Shailene Woodley Opened Up About the “Very Scary” Illness She Experienced in Her Early 20s

In an interview with the New York Times, Shailene Woodley revealed that she was "very, very sick" in her early 20s, while filming the 'Divergent' series.

Celebrity Sightings In New York City - February 11, 2019
(Image credit: Pierre Suu)

  • In a new interview with the New York TimesShailene Woodley revealed that she was "very, very sick" in her early 20s, while filming the Divergent series.
  • Woodley said she was forced to "let go" of her career, and pass on several major roles.
  • "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," she added.

At the height of her blockbuster career, Shailene Woodley was grappling with a "very scary" illness, the actor revealed to the New York Times in a new interview. "I haven’t spoken much about this yet publicly, and I will one day, but I was very, very sick in my early 20s," she said. "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," Woodley continued. "They went on to a lot of success, but there was a mix of people saying, 'You shouldn’t have let that go!' or 'You shouldn’t have been sick!'"

At times, she feared her illness would end her career: "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?" she recalled thinking.

"I was in a place where I had no choice but to just surrender and let go of my career, and it brought out this negative voice in my mind that kept spinning for years and years afterward," Woodley said.

She told the newspaper she's now "on the other side" of her illness, adding, "A lot of the last few years has been about focusing on mental health for me, and it’s a slow process. 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."

"I feel very grateful to have walked that line of fire," she said, "because now I know what I don’t want to ever go back to."

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Emily Dixon
Morning Editor

Emily Dixon is a British journalist who’s contributed to CNN, Teen Vogue, Time, Glamour, The Guardian, Wonderland, The Big Roundtable, Bust, and more, on everything from mental health to fashion to political activism to feminist zine collectives. She’s also a committed Beyoncé, Kacey Musgraves, and Tracee Ellis Ross fan, an enthusiastic but terrible ballet dancer, and a proud Geordie lass.