Troian Bellisario Writes Essay for Lenny About Life With Mental Illness

When you live with a mental illness, war can wage between your body and your mind — making it sometimes hard to listen to your needs. This feud is something “Pretty Little Liars” actress Troian Bellisario is familiar with, and something she discusses in a recent personal essay in Lenny.

In the essay, Bellisario, who’s been open about living with an eating disorder, recounts moments when her body was telling her one thing, but her mental illness was saying another.

For example, in the opening scene, she’s swimming laps around an island in a cold lake. Though the cold had sunk down to her bones, she forced herself to keep going, convincing herself that she would otherwise disappoint her friend.

In a similar moment, Bellisario recounts that while they were shooting the “Pretty Little Liars” pilot, they were in temperatures so low her toes started to hurt. Because her co-stars seemed to be handling the cold just fine, she found herself with thoughts such as, “Was I not cut out for this?” and, “Suck it up, Bellisario, do your job.” Eventually, she did speak up and a crew member insisted she go inside. But the interaction left her wondering, “Why did I need a complete stranger’s permission to take care of myself?” She wrote:

As someone who struggles with a mental illness, my biggest challenge is that I don’t always know which voice inside me is speaking. 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. You are not enough. 

This internal narrative, one that questions your own needs, is something many people with mental illnesses can relate to, and fans have expressed their gratitude and admiration for Bellisario’s honesty.

If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorders Association helpline: 800-931-2237.

Bellasario has channeled her struggles into “Feed,” a film written, produced by, and starring Bellasario herself, which came out Tuesday. She says, “Writing, producing, and acting in it helped me to get one more degree of separation from my disease in what I know will be a lifetime of work in recovery. It is my greatest hope that someone watching it, struggling with the same challenges I do, might think, What if I were enough too?

Can you relate? Tell us in the comments below.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

Header Credit: Pretty Little Liars Facebook page.

Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.

Related to Mental Health

Psychologist counseling and support group for work stress related disorders flat icons set abstract isolated vector illustration

10 Myths People Believe About Mental Health Professionals

When I started studying for my career in psychology, friends and family alike would make a similar statement: “Careful now, Mariana might be psychoanalyzing you.” At first, I would get really serious about it and explain how psychoanalysis requires an extensive training — not covered in a four year bachelor’s degree program. Today though, I [...]
twenty one pilots at a concert

3 Ways Twenty One Pilots' Music Influenced My Mental Health

After being introduced to Twenty One Pilots in 2015, I quickly became a huge fan of their music. Not only were their songs catchy, but the lyrics touched on various mental health subjects in a way I hadn’t heard before. With lines such as, “’…Cause sometimes to stay alive you gotta kill your mind,” and, “Peace will [...]
paining of two girls hugging a heart-shaped plant made of roses

One of the Most Difficult Parts of My Mental Illness to Talk About

One of the most difficult parts of my illness to talk about is attachment. I often feel like I can’t accurately express the degree of my attachment issues to professionals either because a) I’m attached to them and don’t want to weird them out or b) because I’m afraid they’ll dismiss it as a “normal” part of life. While [...]

To the Friend Who Looks Past My Mental Illness

Dear friend of mine, You’ve known of my mental illness for quite a while. Maybe my direct admission of it was a surprise, or maybe not. I couldn’t tell. For this, I thank you. Friend of mine, thank you for listening kindly to me when I am down, or when I am up, or when [...]