Hayden Panettiere on Recovering from Postpartum Depression: ‘It’s Okay to Ask for Help’

03/23/2016 at 09:15 PM ET

Hayden Panettiere
Todd Williamson/Getty

Since recovering from her own struggle with postpartum depression after seeking professional treatment, Hayden Panettiere wants to let other mothers know that taking the first step towards health is nothing to be ashamed of.

“The biggest message that I’ve been trying to promote for women is that it’s okay to ask for help,” the Nashville star, 26, told PEOPLE recently on the set of her Carl’s Jr. commercial. “You feel mommy guilt — it’s for real.”

Panettiere — who gave birth to daughter Kaya Evdokia in December 2014 — knows that many moms can judge themselves too harshly for their perceived shortcomings.

“It’s like being in a tunnel,” she said. “You can’t even remember when you felt good. You try and think back to when you felt good, when you felt positive, when you felt happy, and you can’t. All you see is this enveloping darkness.”

Going public with her battle and recovery has helped the actress to move past those feelings.

“I’ve just been trying to be much more open and honest about who I am,” says Panettiere. “I’m 26 years old, I’m an adult, and [I don’t] have to falsify who I am.”

For more of Panettiere’s interview on postpartum depression and how she moved on, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.

–Gabrielle Olya

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Sabrina on

Love Hayden and appreciate her truth. This is such a common struggle that many new moms deal with and it’s important that we share our stories instead of dealing with these feelings alone. She makes me want to be brave like her.

Keepitreal on

I admire you and am so proud of you for being real! There is always tommorrow, if you can’t enjoy today, accept that and look forward to tommorrow. Stay strong! Life is long! Survive! Good times and happiness will come your way when it is time!

Shavonne on

She already had HUGE emotional problems due being sexually abused as a child. She never even took care of her own baby when she was born. Her rehab was not just about postpartum depression.

Me on

And her chest is recovering from growing.

Brittney on

That sounds awful!!! I don’t understand post partum depression. Is it the hormones that do this?

Ash on

How do you figure she never took care of her child? What kind of garbage?

ash on

Chris, It’s long been rumored that Hayden’s mom put her in touch with the Hollywood madam when she was tiny (can’t recall the madam’s name or much of the story, but their relationship (insofar as friends/acquaintances/what have you) has been confirmed) and was put into the beds of SEVERAL powerful hollywood men.

sarah on

She is a very honest person. Good for her opening up about the postpartum and help other women to overcome the depression.

Anonymous on

Thank you so much for sharing this story! So many women suffer from this condition and I would like to offer my personal experience. My friend introduced me to Naam Yoga, because it helps the brain to release oxytocin and dopamine naturally which are feel good hormones. I feel like within the very first session I felt 80% better which of course made me want to do it every day. It is safe, natural and very effective. I hope anyone suffering from post partum depression will reach out to a Naam Yoga instructor for help. It isn’t meant to replace medical advice but it addresses the root of the problem, not just the symptoms!!!