Kate Pearson tugs on fans’ heartstrings in every episode of This Is Us, but actress Chrissy Metz has revealed her own difficult, emotional past.
The 37-year-old actress opens up in her new memoir, This Is Me, about her poverty-stricken childhood and the painful abuse she endured by her stepfather.
“I’m a tough cookie,” Metz told People of her hardships. “But it’s one of those things that attempts to break your spirit.”
Metz revealed that when she was 8 years old, her father, a former Navy officer, left her mother Denise, leaving the mom to raise Metz and her siblings, Monica and Philip, on her own. After Denise welcomed another baby, Morgana, with a boyfriend who fled town, she met Metz’s stepfather, Trigger.
“My mom married Trigger at the courthouse,” the actress wrote in her memoir, via an exclusive excerpt to PEOPLE. “Soon she was pregnant again, with another girl, Abigail. Trigger loved his two biological children, and was even welcoming to Morgana. Me, not so much. My mother was always at work, so she didn’t see how he treated me.”
Metz said her “body seemed to offend him” and added that Trigger stared at her often, especially when she was eating. She recalled him joking that he should put a lock on the fridge.
“We had lived with a lack of food for so long that when it was there, I felt like I had to eat it before it disappeared. Food was my only happiness,” she wrote.
“And so, I began to hide my eating. I’d get up in the middle of the night and eat. I’d sneak food to eat in the bathroom. Cookies, chips. Things I could eat as fast as possible to avoid detection,” she revealed. “Things that would give me the brief bliss of numbness.”
Metz said that Trigger’s disdain for her escalated and he began physically abusing her.
“I don’t remember why Trigger hit me the first time. He never punched my face. Just my body, the thing that offended him so much. He shoved me, slapped me, punched my arm. He would hit me if he thought I looked at him wrong,” she wrote. “I remember being on the kitchen floor after he knocked me over, and I was begging to know what I did. He just shoved me hard with his foot.”
She said his obsession with her body only worsened as she aged, and his abuse heightened.
“When I was fourteen, Trigger began weighing me,” Metz wrote. “He’d get the scale from the bathroom and clang it hard on the kitchen floor. ‘Well, get on the d— thing!’ Trigger would yell. ‘This is what you need to know.’”
The actress recalled that her stepfather would sit in a chair next to the scale as she reluctantly climbed on.
“‘Good God almighty!’ he yelled every single time. The number then was about 140 or 130. Most of my friends weighed about ninety pounds,” she wrote.
“‘Why are you getting fatter?’ he demanded. I look at pictures of me from that time, and I would be so fine with being that size now. But I thought I was gigantic. By then the beating had escalated. One time he hit me, and I looked right in his face. If I had a gun, I thought, I would shoot you,” Metz confessed.
The NBC star said that despite her anger, she felt a confusing blend of emotions regarding her stepfather.
“Afterward, I was so upset with myself. How could I think that about this person I loved so much? Because I really did love him. This man did more for me than my father ever did. He was smart, and I was allowed to quietly join him in watching the Ken Burns Civil War documentaries on television,” she wrote.
“I clung to [these points of connection] because I needed to figure out why this person could do right by me as a provider, but be unable to love me,” Metz added.
She revealed that she and Trigger patched their relationship over time, adding, “I do love him and I do care about him.”
Metz said that she turned to comedy to “deflect and deal with the hardships” of her childhood, noting that she is now living her acting dreams as a lead performer in NBC’s best television drama.2comments
“We all go through stuff. But I truly believe that everything that happened to me, happened for me. [I’ve learned] some beautiful lessons,” she said.
Metz memoir, This Is Me: Loving the Person You Are Today, hits shelves on March 27. She will also return to the small screen for her starring role as Kate Pearson for season three of This Is Us later this fall.