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Troian Bellisario Writes Essay for Lenny About Life With Mental Illness

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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.

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.

Image via Wikimedia Commons/Dominick D

Originally published: July 18, 2017
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