It’s tempting to push down and ignore any negative thoughts. For some, that leads to feelings of guilt about having those thoughts in the first place, a sentiment that model Gisele Bündchen talked candidly about in a new interview with People. In it, Bündchen detailed why she chose to open up about her mental health issues as well as the panic attacks she first experienced over a decade ago that led her to take a hard look at her overall health.
“Things can be looking perfect on the outside, but you have no idea what’s really going on,” Bündchen said, explaining why she decided to share her mental health challenges 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, she told People that 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, which didn’t sit well with her. “The thought of being dependent on something felt, in my mind, even worse, because I was like, ‘What if I lose that [pill]? Then what? Am I going to die?’ The only thing I knew was, I needed help,” Bündchen said.
She continued to meet with doctors and eventually decided to completely overhaul her lifestyle. She cut back on alcohol and caffeine and stopped smoking, and also added yoga and meditation to her routine.
As SELF wrote previously, treatment for any mental health issue is not one-size-fits-all.
Panic attacks may be particularly confusing the first time you experience one because they can cause such intense physical symptoms, such as a rapid heart rate, sweating, chest pain or discomfort, feeling short of breath, and feeling lightheaded.
Because these symptoms overlap with the symptoms of a heart attack or asthma attack, it’s not uncommon for people to assume they’re experiencing a condition like that rather than a mental health issue. Although some people just experience the occasional panic attack without any lasting issues, others develop panic disorder, a condition in which people have recurrent panic attacks and become anxious about the next time they might experience one.
So, the first step is to get an accurate diagnosis. From there, the standard combination of therapy and possibly medication is an effective treatment for many people. But lifestyle changes—eating nutritious meals, prioritizing quality sleep, regular physical activity—can be just as important. The most crucial factor in your treatment is getting in touch with a mental health professional who can help you work out a plan that makes sense for you.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text Crisis Text Line at 741-741.