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Reference > Erinsborough News > "I Was Suicidal!"

Linda Hartley reveals that anorexia almost ruined her life.

Neighbours actress Linda Hartley has a bubbly personality, but for the past five years it’s been a front to cover her battle with anorexia and depression.

Linda, 22, who stars as Kerry Mangel, fell victim to the slimmers’ disease when she was 17. She conquered it after three tough years of therapy, but feelings of depression and even suicide continued to haunt her.

It was only six months ago that Mark Little, who plays her Neighbours husband Joe, suggested she see a naturopath specialising in food allergies. Through testing she discovered she is inflicted with candida (a yeast infection), which she believes has arisen from the anorexia.

“I’ve been really depressed, suicidal and had terrible migraine headaches and fatigue for years,” Linda says. “I’d married a wonderful guy, we’d bought a wonderful house and I was here at Neighbours and, still, I was just a mess. I hated life. I didn’t want to do anything. I’d drag myself out to work and put on this front to get through it and then I’d come home and collapse in a heap. I was just at the end, and I didn’t know what to do, when I heard Mark talking about this naturopath.”

Linda is now on a super-strict diet, comprising only green vegetables, some grains and fruits, buckwheat and bread free of yeast and wheat.

After 15 months on-screen in Neighbours, Linda now feels comfortable discussing her battle with anorexia. From when she was six, Linda loved singing and dancing and her life was a gruelling schedule of classes and contests, with schoolwork crammed in.

She was exceptionally talented and, at 12, she landed the lead role in the mini-series Cornflakes For Tea. A busy acting career followed. At 16, a film in Adelaide – her first time away from home – enabled her to “let her hair down” and reassess her regimented lifestyle. She put on weight, decided not to continue with dancing and enrolled in night school to finish Year 11.

“Mum was shocked with the way I had changed – I’d just grown up,” Linda says. “She sent me to a gym to lose the weight and that became my life every day. It was an obsessive thing. I was having a hard time at home. I couldn’t control anything. I lived in a bungalow at the back of the house. I just shut myself in there and I got anorexia. I didn’t think it was anorexia because I didn’t realise it was getting a hold of me.”

Hard as it is to believe, Linda continued to score good acting roles in major shows, but finally her mother convinced her to see a psychologist.

“It took three years to discover I didn’t have a weight problem,” Linda says. “The weight becomes a secondary thing. It was all the other emotions that were the real problem.”

Finally over the disease, she moved to Sydney for a leading role in Cats - but then the problems flared again.

“After the anorexia it got to the point where my system couldn’t tolerate certain foods,” she says. “God knows how I got the energy to even do the shows. It just kept getting worse and worse. At least I know what was causing it and why I feel this way and that makes a huge difference.”

Linda met her husband, musician John Clarke, in Cats and the couple married soon after in December 1988, a month after she joined Neighbours.

“I wanted to tell my story so people would know who I am, that I’m not the girl who plays Kerry or Joe Mangel’s wife, that this is who I am,” Linda says. “I’m not ashamed of what happened to me and I’m not weak, so people should know about it.”

This article originally appeared in TV Week magazine, dated February 24th 1990, and was written by Chrissie Camp

Article submitted by Steve


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