March 23, 2016 09:15 PM

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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