ACTRESS Hanna Stanbridge goes on stage every day at the Edinburgh Fringe and talks frankly of her battle with anorexia.
Hard enough, you may think, but even more so when you realise she’s also trying to draw laughs from the subject matter.
The former River City star believes being honest and able to find humour from what she went through will help others talk more openly – and so far she’s been proved right.
“I never envisaged reactions like I’ve had,” Hanna, from Penicuik, admitted.
“I hoped it would connect but I didn’t expect so many people to come to me afterwards to thank me or say I described what they are going through.
“I think there’s still a lot of stigma around mental health and hopefully comedy can make it easier to talk about.”
Hanna’s show, I Hate Myself So People Will Like Me (And Other Strategies For Success) sees her play a version of herself as a terrible motivational speaker.
The likeable and down-to-earth star, who played Angel Delaney in the Scottish soap for two years, began dealing with eating issues around 10 years ago.
She’d always done ballet so was able to eat what she wanted and burn it off easily.
“But when I went to drama college I stopped dancing, so started putting on weight from all the rubbish I ate,” the 31-year-old explained.
“My friend said my diet was very unhealthy, so I signed up to a gym and began cooking most of my meals from scratch.
“It took 18 months to get to a nice, healthy weight, but I didn’t know how to maintain it, so I ate less and less. Then the body dysmorphia kicked in.
“It’s not that I looked at myself and thought I was fat – I knew I was thin, but I couldn’t see how thin.”
At her worst, Hanna was surviving on just a handful of cornflakes every day.
“My parents and a couple of my friends had broached the subject, but it was my agent at the time who finally said something.
“A casting director I auditioned for called my agent and said, ‘Hanna isn’t well, you have to talk to her’.”
The potential loss of her career forced Hanna to confront the illness and while on an NHS waiting list for a dietician and psychologist, she was being regularly checked by her GP.
“When you’re 5ft 7in and down to five stone, your whole body stops functioning, so basically they had to make sure I was going to stay alive,” she said.
It took Hanna four years to feel back to normal.
Towards the end of her recovery she met her husband, stand-up comic Chris Martin, and they wrote her show together during breaks in filming River City.
“Chris is very good at checking on me and making sure I’ve eaten,” she smiled.
“It’s nerve-racking doing the show – silly things, from ticket sales to the performance itself to meeting audience members.
“But I will never let myself get back to where I was.”
I Hate Myself So People Will Like Me, Just The Tonic at The Caves, until Aug 27.