English actress Jessica Brown Findlay, best known for her portrayal of Lady Sybil Crawley on Downton Abbey, has come forward about her past mental health struggles, including her battle with an eating disorder. “I’ve had an eating disorder since I was 14,” the actress, now 27, told The Daily Telegraph.

Jessica Brown Findlay on Eating Disorders, Recovery

Around 30 million people nationwide are estimated to have an eating disorder, according to the National Eating Disorders Association. However, a host of factors keep people who have one from openly talking about it and seeking help.

“I felt so alone for so long, and I just hid,” Findlay said. “And then I started talking and held my head up, and instead of saying sorry, decided to tell myself that I matter.”

After rounds of therapy, the actress finally got to the root of her eating problems.

“We can feed certain ideas of what beauty is and what success is. There has to come a time where those aren’t the rules anymore,” she said. “Then we can have a mature conversation about what that is about and about depression.”

A large component of her recovery was realizing that weight loss didn’t equate to happiness — a sentiment that goes against the social and cultural messages that press that thinner means happier.

“It’s about learning to stand up and say, ‘This is me, and that’s OK.’ I’m not going to be a better actor if I’m a dress size smaller. It’s nothing to do with my brain,” Findlay said.

In the past, Findlay had been reluctant to talk about her challenges with disordered eating, possibly fearing judgment and the stigma often attached to such mental health issues. But now, she hopes that talking about her past eating disorder will help others feel less pressure to hide their mental health issues.

“If you are lucky enough to speak and be heard, it might be something that could be useful to others,” she said. “The more we have brave discussions like that going forward, the easier it is to talk about things, and the less alone we can feel. It’s certainly made me feel less alone.”

The English actress is now starring in Hulu’s new drama series, Harlots, which is set in 18th century London, and features Findlay as prostitute Charlotte Wells. The 45-min episode series was released on March 27, 2017.

 

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