power irresponsibly.

message 3: by Kay (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kay Hey Phil, I think you're talking about my comment I made several months ago - I said that.

I didn't drop from 500 calories a day to 300, I stopped eating altogether until my husband had me sectioned because my already underweight body became dangerously underweight and I began experiencing problems with some vital organs. I am still in hospital now.

Was this book the trigger? Yes and no. I'm an anorexic, it takes very little to trigger me and I knew as I was reading it that this was dangerous territory for me. I do not blame the book but it certainly didn't help.

What annoyed me most about it is how little focus there is on recovery. There's all this depth to the anorexia itself but very little on recovery. I actively do not read many ED type books but the ones I have are similar. If the purpose is to help others (which they claim) then spend more on recovery. No one ever tells you that recovery is harder than anorexia itself because when I was doing a Portia I was happily starving and lying and my ED was everyone else's problem. Now I have both - I have the desire to give into my anorexia and the desire to be better. It causes a lot of conflict in my head. I have a nasogastric feeding tube and it takes more self control to not pull the fucking thing out (also the 24 hour supervision helps!) than it ever did to not eat.

Portia's recovery is solved in a chapter. Her tricks to lose weight are entirely real and accurate (and I had many myself) and her irrational fears of what contained calories - but her recovery is not real.

message 4: by Kay (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kay It's funny, I rated this book highly when I first read it. Now I have more self awareness of my eating disorder, I think I am going to change it because the level of detail was extremely damaging to me.

Eating disorder memoirs are not written FOR those with eating disorders. They are to satisfy the (completely understandable) curiosity of the majority of people who are fortunate enough not to experience that insanity and it is disingenuous and damaging to pretend otherwise.

message 5: by Phil (new)

Phil Ofish Kay
Thank you for sharing so openly about your struggles. Yes, it was your comment that I was referring to--when you said the book made you consider dropping from 500 calories to 300. It's heartbreaking to hear that you then stopped eating all together. I think your final comment was quite profound-that eating disorder books aren't written for those with eating disorders...but rather to satisfy the understandable curiosity of the general public...and "it is disingenuous and damaging to pretend otherwise." Your words echo that of this reviewer who says that the author spent little time discussing the "the hard work of how she got better". Although I haven't been where you are, as a social worker I understand intellectually that this illness consumes your every thought, controls your life and destroys all the positive things...yet it is still your best friend. I hope you have patient, understanding supporters in your life to help you through this difficult process...and that you will eventually find the peace and happiness that you so desperately deserve.

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