Kristin Chenoweth Thought She Was ‘Going to Have to Retire’ Due to Her Chronic Migraine

Kristin Chenoweth Thought She Was 'Going to Have to Retire' Due to Her Chronic Migraine

Kristin Chenoweth was close to giving up on her award-winning career as she dealt with chronic migraine.

In an exclusive interview with PEOPLE, the Schmigadoon! star, 53, revealed she once thought she would be forced to step away from her career due to her chronic migraine, which is defined as at least 15 headache days a month.

“It was really bad in my 20s and 30s and what I began to understand is, as we do when time goes on, I need to be my own advocate,” she says. “So I started trying everything I knew. Everything any doctor would tell me, I tried it.”

But most didn’t work, Chenoweth says, and she started to think, “honestly, I’m going to have to retire.”

She kept working, though, even when chronic migraine took away from major achievements. Chenoweth recalls leaving the 2009 Emmys in an ambulance due to a “pounding” migraine after winning the prize for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for her role in Pushing Daisies.

“It really affected my life,” she says. “It prevented me from enjoying some great moments in my career, too.” 

“I remember when I won the Emmy, I went off stage and you know, we get all the paparazzi shots and I left by ambulance.”

Kristin Chenoweth publicity

Kristin Chenoweth publicity
Credit: John Russo

In her late 30s, Chenoweth — who partnered with AbbVie on their Center Stage for Chronic Migraine program — discovered that Botox for chronic migraine could help reduce her symptoms.

“I met a doctor who started working with me on this problem and he said, ‘Botox for chronic migraine, we’re going to do it,’ ” she says. “He did what I call little pinches, 30-31 pitches all over, … and within two months, I noticed a vast difference and then since then, I have not had to retire and I still get to do what I love to do.” 

She adds, “This is something that affected and changed my life and career.”

In addition to Botox, the actress also focuses on living a healthy lifestyle to help prevent migraine.

“Meditation, prayer, breathing exercises, being in a dark room. These are things that I have to do. I don’t drink a lot of alcohol. I watch my salt,” she says. “I do everything I can to prevent it.”

RELATED VIDEO: Idina Menzel Congratulates Ariana Grande, Cynthia Erivo on Wicked Casting News: ‘So Much Love’

The combination of Botox and her lifestyle choices allow Chenoweth to continue to do what she loves.

“I want to do what my passion is,” she shared. “I want to be here to run my Broadway bootcamp in my home state. I want to be there for the next role that’s going to challenge me. I want to mentor Ariana Grande. I want to be here. I want to be an encourager.”

Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE’s free weekly newsletter to get the biggest news of the week delivered to your inbox every Friday.

Chenworth also tells PEOPLE that she’s working on finding the right time for a wedding with her fiancé Josh Bryant, who says is “a caregiver.”

“I have been extremely busy, he’s been extremely busy and we’re just trying to talk and figure out when this is gonna happen,” she says. “So, we’re doing that.”