"Am I going to survive what I'm going through right now and ever be healthy," the actress says she would ask herself as she turned down acting opportunities.
"Big Little Lies" star Shailene Woodley might seem like she's enjoyed a steady career since her breakout performance in 2011's "The Descendants," but the 28-year-old star says it almost came crashing to a halt when she was still in her early 20s.
"While I was doing the 'Divergent' movies and working hard, I also was struggling with a deeply personal, very scary physical situation," she told The New York Times. "Because of that, I said no to a lot of opportunities because I needed to get better."
The actress said she hasn't spoken much about this period of her life in public, adding that she "will one day," and she still did not go into specifics, other than to say she was "very, very sick."
Whatever it was, though, was incredibly serious. Even as she was being chastised for letting roles go, Woodley said she was battling with her own thoughts, like, "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?"
"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," she continued.
She also says that this tumultuous period of her life was strongly and negatively impacted by an abusive relationship. "My 20s felt a little bit like being in a washing machine, where you're being thrown all over the place," with her growing fame another factor in her struggle to find herself.
"There was a huge chunk of time where fear and anxiety and competition were definitely at the forefront of my mind and my ego in a way they weren't when I was younger."
The "Divergent" films came out in 2015 and 2016. Woodley followed those up with her starring role on two seasons of HBO's "Big Little Lies" in 2017 and 2019. Now, she says she's on the other side of all of that and focusing on her mental health.
"It's a slow process," she said. "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."