Lately Portia de Rossi’s book, “Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain” has received a lot of attention. While I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, I have probably read a dozen articles reviewing it. In fact, I think I’m the only one who hasn’t read the book.
Any kind of media or literature has to tread that thin line of being honest and informative without being triggering — and really, I don’t know if there’s actually even a line. What’s helpful for one person is triggering for another. Take Marya’s “Wasted” for example. When I first read that book i wanted to highlight 50% of it. It felt like she had put my jumbled thoughts into cohesive sentences that I could completely identify with. With that said, I definitely tried eating carrots with mustard at one point. Yuck. (if you haven’t read the book, just ignore that reference.)
In my own treatment experience, professionals have been all over the spectrum when it came down to whether or not reading ED books were disordered. One therapist thought reading them was a kind of glorification of the disorder itself. Another felt they are just another manifestation of the food/weight obsession. Another therapist gave me a list of ED books to read. A nurse practitioner once gave me a copy of the Eating Disorder Sourcebook. I’ll save you the trouble of reading it — unless you’re looking for a long extension of the DSM criteria, you can skip it. I can think of several non-disordered reasons to read ED novels:
- It’s validating to hear your concerns / issues articulated by someone else.
- Seeing how others overcame their struggles can offer hope.
- Some stories are depressing enough to make you think “wow, I so don’t want to do that.”
- For information (not all info fuels your ED).
- You’re in High School and Wasted is on your summer reading list (I noticed that on a required reading list for a nearby school last summer).
So, disordered or not? I guess it depends on where you are in your disorder and recovery. Generally my philosophy is if you want to read an ED book, go for it. Read a dozen. You probably won’t want to read many more than that, because they get boring — Well, unless you branch out into books on psychotherapy or CBT or PTSD or whatnot. With many ED biographical / autobiographical novels, you’re going to see the same pattern: person develops ED, person receives treatment for ED, person continues relapse/recovery cycle, and person may/may not recover. However, I do 100% support reading psych journal articles (totally different!)… but I’ll save that post for another day.