By Elizabeth Leonard
12/13/2012 at 12:45 PM EST
As the most decorated skier in U.S. history, Vonn’s easy smile and record-decimating athletic career have made her a fixture on podiums, magazine covers and multi-million dollar endorsement deals. But life off the slopes wasn’t always so rosy.
In an exclusive interview with PEOPLE, the Olympic gold medalist, 28, discloses that she’s quietly suffered from depression for many years and currently takes an anti-depressant to help manage her symptoms.
“Everything about my life seemed so perfect to people. But I struggle like everyone else,” Vonn confesses.
At one point in 2008, she says, “I couldn’t get out of bed anymore. I felt hopeless, empty, like a zombie.”
But these days, Vonn is happier than she’s been in a long time. “I feel like I just needed to get everything off my chest,” says the ski racer, who filed for divorce late last year from her husband Thomas Vonn, also her longtime manager and coach.
With the winter race season underway – Vonn nabbed her 57th World Cup win on Dec. 8 in St. Moritz, Switzerland – she’s hit a new groove.
“All the parts of my life are finally in sync,” she says. “I accept who I am, and I’m moving forward.”
For the star athlete’s exclusive interview and photo shoot, pick up PEOPLE magazine, on newsstands Friday