As Spencer Hastings on Pretty Little Liars, Troian Bellisario got to portray a whip-smart, confident, persistent go-getter. And while there may be plenty of similarities between real life and her PLL alter-ego, Bellisario says things behind the scenes sometimes feel just as complicated as life in Rosewood.
In today’s Lenny Letter, the 31-year-old actress and director opens up about her mental health struggles and her history with anorexia.
And she wants you to better understand the disease—which is why she wrote, produced, and starred in the new film Feed (being released digitally today), based on her own past with the eating disorder. (With Netflix’s To the Bone also out right now, there’s arguably more openness on the subject than ever before.)
“I am practiced at ignoring it, for the most part, but it’s still there, finding new ways to undermine me.”
“As someone who struggles with a mental illness, my biggest challenge is that I don’t always know which voice inside me is speaking,” she writes. “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.”
Bellisario says that despite being recovered from her eating disorder for 10 years now, still feels her disease every day. “I am practiced at ignoring it, for the most part, but it’s still there, finding new ways to undermine me.”
So—in addition to “hard introspection, intense medical and mental care, a supportive family, friends, and a patient and loving partner”—Bellisario turned to writing and acting to move forward. “Writing, producing, and acting in [Feed] helped me get one more degree of separation from my disease in what I know will be a lifetime of work in recovery,” she says. “It is my greatest hope that someone watching it, struggling with the same challenges I do, might think, ‘What if I were enough, too?'”
We’ve entered a new era of openness when it comes to talking about mental health—and that’s a good thing. Everyone from the Royals to Amanda Seyfried to Lady Gaga is in on the conversation.