Jamie-Lynn Sigler says an “industry professional” told her to keep her battle with multiple sclerosis (MS) a secret.
“I know they were looking out for me at the time, but they sad, ‘I’m going to pretend you didn’t tell me that, and I don’t think you should ever tell anyone that you have this disease, because people will limit you, people will judge you, and they won’t hire you,” Sigler, 34, revealed on the Today show on Wednesday.
She added: “And I took that advice. I was 20 years old and I was scared and I thought that was the best thing.”
Sigler revealed her illness exclusively to PEOPLE earlier this week, saying she wasn’t ready to do so until now.
“You’d think that after all these years, somebody would be settled with something like this, but it’s still hard to accept,” she said.
She said she is ready to live openly and freely.
• For more of Sigler’s revealing interview, including exclusive photographs from her wedding album, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE on newsstands FridayThe Sopranos star spoke of the revelation on Today telling Matt Lauer that she feels “relief” after making her illness known.
“I lived this secret that caused me to have so many feelings of shame and guilt and fear for so many years,” she said.
“So, I think to finally sort of feel like I’m claiming my power back and being confident with the person that I am, I feel a great weight off my shoulders.”
She said symptoms of the illness have been “hard” for the past five years. She noted weakness on the right side of her body and some loss in coordination – “high heels are hard for me.”
Now, the 34-year-old is ready to get to work, Sigler said.
“I’m excited about the future. I’m excited to go back to work without feeling that I have something to hide,” she said. “I feel like I’ll be a better actress for it now that I can show up and really be me.”