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In recent years, Gisele Bündchen has morphed from the supermodel of the late '90s and early 2000s into something of an icon of healthy living. She wasn't always this devoted to her own well-being, though, and in a new interview with People, Bündchen opens up about the mental health scare that prompted her to take a more holistic approach to improving her overall health.
"Things can be looking perfect on the outside, but you have no idea what's really going on," the Brazilian star said, explaining why she decided to share her mental health issues in her upcoming book, Lessons: My Path to a Meaningful Life. "I felt like maybe it was time to share some of my vulnerabilities, and it made me realize, everything I've lived through, I would never change, because I think I am who I am because of those experiences."
Bündchen said she experienced her first panic attack in 2003, during a bumpy flight, and subsequently developed a fear of enclosed spaces like tunnels and elevators. "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," she said. "But I felt powerless. Your world becomes smaller and smaller, and you can't breathe, which is the worst feeling I've ever had."
As the panic attacks continued, the 38-year-old told People she started looking for any way to make them stop. "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,'" she said. Fortunately, she sought help from a specialist instead, and was prescribed Xanax. Though, while medication helps many, it isn't the total solution to every mental health problem, and Bündchen kept probing.
She continued to meet with doctors, and eventually decided to completely overhaul her unhealthy lifestyle. She changed her diet and added yoga and meditation to her routine. "I had been smoking cigarettes, drinking a bottle of wine and three mocha Frappuccinos every day, and I gave up everything in one day," the mom of two said. "I thought, if this stuff is in any way the cause of this pain in my life, it's gotta go." She also broke up with then boyfriend Leonardo DiCaprio, explaining that she felt somewhat "alone" in her determination to change her life so dramatically—but there are no hard feelings between the former couple. "Everyone who crosses our path is a teacher, they come into our lives to show us something about ourselves," she said. "And I think that's what he was. What is good versus bad? I honor him for what he was."
Related: A Tribute to Gisele Bündchen, 12-Time *W* Magazine Cover Star