We know her best as Lady Sybil Crawley in Downton Abbey. But the actress Jessica Brown-Findlay, who is also starring in ITV drama Harlots, has recently revealed her 13-year-long struggle with an eating disorder.
In an interview with The Telegraph, the now 27-year-old told how she had suffered with an eating disorder since the young age of 14.
The star admitted that she hoped her opening up about her personal, and very private, struggle would help to open up a “mature conversation” around the topic, about mental health and depression, and about the pressure put on women to look a certain way. And with the news that more people over 40 are being diagnosed with eating disorders than ever before, we couldn’t agree more.
She said, “I’m doing Hamlet [in London’s West End] and it explores a lot about mental health, and… I’ve had an eating disorder since I was 14. We can feed certain ideas of what beauty is and what success is. There has to come a time where those aren’t the rules any more. Then we can have a mature conversation about what that is, and about depression.”
And Jessica went on to admit that her struggle left her feeling alone and isolated. She said “I felt alone for so long, and I just hid.
“Then I started talking and held my head up and instead of saying sorry decided to tell myself that I matter. For a while I really shied away from things. It’s about learning to stand up and say, ‘This is me, and that’s ok.’ I’m not going to be a better actor if I’m a dress size smaller. It’s nothing to do with my bum.”
She also admitted that she had had therapy to help her deal with the problem, which eventually helped her decide that “I was going to help myself feel safe and good and healthy”
Speaking about her fame and how it’s status has allowed her to bring voice to the issue, she said “‘If you are lucky enough to speak and be heard, it might be useful to others. ‘The more we have brave discussions like that, the easier it is to talk about things, and the less alone we can feel. It’s certainly made me feel less alone.”
The news comes as fellow former Downton co-star Jeremy Swift, who played Spratt on the programme, revealed that a script for a Downton Abbey film has been written, and circulated amongst the cast.
He said, “There is a film script which we’ve all been sent, but it disappeared in a Mission Impossible style from our emails. With a little puff. It’s supposed to be happening, filming, this year, but it hasn’t been locked down yet. It’s just about getting everybody in that same space and time. I think there’s a huge appetite for it.”