Jennie Garth's Family Crisis: 'I Had Six Months of Hell'

09/04/2008 at 06:45 AM EDT

Jennie Garth's Family Crisis: 'I Had Six Months of Hell'
Jennie Garth
Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty
Jennie Garth may be reprising her role as the stylish Kelly Taylor on the new 90210, but earlier this year, looks were the last thing on her mind.

"I had this six months of hell," the actress, 36, tells PEOPLE. "I had a sick daughter and then my father passed away, so there was a six month period in my life when I didn't think about my looks or my weight or my body or anything."

Fresh off her stint on Dancing With The Stars – and toned from months of 8-hour-a-day dance practices – Garth suddenly faced every mother's worst nightmare. Her 5-year-old daughter Lola, "got very sick and we didn't know what was wrong with her," says Garth, who has three girls with husband Peter Facinelli. "I was basically locked in a closet with her for three months."

Leaving all vanity behind, "I didn't exercise or eat healthy," she adds. "I had been a 27 in my jeans after Dancing With the Stars and I was so excited. But it really went back quickly. I definitely gained inches and a size."

Finally, doctors were able to diagnose her daughter's ailment. "It turned out to be a form of JRA [Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis] and we treated her and it's in remission," says Garth. "It was tough, but she's better now."

2007: Jennie Garth invites PEOPLE into her home
1992: Jennie hits it big in 90210!

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