Supermodels aren’t exempt from the challenges of common folk, despite the glossy facades we, the consumer, are often fed. Gisele, who is now 38, admits in her new memoir Lessons: My Path to a Meaningful Life that she once battled depression, anxiety, and even contemplated suicide in her formative years. “When I think back to a time in my early 20s, I remember that I felt so helpless that I questioned whether I wanted to live,” she writes of her experience as a young model subsisting off of “stimulants and depressants” to “get [her] through the day.”
“I was living 100 miles per hour, smoking, drinking, eating badly, not sleeping much and living pretty much out of a suitcase,” she writes. “It was intense! I was in transit all the time, either heading off or coming back from somewhere, which meant I never felt grounded or settled — or took the time to think about my life. It was just my life. And like a lot of people in their early 20’s, I felt indestructible.”
She also writes about struggling to overcome a bout of acute panic attacks. “When I got back to New York, this new fear found other ways to show itself,” she says of her first panic attack. “It was as if it were moving from place to place, thing to thing, room to room.”
The panic started mounting and became inescapable for Bundchen. “It felt like everything in my life was going to kill me,” she writes. “First it was airplanes, then elevators, then it was tunnels and hotels and modeling studios and cars. Now it was my own apartment. Everything had become a cage, and I was the animal trapped inside, panting for air.”
Gisele briefly turned to Xanax after a doctor prescribed it to her, but she didn’t want to become dependent on it, so she stopped taking it altogether. In the end, she came through on the other side better and brighter for her challenges.
“The difficulties that came so close to killing me, was in the end what gave me a whole new life,” she posits. “The most negative period I’d ever experienced became the most transformative and the greatest blessing.”
Lessons: My Path to a Meaningful Life drops October 2 and is now available for pre-order.