Rosie O'Donnell: Leaving 'The View' Was Doctor's Orders

"I can't really fix [my personal problems] right away, but I can fix this," O'Donnell said

Photo: Mike Coppola/Getty

For Rosie O’Donnell, leaving The View was just what the doctor ordered.

The comedian suffered a near fatal heart attack in 2012 and has kept a firm eye on her health ever since. “My doctors were noticing that there was an uptick in my numbers since I started on the show,” the co-host of ABC’s The View told PEOPLE while premiering her new documentary Rosie O’Donnell: A Heartfelt Standup at the Athena Film Festival in New York on Saturday.

“It got a little bit worse right before the holidays, and my doctor was kind of concerned, so when I went back after the holiday break, she said to me, ‘You know, the stress level is too much,’ ” said O’Donnell, 52.

At that point, O’Donnell realized she had to eliminate whatever stress she could. “I’ve had a lot going on in my personal life that’s been very stressful. I have five kids, four of them teenagers, that’s a lot of my attention,” not to mention, the problems within her marriage to Michelle Rounds. “You know, Michelle and I are going through some hard stuff, and I can’t really fix those things right away, but I can fix this,” O’Donnell said.

She continued, “I listen to my doctors when they say, ‘We don’t know why you’re living.’ ”

Her costars Whoopi Goldberg, Rosie Perez and Nicolle Wallace didn’t have much to say when O’Donnell told them the news because well … she didn’t tell them.

“Actually they were told when it was released on Friday. We don’t shoot on Friday,” O’Donnell revealed. But they have all reached out to express their concern, including Goldberg, with whom O’Donnell is rumored to have tension.

“I’ve heard from everybody since then over the weekend. Everyone cares about each other, and nobody wants anyone to do anything that’s going to affect their health. They get it. They know, and it’s okay. Not everything works out as you planned.”

Though O’Donnell also confirmed that ABC has been supportive of her decision, her oldest son was less enthusiastic. “Parker loves coming to the show,” she said, “so he’s like, ‘Don’t quit it, man.’ And I’m like, ‘I’m not really quitting, I just can’t do it and maintain what I need to maintain,’ ” O’Donnell said.

The announcement of her departure has only intensified the attention toward her marital problems. While Rounds wasn’t initially on board with announcing the separation, O’Donnell insisted on being upfront.

“In this day and age, as Brian Williams knows, you can’t claim something’s true that’s not true,” she joked. “Anyone can go on Instagram and see that Michelle’s not in the house with me, it’s been since Thanksgiving, people are not idiots. I don’t want to lie and fabricate but we also needed some time for both of us to figure it out,” O’Donnell explained.

“Like most married couples I know, we are trying to figure it out,” she added. “And I love her very much as you can see, and she loves me as well. So what it can be and in what way, we’ll figure out.”

Rosie O’Donnell: A Heartfelt Standup premieres Feb. 14 at 10 p.m. ET on HBO.

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