Gemma Oaten nearly died four times while battling anorexia.

Gemma Oaten

Gemma Oaten

The former 'Emmerdale' actress spent her teenage years in and out of hospitals as part of a 13-year struggle with the eating disorder, and while she is "not ashamed" of what she has been through, Gemma wishes she had spoken to someone "sooner".

She wrote on Instagram: "For 13 years anorexia took over my life and nearly took my life. It was a rollercoaster. Truly. One minute I'd be fed up (literally) in hospital, a psychiatric unit or an eating disorders unit and the next I'd lose the weight because my mind still wasn't fed properly...the issues I had were in my state of mental health. Anorexia was my control, my comfort, my escape... Or so I thought. No problem we have mentally is ever resolved unless we talk and feel it. I spent my teens in and out of these units and hospitals. But it wasn't until I found a way of being able to talk and address that I truly began to get better. I nearly died 4 times... That's the power mental health has when it's goes wrong. I was unsure whether to share the photos but they are mild in terms of how truly ill I was, I don't think I could ever show those ones. It's too disturbing, for me and others. My point is, I'm not ashamed of my past struggles. They moulded the woman I am today in so many ways. I wish I had spoke out sooner and had the correct help I needed but that was then and this is now... Conversations are happening and it makes me so happy and proud that we now know openly... It's OK to not be OK. It's OK, we're not perfect, and why would we want to be? Who defines that? (sic)"

Gemma shared several pictures of her differing looks over the years and while she still experiences anxiety, the 34-year-old star "feels in control" because she is able to talk about her mental health issues.

She added: "All I hope to achieve by sharing this post is that you look at picture 4, me now, and see recovery is possible...however, I'll be totally honest, I still battle with my mental health in the form of anxiety, but the difference is I talk about it and feel in control. Talk, be brave, be open. One day I may tell the full story. Don't be blinkered by this image of flawless social media... Know that everyone you meet has their own battles. One day I may tell of mine the past year and what I've had to face, but what I want you to see is that by talking, by addressing, by unashamedly you, you can get through. #mentalhealthawareness #bekindtoyou #worldmentalhealthday #eatingdisordersawareness #itsoktonotbeok (sic)"

Earlier this year, Gemma - who played Rachel Breckle in 'Emmerdale' - revealed her weight dropped to just four and a half stone at the height of her anorexia battle.

She said: "If it wasn't for my dad, I would be dead. He was right. I just wanted it all to end. Had my dad not taken me home from the psychiatric unit, I would have died. The memories of my time in hospital were very bleak and full of despair."