The supermodel has never really talked about her past struggles. Aside from sharing tidbits about her meditation practice and diet, she tends to keep her private life very private. That’s all changing, though, with her soon-to-be-released memoir Lessons: My Path to a Meaningful Life, and she recently opened up to People about some of the mental health issues she’s had throughout her career—something that started in 2003 after having a panic attack on a plane. As her anxiety got worse, it became crippling, eventually causing her to fear tunnels, elevators, and enclosed spaces, but she couldn’t figure out why she was having these negative thoughts and felt an immense amount of guilt because of it.
“I had a wonderful position in my career, I was very close to my family, and I always considered myself a positive person, so I was really beating myself up. Like, ‘Why should I be feeling this?’ I felt like I wasn’t allowed to feel bad,” Bündchen says. “I felt powerless. Your world becomes smaller and smaller, and you can’t breathe, which is the worst feeling I’ve ever had. I actually had the feeling of, ‘If I just jump off my balcony, this is going to end, and I never have to worry about this feeling of my world closing in.'”
“I felt powerless. Your world becomes smaller and smaller, and you can’t breathe, which is the worst feeling I’ve ever had. I actually had the feeling of, ‘If I just jump off my balcony, this is going to end, and I never have to worry about this feeling of my world closing in.'” —Gisele Bündchen
Even though it was a bumpy ride for a while, she’s thankful every day that her past led her to her present: “Everything I’ve lived through, I would never change because I think I am who I am because of those experiences,” she says. And if you’re going through something too, take some advice from Bündchen and know you’re allowed to feel bad—and you should never feel guilty or ashamed for it.
Want more on Gisele and Tom’s diet? There’s a cookbook with all the details. Or, find out her secret on how to avoid feeling overwhelmed—aka a must-know for anyone.
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