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Angelina Jolie Shares How Split From Brad Pitt Led to Facial Paralysis

The actor suffered from Bell's palsy in 2016.

Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt's divorce was announced in 2016, but matters of their split weren't put to rest with just a statement. Not only had they been one of the most famous couples in Hollywood for a decade, but the breakup also involved allegations that Pitt had physically abused Jolie and their son, Maddox Jolie-Pitt, when the family were on a flight just days earlier. The Ocean's 11 star was cleared of wrongdoing in investigations by the FBI and the L.A. County Department of Children and Family Services, but his and Jolie's legal battle continues. (He also denied the allegations.) In the years since, more details about the alleged abuse on the flight have come out in court documents as Jolie and Pitt attempt to resolve their ties to one another involving their winery, Château Miraval.

This is to say, the split was not amicable and has likely been stressful for the entire family. But, in a new interview with WSJ Magazine, Jolie revealed that tensions in the marriage months before the divorce were already high and caused her to develop Bell's palsy.

RELATED: Brad Pitt Credits This Huge Star With Helping Him Overcome Addiction.

My body reacts very strongly to stress," the 48-year-old told the publication. "My blood sugar goes up and down. I suddenly had Bell's palsy six months before my divorce."

According to Mayo Clinic, Bell's palsy is "a condition that causes sudden weakness in the muscles on one side of the face," which "makes half of the face appear to droop." The cause of Bell's palsy is unknown, but "experts think it's caused by swelling and inflammation of the nerve that controls the muscles on one side of the face. It could be caused by a reaction that occurs after a viral infection." The effects of the condition usually improve in a few weeks with a full recovery in around six months.

Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt at the premiere of "The Tourist" in 2010
Everett Collection / Shutterstock

Jolie previously mentioned struggling with Bell's palsy in a 2017 interview with Vanity Fair. At that time, she also implied that it had to do with stress. "Sometimes women in families put themselves last until it manifests itself in their own health," she said at the time. She said that acupuncture helped her recovery. In the interview, she also talked about having more gray hair. "I can't tell if it's menopause or if it's just been the year I've had," she told the publication. (Jolie had gone into menopause after having her ovaries removed in 2015 as a preventative measure against cancer, which runs in her family.)

Jolie also touched on stress being a long-term issue in her life in a 2021 interview with The Guardian. The publication noted that she didn't want to talk about her divorce, but that when asked what "the past five years taken out of her," she responded, "I mean, in some ways it's been the last decade. There's a lot I can't say. I think at the end of the day, even if you and a few people you love are the only people who know the truth of your life, what you fight for, or what you sacrifice, or what you've suffered, you come to be at peace with that, regardless of everything going on around you."

Elsewhere in her WSJ Magazine interview, Jolie was vague when speaking about her divorce and the effect it had on her and Pitt's six children. While talking about being at home a lot in recent years, she said, "We had to heal. There are things we needed to heal from." She also said that she hoped to move away from Los Angeles in the future and spend more of her time at the home she has in Cambodia. "It's part of what happened after my divorce. I lost the ability to live and travel as freely. I will move when I can," the Eternals actor said.

Pitt has also spoken out about the divorce in the past, but like Jolie, has not been direct. For instance, in a 2019 interview with NPR, he said, "A breakup of a family is certainly an eye-opener that as one—and I'm speaking in general again—but as one needs to understand, I had to understand my own culpability in that, and what can I do better. Because I don't want to go on like this."

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Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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