Nearly eight years since she underwent 30 days in a mental health facility to face her depression and anxiety, LeAnn Rimes is opening about her lifelong struggle with the disorders — and how she finally found peace.
“At first I didn’t want to face my pain, because I thought I would get lost in it,” Rimes, 37, tells PEOPLE as part of PEOPLE’s Let’s Talk About It mental health initiative. “But I didn’t. People are so ashamed to talk about it and ask for help. But taking away the shame is so important.”
As a child superstar (she had two Grammys by the age of 14), LeAnn Rimes had plenty of fame and success. But behind the scenes, the singer was already struggling.
“There was so much emptiness and sadness amidst joy,” says the star, who is wed to actor Eddie Cibrian, 46. “And I had to be LeAnn Rimes, the entity, not LeAnn Rimes, the person. I was very fragmented.”
As she got older, dealing with her parent’s acrimonious divorce and then a lawsuit with her father, Wilbur, only intensified Rimes’ private pain. Then, after a “painful” divorce from Dean Sheremet in 2010, amidst her exceedingly public affair with Cibrian, it reached a breaking point.
“There was something in the press every week that was just so fabricated,” says Rimes, of being attacked following news of her relationship with Cibrian. “Obviously there are mistakes that I take great responsibility for. But my whole life I had cared what everyone thought of me. So the public shaming was a deep thing that I took on.”
Amy Sussman/Invision/AP/Shutterstock LeAnn Rimes
Rimes retreated, and had trouble sleeping, as well as panic attacks and ruminating thoughts of negativity.
“I had so much underlying grief,” says Rimes of being faced with longtime pain. “Everything accumulated and I had to give in.”
The singer entered treatment the day after her 30th birthday. “It was the first night I was ever alone, ever,” she reveals. “There was a lot of co-dependency. And a lot of healing that needed to be done.”
Now, Rimes says she relishes alone time, and focuses on a routine of self-care, which includes Yin Yoga and breath work with expert Ashley Neese, as well as prescribed medication in order to stay in a healthy place.
“I know who I am now,” says Rimes. “And I try to keep things in perspective. The need for other’s approval has changed big-time. Self-worth is key.”
When she does occasionally slip into periods of darkness, “I know I can get myself out of it,” says Rimes. And ultimately, “Everything I have gone through has made me who I am, and I wouldn’t trade that, at all.”
As part of the Let’s Talk About It initiative, PEOPLE is partnering with the Crisis Text Line, which offers free, 24/7 support from trained crisis counselors. If you or someone you know needs help, text STRENGTH to 741741. Or contact the National Alliance on Mental Illness, nami.org.
For more from LeAnn Rimes, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.