'Pretty Little Liars' Troian Bellisario's eating disorder struggle: I kept my feelings bottled up
The "Pretty Little Liars" star says she started self-harming during high school, when she would "withhold food or withhold going out with [her] friends" based on how she was doing academically.
"My school was a very intense college prep school. So it was about wanting to please my father and mother and wanting to be perfect to everybody," says Bellisario. "I just thought if I ever expressed to [my parents] any sadness or anger or anything that's going on with me, they would disown me. I kept a lot of it bottled up inside, and it turned into self-destructive behavior."
Bellisario goes on to say that she tried to "keep it light and funny" around her friends because she thought if they saw what was really going on with her, they wouldn't want to be her friend. But her friends saw through it.
"They got a hold of my journal and basically said, 'We don't trust you, and we're gonna tell your parents,'" Bellisario recalls. "That was when my world kind of exploded. It was kind of like an intervention. It made me ask myself, 'What do I really want to be doing? What would make me happy."
She also admits that her self-image and self-esteem are still a struggle for her.
"Sometimes I feel like I'm trying too hard, like I don't belong. I just look around at [co-stars Lucy Hale, Shay Mitchell and Ashley Benson] and I'm just like, 'Why am I on this show?' Sometimes I've felt like a fraud," says Bellisario. "Like, I'm not like these other girls -- I don't dress like that and I don't know how to do my hair. The minute I'm off that stage, I try to get as 'me' as possible. ... Dressing like myself again helps."
She adds that fans should not hold themselves to the standard that they see on TV.
"I've heard fans say that I'm perfect on the show and I want to tell them I've been through two hours of hair and makeup. Don't hold yourself up to that!" says Bellisario.
Her "Pretty Little Liars" co-stars could not be more supportive of the article. Hale writes on Twitter that she's "proud" of Bellisario for speaking up and Benson calls the piece "amazing."
Mitchell sums it up nicely with, " So proud of my friend/ costar/ older sister @sleepinthegarden's @seventeenmag cover and inspiring story. You are brave, intelligent and beyond talented. I am so excited to be seeing your face on newsstands everywhere!"
"Pretty Little Liars" returns Tuesday, Jan. 7 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC Family.