March 07, 2016 01:15 PM

Hayden Panettiere is relieved that she’s been able to open up about her struggle with postpartum depression, but admits she was once scared of sharing her truth.

“I was always so terrified that people weren’t going to accept me,” the 26-year-old tells Yahoo! Style in a new interview of revealing that she had PPD.

“I finally just went, ‘I’m tired of living afraid. I’m tired of living in fear of what people are going to think, so, you know, I’m just going to put it all out there on the table and I’m not going to worry about the judgment.’ “

The Nashville actress — who shares daughter Kaya Evdokia, nearly 15 months, with fiancé Wladimir Klitschko — entered treatment last October, and was immediately “floored” by the outpouring of support she received.

“The more open I was, the more acceptance I got from people,” she told Yahoo!. “I got so much support and so much love.”

Doug Inglish

Doug Inglish

Panettiere added, “I feel much more exposed, yes, but in a great way.”

What the star doesn’t appreciate, however, is the sometimes negative stigma that surrounds PPD.

She says of critics: “It’s like you have no idea what you’re talking about. If you think for one second that a mother wants to feel that way toward her child, you’re outta your mind. It is one of the most debilitating, scary, guilty feelings that you can ever feel.”

Continuing, “That a mother would not be able to connect with their child, would not be able to get a grip, or would not know what’s going on, for anybody to say that it’s false or created by us, you must have your head examined.”

Doug Inglish

On top of her personal journey, Panettiere was also faced with her Nashville character’s own struggle with PPD — an unplanned coincidence. In fact, Juliette’s battle has extended past Panettiere’s own.

“It was strange having to throw myself back into that frame of mind,” she shared. “The way I do things is to pull from my own personal experience and sometimes even turn myself into what I’m portraying so that I can pull from my life and step into that person’s shoes by being able to relate.”

— Lindsay Kimble

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