I just finished reading the book “Unbearable Lightness.” Portia de Rossi described her experience with anorexia and bulimia with heartbreaking honesty. Her raw and truthful words may help readers see how serious this disease is.
It was easy to relate to the pressures placed on a teenage girl to be thin and pretty but at times it was uncomfortable to read to what extremes she put her body through to achieve what she believed to be success. Her view of herself was severely skewed. I was a fan of the show Ally McBeal, the television series that first made de Rossi famous. As I watched the show week after week and longed to be as thin and pretty as her, I had no idea that she was slowly killing herself to look that way. The world also didn’t know that her mind would not allow her to see herself for the beautiful person that she was.
It seemed almost inconceivable to me that a person could survive on eating only 300 calories a day--her normal routine whenever a photo shoot, clothes fitting or other important event would occur. Her unbelievable habits included extreme exercise, starving herself, overeating and then purging to undo the overeating. As her weight dropped to a dangerous 82 pounds, she only felt the pride of her willpower even as her body starting shutting down. She had to protect her shameful secret from her friends and family that were worried about her. But even the concern of others couldn’t change her behavior. It wasn’t until she passed out on a set and was given a report of the damage that she was doing to her body, that she realized that she had a problem and had to make a change. If she didn’t, she would die.
But for de Rossi, it wasn’t just deciding to start eating again. She was compulsive and controlled by an inner voice that never allowed her to stop thinking about calories or obsessing about the size of clothing that she worn. She had a lot to overcome if she was going to get well.
I am relieved that her story did not end in tragedy and she was strong enough to share her painful secret.