Nashville's Hayden Panettiere shared her battle with postpartum depression in the fall, and she now says that the honesty was a relief and, in the end, a gift.

The singer and actress walked the red carpet for the first time since her treatment for PPD on Sunday (Jan. 17) at the Critics' Choice Awards. For Panettiere, it was an enjoyable experience -- which hasn't been the case in a long time.

“It feels different for me because of things that I’ve gone through recently, over the last year,” Panettiere tells People“I’ve really gone, ‘You know what, I’ve been in this industry for so long, forget it!’ I’ve been hiding myself. Just putting out the smiling face, showing people this, and allowing that veil to come down — it’s like a weight off my shoulders.”

Panettiere welcomed her daughter Kaya Evdokia in December of 2014 with fiance Wladimir Klitschko. She has been vocal about the silence that surrounds PPD and about noting that, when postpartum depression is discussed, it's often a discussion filled with incorrect assumptions, including that PPD is insurmountable. Panettiere first revealed her own struggles during an appearance on Kelly and Michael -- though it wasn't something she'd planned on doing.

"We talked about it for a second," she recalls, "but it was just like a conversation, and I was like, ‘Why should I be ashamed or hide when it costs so much?’ It costs me so much to hide. It costs you so much to lie.”

Now, Panettiere is all for being vulnerable, even when it seems scary.

"I don’t need to be afraid of what people are going to think," she explains. "I saw how much people rallied behind me when I was honest, and I didn’t know that honesty could be such a gift.”

Panettiere is hopeful that her own bravery in making her painful struggle public will empower her daughter in the future.

“The only important thing to me is that I’m not causing myself pain and discomfort anymore, and I can be a strong woman for my daughter to look up to,” she says. “It would horrible for me to be going, ‘You can be whomever you want! You can do whatever you want in life!’ yet I was unable to follow the same words.”

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