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Olly Alexander Says 'Self-Loathing' Led to Self-Harm, Eating Disorder

Olly Alexander on a red carpet.

Olly Alexander is set to star in the upcoming drama It's a Sin. It is the latest project from television legend Russell T. Davies and follows the life of Ritchie Tozer and his friends through the beginning of the AIDS epidemic in London. But in a new interview, Alexander is opening up about a fraught time in his own life. 

Alexander has long had dreams of stardom and has known he was attracted to other boys. In fact, at the age of 10, he wrote his first song which was about a boy in his class. But early on, he also was the victim of bullying, particularly after coming to school wearing eyeliner. Once, after scoring a try in rugby at school, two popular boys congratulated him before tripping him up and "pushed my face into the mud," Alexander recounted in an interview with The Guardian

"That was hard to live down," he said.

Alexander also revealed that he struggled with eating disorders as a teen, writing that he wanted to be skinny in his diary.

"I was writing down: don’t eat, don’t eat, don’t eat," he said. He became bulimic, something that he talked about before in his BBC documentary, Growing Up Gay. “It was something I could control. I felt very out of control in the rest of my life. I was struggling with my sexuality, my parents were divorcing, and I wanted to punish myself.”

“It was self-loathing," he continued. "I didn’t want to be gay. I was convinced I was the reason my parents were splitting up.” In addition, Alexander struggled with self-harm, cutting himself but stopped after a friend noticed the scars.

"Bulimia carried on well into my 20s, but it became less and less frequent," he explained. "It’s really hard to hold down any kind of job if you’re throwing up food all the time, and ultimately you have to choose.” At one point, things had become so bad that he was hospitalized with an irregular heartbeat.  He's since worked on his mental health, and currently takes the antidepressant sertraline. 

Though Alexander is already a star, It's a Sin is likely to shoot him to a new level. Davies' writing shines and Alexander is quite supreme in the role. Elsewhere, he talks about filming a couple of sex scenes for the show which was something he thought he would love and then became self-conscious about.

“I broke down into hysterical tears, like ‘don’t fucking touch me,'" he says. "I found it really hard.” Intimacy coordinators helped the process, which he called a "life-changing experiencing."

Next up is Alexander's third album with Years & Years. 

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, NEDA's toll-free, confidential helpline (800-931-2237) is here to help: Monday-Thursday from 9AM to 9PM EST and Friday 9AM to 5PM.

RELATED | Olly Alexander On Sex, Androids, and Avoiding the Sophomore Slump

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