Hollywood star, Sharon Stone, writes a good biography. Which shouldn’t come as a surprise to me, as I once read that she has an IQ of 150. And yet it does. Within Sharon Stone’s autobiography The Beauty of Living Twice, she writes conversationally, authentically and with surprising sensitivity about sexual abuse, a brutal childhood and the #MeToo movement. And she does all this in a high energy, zig-zag way, with one story leading straight into another. Like you’ve ended up sitting next to someone really interesting on a plane.
The Beauty of Living Twice provides a densely packed account of her life, and the lessons she’s learned. There’s so much within these pages that’s relevant to mental health, that I struggle to pick just two or three points.
Sharon Stone’s brain tumour and the beauty of living twice
Firstly, the title. This refers to the catastrophic brain tumour Stone suffered in September 2001, aged 43. Stone survived the brain tumour, but only just. And not without a long fight back to physical fitness, and the urgent need to make psychological and spiritual changes to her life.
The beauty of living twice, as you may guess, is that the vantage point changes. The perspective shifts and people who were once considered important become a foot note. Stone writes,
“I sometimes wonder if I had my own stroke because I let myself get too far off my natural path, too far away from my true journey in life. I wonder if the body cries out when we are not following our natural truth.”
Now, looking back at her life, Stone really has seen it all. A tough childhood, sexual abuse, and an acrimonious divorce are just scratching the surface.
The power of forgiveness
A key theme throughout the book is forgiveness. And should Stone choose to forgive, she will not be short of places to start.
There is the sexual abuse of her sister via the hands of her maternal grandfather. An ordeal she witnessed as an eight year old, and struggled to process. She writes about her memories of this trauma so movingly, and poignantly that it’s impossible not to feel distressed on her behalf. And aware of the heaviness of the burden she carried throughout the years.
Then there is the forgiveness of her mother. Who did love her, but did not know how to demonstrate love. Her mother had also been a victim of severe mental, physical and possibly sexual abuse. Stone has to tackle the realisation that her mother may haven been complicit in her sister’s sexual abuse. Did she turn a blind eye? Stone writes, “She said she never knew. Though it ultimately was known what he was. She was sorry. She was pentient.”
Sharon Stone’s autobiography is often a distressing read, and should probably come with a trigger warning, because the content isn’t just tough, it’s devastating. Yet her writing style is so confident and breezy that it’s easy to miss the depth of what’s been disclosed.
And finally, there’s the desperate, futile struggle to forgive her ex husband – Phil Bronstein , as she loses prime custody of their child, and he wins it. A loss which leaves her bereft. She spends days laying on the floor, struggling to make sense of life without the purpose of her son in it. It’s this hurt that sees her seek advice from the spiritual healer Amma the hugging mother,. Amma advises putting the unforgiveable in a cage, and then never going there again.
Stone’s account of struggling to forgive is raw and real. It’s as far from the, ‘Send white light and know that everything happens for a reason.’ glibness as you can get. It’s a struggle that lasts years.
No one’s life is ever really gilded or glamorous
I’m not sure what I thought Sharon Stone’s autobiography would be like. But it wasn’t this. I’d seen her acting in Basic Instinct and admired her beauty. I’d read rumours about her in gossip magazines throughout the 90s. That she was tough to work with, difficult to direct and overly demanding. But I had never considered there was a real person behind the glamour. One who considered herself unlovable, had a brother in prison and a sister whom she felt she’d failed.
While reading this I was reminded of how unknowable people really are, until they choose to be vulnerable and reveal themselves. I also became uncomfortably aware of my own judgements around women – especially those who I consider to have more than me. After reading Sharon Stone’s autobiography The Beauty of Living Twice I have a renewed respect for her. Not just as an actress, but as a woman who had to fight for a place in the world.