She’s come so far. Orange is the New Black actress Jackie Cruz revealed in a recent interview with People that she was in a terrible car accident as a teenager — one that nearly killed her. She was so badly injured in the crash that she explained, “Looking at myself in the mirror, not like recognizing myself, was scary. I wanted to commit suicide at the time because all I ever wanted was to be an actress and a singer and I grew up just watching beautiful people on TV and I just felt like that was it for me.” So heartbreaking.

Cruz, 32, revealed that she moved to Hollywood as a teenager with her single mother, and quickly fell in with a bad crowd. “I was a rebel at the time, and I just needed to experience. I saw things that a little girl shouldn’t really see at that age,” she explained. “I got a tattoo, I got my nose pierced, I got my belly button pierced. I was doing all these crazy things that I never did before.”

Before long, the actress had moved out of her mom’s place, and things went from bad to worse. She told the outlet that one time, while she was on her way to a concert, her friend began racing a car next to them. Cruz lost control of the wheel and — since she wasn’t wearing her seat belt — she was ejected 20 feet from the windshield. Her injuries were so bad she had to have emergency brain surgery.

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“They had to shave my head right away,” Cruz said. “I had a kidney contusion, a collapsed lung, and two broken vertebrae. So my eyes were crooked and my face was crooked, I couldn’t smile.” She ended up in a 72-hour coma and woke up from sedation two weeks later. When she did wake up, Cruz didn’t like what she saw. “It didn’t look like me anymore. I didn’t know who it was. I was very depressed and I tried to kill myself a few times with pills.”

Cruz went through a seven-month recovery period and is stronger than ever today. In 2007 she got her first role in The Shield, and within a few years, she landed the job of portraying Marisol “Flaca” Gonzales on the hit Netflix series Orange is the New Black. She told People, “I don’t regret anything … I’m so grateful to God that [it] acted and happened because I was really going in the wrong way of life and I feel like it was a slap in the face.” It’s really amazing that Jackie pulled herself out of that dark time — after all, what would OITNB fans do without Flaca?

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