In a moving essay for Lena Dunham's newsletter, Lenny Letter, Bellisario outlines her experience with mental health.
Bellisario opens the essay by describing a time she lost feeling in her toes while shooting the Pretty Little Liars pilot. (That scene of Allison's funeral? It was actually shot during winter in Canada — not exactly summer in Rosewood weather.) The actress was worried she'd be punished for being a "diva" when she needed to warm up her feet to avoid frostbite; the fact that she felt the need to ask permission to take care of herself served as a wake up call.
"As someone who struggles with a mental illness, my biggest challenge is that I don't always know which voice inside me is speaking," Bellisario wrote in the essay. "My body voice, the one that says, Troian, I'm cold, get out of the lake, or my illness: You told everyone three times, so you can't disappoint them."
"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," the actress explained. "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. 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 goes on to explain that she works to "scream back in the face" of mental illness to remind herself, "I am enough," in defiance of the voice of her "illness." The struggle with mental illness isn't an easy one, but Bellisario refuses to let it define her. Her essay is moving and incredibly real, and it's definitely worth a read.
If you are struggling with an eating disorder and are in need of support, please call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237. For a 24-hour crisis line, text “NEDA” to 741741.
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