Portia's Unbearable Lightness and Ellen's Incredulity


Smoke_trailMy Perspective on Ellen Degeneres, Portia de Rossi, Unbearable Lightness and the lived experience of anorexia and bulimia.

As a psychotherapist with many years of working with women with eating disorders, this photograph of smoke says it all.

It's beautiful. It's light. It's beyond human grasp. It's transitory. It's graceful. It can take many forms yet always be beyond criticism because the shifting shape and barest presence is always lovely.

But it's not a human being, and it is not what a human being can be.

Ellen says she was stunned by the degree of self hate Portia discloses in her book.  Self hate can be thoroughly disguised, even

to the anorexic, by her pursuit of smoke. Her single minded purpose to achieve a gossamer state of lightness, and the wins along the way as she approaches her own bones, removes her awareness. She doesn't know she is hurting herself. She doesn't know she has organs under her skin or a brain that requires nourishment.  She sees only her externals and wants them very small.

This pursuit blocks her awareness of the unbearable agony that would be revealed to herself about her own self hatred.  This is one of the reasons a person with anorexia can be so adamant about starving herself. The starvation protects her from what she believes would be a worse agony.

Women striving for unbearable lightness often get their goal mixed up with spirituality.  At one stage in anorexia or bulimia a woman can achieve an ethereal look. She is light. She feels as graceful as a feather wafting in the breeze. She will speak of spirituality as drifting into other realms, bodiless and free as true spirit.

If she conveys this to someone who does not understand the complexities of eating disorders, she will sound almost holy.  She will evoke caring. The other person will want to cherish her and protect her, even be in awe of her. She can sound as if she has wisdom from the spheres beyond most mortal reach.

This way of being in the world doesn't appear to have anything to do with self hatred. It seems more to have everything to do with soul and great appreciation of the meaning of life.

And yet, look at the photograph. Smoke rises when something is burning. The material, like a human body, is consumed. The smoke rises as the body burns away. Then the smoke dissipates until it too is gone.  Then only ash remains, the death of the being.  The false promise of being one with gossamer, being light and graceful as smoke, being all spirit is shown as the awful lie of the eating disorder.

Love is essential for recovery along with courage, determination and good psychotherapy.  Ellen must love Portia very much.  And Portia must have learned to receive love and love Ellen in return.  That can be a major part of helping a woman turn her eating disorder focus into powerful strides for healing and sturdy substance in this world.


Portia de Rossi answers audience questions on Ellen De Generes show (video)

Respecting the Individual in an Intimate Relationship

Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi Play the Newlywed Game








0 # I'm halfway through the book. Good stufPTC 2010-11-11 17:37
I'm halfway through the book. Good stuff so far.
0 # When you finish, please share what you gpinkjoanna 2010-11-12 16:32
When you finish, please share what you got out of it and especially any surprising new information or insights.

I would very much like to know your perspective and your experience. :-)
0 # I just finished Portia's book. I was woKymL 2010-11-14 18:41
I just finished Portia's book. I was worried about it triggering me, but I did OK. Her extreme anorexia behaviors mirrored my behaviors in the early 90's, but like her, my recovery at that time made me realize it wasn't worth fighting my body and consuming my life. Although I've relapsed into restricting again, it's nothing like it was the first time. I was very interested in Portia's story because “coming out” was a pivotal part of my recovery in the 90's. She knew she was gay, but feared telling people; I didn't have any idea why I was working so hard to remove my female curves. Discovering my true sexuality gave me the explanation for my feeling so different and it empowered me to continue my search of who I was.

The part of Portia's book that touched me was the Epilogue. Her description of the recovery process brought me to tears because I'm currently experiencing a lot of the struggles she experienced. I was especially struck by her struggle with no longer being “a sick person;” people don't seem to be concerned now that I've gained weight. She was able to use her new sense of her sexuality to move beyond that; which is what I did in the 90's, but I haven't found my archor to hold on to this time. Reading her explain this has me admitting that I restrict 3-4 days before I'm due to be weighed; I don't get told the number, but I can tell from my dietitian's face if I've lost or not. For some reason when my family and friend ask how I'm doing, I tell them I'm doing good, but there's a part of me that wants my treatment team to be concerned. I have sabotaged my support system. Wow, I have some work to do and my first step is to tell my counselor Tuesday. Portia's description of what her life is like now, gives me the desire to be honest and to keep working my recovery.

0 # Dear Kym, You wrote a beautiful and epinkjoanna 2010-11-14 19:29
Dear Kym,

You wrote a beautiful and extraordinary post. Your personal revelations Portia's book stimulated in you are powerful healing experiences. You've grown. You are in the now of growing and healing.

You are coming to grips with what deep honesty means - not to tell the world everything about yourself - but to be open and clear to yourself about how you are living. And yes, sharing that self knowledge with a trusted and trustworthy person, like your therapist, gives you the necessary "witness" so make your revelations real to you.

You are moving on your recovery path. It's more than about food and weight. Yes, it's about sexuality too -- and more.

Brava, Kym. Thank you for writing this out.
0 # I loved the book. I thought it was veryPTC 2010-11-16 07:33
I loved the book. I thought it was very well written and I felt like Portia understood some of why she had the ED while she was struggling with it. I liked how she was so thorough and detailed with everything. I know most people don't like when people discuss numbers and stuff, but I thought it was good to see her calorie counts and weight, and not for an ED, I'm going to copy here and do that sort of way. I like facts and it she had the facts to back up what she was saying, which I like. She was upfront and honest and didn't sugar coat the disease.

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