You’d think Gabourey Sidibe had it all–going from relatively unknown to roles on Empire, FX’s American Horror Story, and Hulu’s Difficult People–but the Oscar nominee opens up about her battle with depression and an eating disorder in her new book, This is Just My Face: Try Not to Stare.
Before her gripping debut in 2009’s Precious, Gabby struggled with an overwhelming sadness that she couldn’t explain, even to her mother.
“I couldn’t tell her that I couldn’t stop crying and that I hated everything about myself,” she told The Grio. “Whenever I did try to open up, my mom seemed unconcerned. When I was sad about something, she told me to ‘get a thicker skin.’ When I was upset, she told me to ‘stop nitpicking.’ My mom has always had faith that things would be okay, but saying ‘tomorrow will be a better day’ wasn’t enough for me.”
In college, she suffered from panic attacks and stopped eating to quiet her restless thoughts.
“Often, when I was too sad to stop crying, I drank a glass of water and ate a slice of bread, and then I threw it up,” Sidibe writes. “After I did, I wasn’t as sad anymore; I finally relaxed. So I never ate anything, until I wanted to throw up — and only when I did could I distract myself from whatever thought was swirling around my head.”
Within our community, the stigma surrounding mental health stops many of us from getting the help we need–but the movie star sought professional help to get through her depression and suicidal thoughts.
“I found a doctor and told her everything that was wrong with me. I’d never run down the entire list before, but as I heard myself, I could sense that dealing with this on my own was definitely no longer an option,” she writes in her book. Sidibe still manages her mental health with therapy. “I just accepted depression as something that’s part of my anatomy; it’s part of my chemistry, it’s part of my biology,” she told PEOPLE. “When it’s too big for me to just turn around on my own, I see a therapist. I see a therapist anyway. We all should see a therapist.”