Actress Kristin Chenoweth is known for her big, strong voice, but in 2012 a set accident left the Broadway star in debilitating pain. To help break the stigma surrounding chronic pain, Chenoweth is breaking her silence. The Tony and Emmy award winner sat down with Fox News to talk about the condition that left her feeling ‘shameful’ and how others can overcome it.
Tony and Emmy award-winner Kristin Chenoweth is a self-proclaimed “doer.” She likes to create and stay busy, which is evident from her long list of upcoming projects — which include three musical specials, a movie and a holiday single, all coming out within two months of each other.
“I never stop. I don’t know how to. I can’t sleep. I create. I think, I write songs. But if I want to continue to do what I love, I have to take better care of myself,” Chenoweth told Fox News.
Chenoweth struggles with chronic pain. She’s dealt with the often debilitating and isolating condition ever since a 2012 accident on the set of “The Good Wife,” which left her unconscious and with a skull fracture, as well as a cracked nose and ribs, torn ligaments and an injured neck.
“Though I had pain before because I’m a performer, this is when my life really changed and I came to understand that chronic pain was real,” Chenoweth said.
Chenoweth performed with the iconic Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra in their annual Christmas concert.
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Chronic pain is defined as pain that lasts or recurs for longer than three months. According to the Centers for Disease and Prevention (CDC), 20 percent of Americans deal with some form of chronic pain.
To help end the stigma around chronic pain, Chenoweth teamed up with BioDelivery Sciences International and the This Is Pain campaign.
“I do live with chronic pain disease, and I want to shed light to people out there that suffer that, number one, it’s OK to talk about [it], because I didn’t. I didn’t want to tell my co-workers. I didn’t want anyone to think that I somehow had caused it,” Chenoweth said.
Chronic pain patients have struggled with social judgment for years. Similar to the stigma surrounding mental health, pain patients routinely hear criticisms like “It must be in your head” or “It can’t be that bad.”
That pain can be hard to describe for those who suffer from it, especially when the discomfort is chronic, and not immediately obvious to onlookers, according to an expert.
“When you talk about chronic pain patients, you have such a vast way that they could express what their pain is. I have patients that tell me that they have numb, tingling, burning, sharp, shooting, ants crawling, bee stings,” Dr. Marty Francis, a nurse practitioner and pain management expert, told Fox News.
Despite the sometimes-daily pain she experiences, Chenoweth said she has tried to hide her pain so people in the entertainment industry wouldn’t think she was unable to work or look at her like “a thoroughbred with a bum knee at a race.”
“I did find out who was that way, friends-wise and in the industry, who looked at me that way. But what it did was it whittled down the people that I found out that really cared,” Chenoweth said.
“This [campaign] has really given me the chance to talk about something that was so shameful for a while. But now for me, I want other people to know you’re not alone.”
Kristin Chenoweth stars alongside Scott Wolf in the holiday film “A Christmas Love Story” on the Hallmark Channel.
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One of the biggest challenges Chenoweth has with managing her chronic pain is figuring out a good work-life balance.
“The balance is what I’m working on right now, which means more sleep, and, unfortunately for me — because I love what I do — saying ‘no.’ Sometimes saying ‘no’ more than I’d like to,” Chenoweth said.
But you won’t see any less of the “Wicked” star just yet. Chenoweth will perform in a New Year’s Eve show at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in California, and is set to star in a new comedy series on Disney .
“It’s called ‘The Biggest Star in Appleton’ [and takes place in] Wisconsin… So imagine if I, Kristin Chenoweth had never left Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. And my biggest rival, who’d been to New York and sort of made it came back home, and what that would look like, because this person was the star in her town and now the rival has come home,” Chenoweth explained. “I like the premise because it’s two strong women, and I want to put something out there where women struggle, but they get through it.”