Pretty Little Liars star Troian Bellisario has told of her struggle with mental health issues in an open letter.
The 31-year-old US actress wrote that she, at one point, was “convinced” by a voice inside her head to eat just 300 calories a day, in addition to coping with her fears of disappointing her friends or colleagues.
Posted in Lena Dunham’s Lenny Letter, Bellisario said that she struggles to take care of herself and that she relies on other people to tell her to do so.
Describing shooting the first episode of teen drama series Pretty Little Liars when she was 24, she said she had worried she would appear a “diva” and a “horrible actor” because her feet went numb as they shot a scene outside in Canada in December while in summer clothing.
She said she feared she would be “yelled at by someone” for delaying production, adding that she wondered why she needed the permission of a stranger to “take care of myself”.
Comparing that incident with a recent one, Bellisario wrote that she felt a similar coldness creeping into her body while swimming in a lake, but instead of getting out of the water, she pushed on to swim further with her friend because of a voice in her head.
Bellisario wrote: “That voice, that familiar voice in the back of my skull that tells me it cares.
“It cares if I demand things of a production, it cares if I quit early, if I fail. It is a voice I know intimately; it is my greatest and best of enemies.
“I know what that voice will say if I stop. I know the trouble I’ll be in.”
She said that her “biggest challenge” is trying to work out which of her inner voices is speaking to her – her “body voice” or her “illness”.
Bellisario wrote: “There is a part of my brain that defies logic. Once, it completely convinced me I should live off 300 calories a day, and at some point, it told me even that was too much.
“That part of my brain is my disease, and there was a time when it had absolute authority over me. It almost killed me, and you can see that even though I have lived in recovery for ten years now, it still finds loads of fun, insidious ways to thwart me to this day.
Bellisario, who is married to Suits star Patrick J Adams, added: “It was a difficult journey finding my way back to health. Through hard introspection, intense medical and mental care, a supportive family, friends, and a patient and loving partner, I survived, which is rare.”
The actress said she is determined to not just survive that part of her life, but “create in rebellion”, although she still sometimes has to confront her mental health issues.
Bellisario said that writing her independent semi-autobiographical movie Feed, in which she also starred along with Harry Potter actor Tom Felton, helped her to channel that voice into a story “and out of myself”.
She said she hopes that Feed can have a positive impact on those with similar issues, adding: “So with all the courage I can muster, I give it to you, I give it to that one person, in hopes that it could make them feel enough.”