Shailene Woodley Reveals 'Very Scary Physical' Illness Almost Ended Her Career

The "Big Little Lies" star speaks out about battling health issues in her early 20s.

Shailene Woodley is opening up about a private health battle for the first time.

The actor revealed during an interview with The New York Times last week that she faced a “very scary physical situation” in her early 20s that had a lasting impact on her career.

“I haven’t spoken much about this yet publicly, and I will one day, but I was very, very sick in my early 20s,” Woodley, 28, told the outlet. “While I was doing the ‘Divergent’ movies and working hard, I also was struggling with a deeply personal, very scary physical situation.”

“Because of that, I said ‘no’ to a lot of opportunities because I needed to get better, and those jobs ended up going to peers of mine who I love,” she continued.

Woodley didn’t specify exactly what illness she was battling, which she characterized as dominated by “fear and anxiety and competition,” but said at points she questioned whether she’d even survive.

Woodley arriving at the premiere "Divergent" In 2014.
Woodley arriving at the premiere "Divergent" In 2014.
Steve Granitz via Getty Images

Woodley rose to fame on the ABC Family series “The Secret Life of the American Teenager” when she herself was just a teenager and went onto star in three film adaptations of the hugely popular young adult sci-fi series “Divergent.”

The filming of the first movie left Woodley with “battle wounds,” including multiple hernias and a variety of scars, as she put it at the time.

Woodley said she struggled to prioritize her own well-being over her career, despite people in her circle telling her, “You shouldn’t have let that go,” or “You shouldn’t have been sick.”

But the “Big Little Lies” star said she had to learn to accept her limitations, adding, “That was combined with my own internal process of, ‘Am I going to survive what I’m going through right now and ever be healthy, or even have the opportunity to work on projects I’m passionate about again because of the situation I’m in?’”

Ultimately, she came to terms with the reality that she had “no choice but to just surrender and let go of my career.”

″[The decision] brought out this negative voice in my mind that kept spinning for years and years afterward,” Woodley said.

Woodley and the cast of "Big Little Lies" at the Season 2 premiere.
Woodley and the cast of "Big Little Lies" at the Season 2 premiere.
Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

Thankfully, Woodley has since recovered and her career isn’t exactly hurting either, as she’s gone onto star in HBO’s critically acclaimed hit “Big Little Lies” alongside Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman.

“Now I’m on the other side of it, thank God. A lot of the last few years has been about focusing on mental health for me, and it’s a slow process,” the actor told the Times. “But because of that work, I feel very grounded and rooted in who I am and very clear about everything in my life, whether it’s my career or my relationships or my own internal worth.”

She continued: “I feel very grateful to have walked that line of fire, because now I know what I don’t want to ever go back to.”

The actor spoke out last year about how therapy has “dramatically altered my life” after a period where she almost quit acting.

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