Ais's Reviews > Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain

Unbearable Lightness by Portia de Rossi
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's review
Sep 04, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: nonfiction
Read in September, 2012

I don't want to go into all the details of why I thought this book was so important/why I liked it so much but I'll go into the main reasons. To be fair I will first mention that there are a few technical flaws with it, I suppose, in that the tense shifts now and then. I've seen this mentioned and it's true that it spent so much time focused on the sickness and so little on equally detailing the recovery.

But I don't know how to say this other than just saying it: this is a very accurate view of anorexia and bulimia. Too often these things are glamorized or dumbed down for the masses who have never struggled with anything like this or don't know anyone who has, and I think that invites misconceptions.

I personally think this is a really important book to read for anyone who has a loved one who they think might be anorexic or bulimic. I think it might help them understand what could be happening in the mind of their loved one. (Also note: these illnesses can affect men as well and I think that's important to mention, but since this book is about a woman in the rest of the review I'm using a generic woman as an example)

I've come to the conclusion, based on various and disconnected conversations over the years, that there's an assumption on the part of those who have never been around someone who's struggled with an eating disorder or never struggled with it themselves, that the person is just being dramatic, or wants attention, or is doing it to piss everyone else off, or is doing it because secretly she's passing judgment on those around her. It's like people interpret it in all the worst ways they can, making it about themselves and why it pisses them off, with it not even occurring to them that it may actually be that the anorexic/bulimic hates herself. That she's doing it for punishment of herself, because she doesn't see anything good in herself, because she thinks she deserves it, because she doesn't know how else to cope with whatever might have started this, because she thinks it's the only way she can be loved, because once she starts down that path she's afraid of doing anything else.

It's a sickness but it's so often treated like a person's being a whiny attention whore.

I once spoke to someone who is usually overly soft spoken and kind and typically won't say a bad word about anyone. She showed me a picture of her friend and said she's anorexic, and then in a condescending voice with the universal Mocking Actions of bobbing her head back and forth and flapping her hands, outright mocked her friend for it. She said that she was just whining and that she was just trying to get attention and how annoying it was. How it made zero sense for a woman that thin to be so whiny about food so, to the woman I was speaking to, it seemed she felt that clearly this was all just a way to get back at other women around her for being normal sized. To make those normal sized women feel like something was wrong with them.

That is why I give this book 5 stars, because this stuff is serious. This isn't something people do half-heartedly. It's painful and horrific and terrifying and it could literally be fatal. It could cause permanent damage. It's not done to piss off people around her; the woman is probably doing it because she feels compelled despite the pain/fear to continue doing the only thing she knows to do.

She's crying for help, even if she doesn't know it. She isn't doing it to make everyone else insecure. It's her own insecurities for herself driving her. She's probably so wrapped up in herself she hardly even notices what it's doing to everyone else.

And in this world where the media constantly flocks to underweight women and praises them exaggeratedly while simultaneously calling normal weight women ugly, overweight, flabby and disgusting, it's easy to start believing that thinness = beauty, and being skinny = the only way to receive love. But further complicating matters, it's a trend and slow media day away from that same "gorgeous! unbelievably flat belly!" turning into "she's so ugly and too thin! what the hell is wrong with this pathetic woman? she needs to gain some weight!"

The search for perfection will never be met because there is no such thing. There will always be someone who will criticize, and someone who will applaud. The very same topic can garner extreme reactions in opposite directions. Ultimately, a person needs to just be happy as themselves, comfortable as themselves, and that sounds simple but it's really hard, and the best way to get there is through support even though those being supportive can be ignored at first by the person in need. It's hard on everyone but it's the way life is.

That's what this book is about. That's why I liked it.

I also want to note that I actually knew very little about Portia de Rossi before seeing her on a few interviews and liking her there. I was intrigued by discussions of this book and bought it after those interviews. I'm glad I did. I like Portia even more for the courage it must have taken her to write this and release it to the world.
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