Gisele Bundchen is one of the most successful models in the world, and is married to one of the most successful athletes in the world. Photos of her on social media show her at glamorous red carpet events, breastfeeding while prepping for a lingerie photoshoot, blissful vacations with family and friends.
Yet in a new book, Lessons: My Path to a Meaningful Life, Bundchen reveals a darker side. The 38-year-old writes that she once had panic attacks so severe, she contemplated suicide. She sat down with People magazine to discuss her new book and past struggles.
"Things can be looking perfect on the outside, but you have no idea what’s really going on," she tells People. "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."
Bundchen was one of six girls raised in Brazil. Things began to look up once a modeling scout discovered her, but "They told me, ‘Your nose is too big and your eyes are too small and you’re never going to be on the cover of a magazine.’ "
That all changed when she walked topless in Alexander McQueen’s runway show in 1997. But in 2003, after becoming a tabloid fixture and dating the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio, she began suffering panic attacks.
"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 says. "But I felt powerless. Your world becomes smaller and smaller, and you can’t breathe, which is the worst feeling I’ve ever had."
Soon, the panic attacks were even happening at home. "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.’ "
After deciding she didn’t want to rely on drugs to medicate her anxiety, she revamped her lifestile.
"I had been smoking cigarettes, drinking a bottle of wine and three mocha Frappucinos every day, and I gave up everything in one day," says Bundchen. "I thought, if this stuff is in any way the cause of this pain in my life, it’s gotta go."
She also split from DiCaprio, and eventually met and married Tom Brady, with whom she shares two children.