By Jean Fain
With last month’s paperback release of “Unbearable Lightness,” Portia de Rossi’s brutally honest memoir about her eating disorder, I couldn’t help but wonder: How goes de Rossi’s recovery? Judging from public appearances, the Australian actress currently known as Portia Lee James DeGeneres appears to be as she described herself in the memoir’s final pages, “recovered from anorexia and bulimia.”
But as a therapist specializing in eating issues, I’ve learned that appearances can be deceiving, especially among bulimics. I’ve also learned that the very concept of “recovery” is suspect in my field. The majority of health care providers who treat eating disorders never promise full recovery. Instead, they propose the possibility of living “in recovery.” In other words, they believe the risk of relapse is no different than it is for alcoholics and other addicts — a fact of life for a lifetime. In their professional opinion, the best anyone with an eating disorder can expect is symptom remission.