Troian Bellisario, ‘Pretty Little Liars’ Star, Opens Up About Her Mental Illness, Eating Disorder
In a letter penned for the Lenny Letters, a feminist publication created by Lena Dunham and Girls show runner Jennifer Konner, Pretty Little Liars actress Troian Bellisario opened up about her struggles with mental illness.
The letter is primarily about how Bellisario hopes, and has worked hard, to ignore the voices in her head and focus on her body and what it needs.
Bellisario, 31, begins by describing a situation in which she is swimming in a cold lake and how, slowly, the freezing temperature engulfs her and makes it impossible for her to get out. So instead, she stays in, denying her body the right to get healthy.
She then begins to talk about her first season working on Pretty Little Liars. They were shooting a scene outside in Canada in the middle of winter – the scene was set in the summer so they weren’t wearing coats – when the voices in her head made her doubt herself in a serious way.
“There came a point when I mentioned offhand, ‘Huh, I can’t feel my feet.’ ‘Stop!’a voice screamed, and an angel in the form of a crew member descended upon me and demanded I follow her inside the church we were shooting near,” Bellisario writes.
“She sat me down, removed my shoes, and began to rub my feet. She asked me to let her know when I had feeling in them again. ‘Don’t worry about my feet! They’re fine!’ I tried to sweetly wiggle away from her, my eyes flitting to the crew that was waiting nearby. I was holding up production, a production that costs thousands of dollars per minute, all for my stupid comment about my stupid toes. I started to panic: Everyone is going to think I’m a diva, that I can’t hack it, that I’m a horrible actor, and they’ll never want to work with me again.”
Bellisario also opened up about her struggles with an eating disorder.
“[My brain] 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.”
But by the end of the essay, the actress gives her audience a reason to hope, even if her situation worked out better than most.
“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 letter was written, in part, as an explanation into Bellasario’s new film Feed, which she wrote, directed, and starred in.