settles into a chair, adjusts her messy bun and exhales. "I've been doing a lot of deep breathing lately," she says. "I just feel like I held my breath for so long." Sitting on the sunny patio of the Los Angeles home she shares with husband Eddie Cibrian, the country singer reflects on the hard-fought happiness she's finally learning to enjoy. "I've grown up a lot these last five years," she says. "I thought my life was falling apart, but now everything is good."
Rimes admits that the recent tumult in her life was often self-inflicted. In 2009 she and Cibrian, 39, engaged in a highly publicized affair, which ended their respective marriages. "I made some really bad choices," she says. "I caused hurt." The songs on her new album Spitfire
, out June 4, chronicle the drama and include an apology to her ex-husband Dean Sheremet. "I broke the sweetest heart of the only man that's ever loved me," she laments in "What Have I Done." She shares the experience of being a mistress in "Borrowed" and offers an olive branch to a woman scorned in "Just a Girl Like You," which many will assume is aimed at Cibrian's ex Brandi Glanville. Rimes isn't out to change people's opinions about her. "I'm just sharing the truth and how I feel," she says. "I make mistakes like everyone else."
Last August—and a day after turning 30—Rimes checked herself into a treatment center for depression and anxiety. "I had been crying all day, staying in bed," Rimes explains. "I've had all eyes on me since I was 13, so there was a lot to sift through. I started dealing with emotions I had ignored." The self-imposed break was also a chance to come into her own. "I was afraid to be in the world alone," she adds. "There was always someone around—my parents, Dean, my bandmates, Eddie. I wanted to take care of myself."
After a month of intensive therapy, she found returning to normal life difficult. "It was an even darker time," she admits. From rumors about her weight to her ongoing feud with Glanville, Rimes was overwhelmed by the constant vitriol. "I listened to the negativity—people telling me I didn't deserve to be happy—instead of myself," she says. "Now I try to tune it out."
While she tries to stick to the high road, she's quick to address the louder "lies" she hears about herself. On her slim frame, Rimes offers an adamant explanation: "I look back and I think, 'I was small,' but I've never had an [eating] problem, and I can say that 100 percent confidently," she says. "But I was stressed, and some people gain weight, some people lose weight."
As for the future, she and Cibrian are excited about expanding their brood. "We have a lot of testosterone around here," she says with a laugh, referring to her stepsons Mason, 10, and Jake, 6. "I would love to have a little girl!" Rimes will approach life's next curveball with renewed confidence: "I take the good with the bad now. I can roll with it."