For the better part of six decades, Caitlyn Jenner‘s inner life was marked by shame, confusion, and isolation. Though Jenner experienced plenty of highs – from winning gold at the 1976 Olympics to the joy of parenting 10 children and step-kids – her gender dysphoria always lurked close to the surface.
“I had identity issues even as a very young kid, which back in the 50s and 60s, you didn’t even talk about and there wasn’t even a name for it,” Jenner tells PEOPLE, in an exclusive interview in this week’s issue.
While she managed to channel focus into non-stop training for the Olympics during her twenties, the inner turmoil reared its head immediately after she won gold. She says, “All of a sudden the Games are over with and I go, ‘Whoa, where do I go now? Where do I hide my feelings and emotions now?'”
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From the outside, Jenner appeared to thrive, enjoying success as a motivational speaker and finding happiness, albeit temporarily, over the course of three marriages. “Outwardly, my life is good: terrific children, a strong marriage…, steady work,” she writes of the early days with Kris Jenner, in a new memoir, The Secrets of My Life, exclusively excerpted in this week’s issue.
“It is not enough.”
In fact, Jenner, who secretly donned wigs, sampled make-up and dressed in women’s clothing behind closed doors for much of her life, was often miserable. More than once, she briefly mulled suicide.
How things have changed.
Since transitioning in 2015, and introducing Caitlyn to the world on the cover of Vanity Fair, Jenner has experienced something of a rebirth.
“I am ready to seize the day after so many years in which I just wanted the day to end,” she writes in the memoir.
After years denying her true self, Jenner is relishing her new freedom. “I am happy and peaceful…I’m having an extraordinary amount of fun,” says Jenner, who has also emerged as a passionate advocate for the transgender community and LGBTQ causes.
“Life’s wonderful when you don’t have to lie to anyone and your heart is open.”
For more exclusive excerpts of The Secrets of My Life and an interview with Caitlyn Jenner, please pick up this week’s issue, on stands Friday.