Lily Collins Opens up About 'Toxic' Past Relationship

Lily Collins is recalling a "toxic" and abusive relationship she experienced in her early 20s. The Emily in Paris star, 33, opened up on Wednesday's episode of the We Can Do Hard Things podcast, telling hosts Glennon Doyle, Amanda Doyle, and Abby Wambach that the relationship "was verbal and emotional abuse and being made to feel very small."

Calling her "Little Lily," Collins said her ex would "use awful words about me in terms of what I was wearing and would call me a whore and all these things." These "belittling words" made the actress "quite silent and comfortable in silence and feeling like I had to make myself small to feel super safe."

Through therapy, Collins learned that often prey animals refuse to eat when under attack – a revelation for the To the Bone actress, who has been open about struggling with disordered eating. "When prey felt threatened, they made themselves as small as possible," she shared. "Possibly by not eating by making themselves look as least juicy and enticing as possible and that's where they felt the safest."

Collins said she can still be triggered by those feelings of "panic" and "anxiety" she felt with her ex, despite being in a healthy marriage to her husband Charlie McDowell. "That panic is what I can still get triggered by," she explained. "Even if I'm in the most healthy relationship, there can be a moment that happens throughout the day where history comes back like that."

"It's like a millisecond, or shorter than a millisecond," Collins continued. "And your gut reacts, your heart starts beating, and all of a sudden you're taken back to that moment where they said that thing to you 10 years ago, but you're not in that situation now and that's the trigger and it's f-ing hard. It's awful."

Collins said that through her relationship with McDowell, she's been able to open up more than ever before. "I've never had someone other than Charlie witness me in that state probably because I've never felt comfortable enough to be in that state knowing that person is going to leave," she explained. "Now in my life, having my wonderful and supportive husband, we do communicate and talk about so much."