"I Was Stuck in a Horrifying Nightmare” - Hayden Panettiere’s Untold Story
"Heroes" actress Hayden Panettiere bravely opens up about years of alcohol abuse, crippling postpartum depression, and, for the first time, reveals her truth about giving up custody of her only child. Special guest host and first time mom-to-be Kelly Osbourne joins the Table with a life-changing update about her addiction recovery and pregnancy journey.Posted by Red Table Talk on Tuesday, September 27, 2022
Panettiere says she was dealing with substance-abuse issues in 2018 when she gave up custody of her now-7-year-old daughter, Kaya, whom she shares with ex Wladimir Klitschko. She explains, "As mothers, as you know, sometimes we have to make decisions that weigh on us. I felt horribly guilty, but at the same time, I was trying to tell myself that, 'If I'm not OK, if I'm not good, then I cannot be the best mom to you.' And I was going through such a hard time that I knew the most unselfish thing that I could do was to make that hard decision and just try to work on myself."
Kaya was almost 3 years old when she went to live with Klitschko, a former boxing champion, in Ukraine. Panettiere has spoken about the decision previously, but now, she says, she doesn't feel like there was much of a discussion about Kaya's living situation before the custody arrangement was set.
"It wasn't a discussion," she says on "RTT." "If [Klitschko] had come to me and said, 'I think because of where you're at right now and your struggles that you're having, it would be good for her to be over here with me for a while' . . . I would've said, 'OK, that makes sense, I get it, I'll come there to visit.'"
For Panettiere, signing the papers that ultimately relinquished custody of her child was agonizing. "It was the worst, signing those papers, the most heartbreaking thing I've ever, ever had to do in my life," she says. The actor continues, "I was gonna go work on myself, I was gonna get better, and when I got better, then things would change and she could come to me and I could have my time with her, but that didn't happen. I thought she was going over to visit him like she always did . . . Once she was over there, it was immediately, 'I want full custody of her,' which was a shock to me."
She adds: "I understand that he thinks that he's doing the right thing. He's a fantastic father, he really is, but I don't think he fully grasps that as she gets older, it's going to — like, kids need their moms. I had never endangered her . . . In this country, they would never take a child from me, like it never would have happened. But I think that's why she was wanted over there, and once she was there, I was stuck between a rock and a hard place. I just tried to tell myself, 'You get yourself better. In time, it will change.'"
Panettiere has talked about her issues with alcoholism and drugs before. "I was on top of the world and I ruined it," Panettiere said in a July interview with People. "I'd think I hit rock bottom, but then there's that trap door that opens."
In the People interview, she also confessed that members of her team had started offering her drugs when she was just 15. "They were to make me peppy during interviews," she said. "I had no idea that this was not an appropriate thing, or what door that would open for me when it came to my addiction." Since then, she said, she has undergone trauma therapy and has had to "put a lot of work into myself" to heal. "I had to go several times to treatment," she says on "RTT."
At the time of the People interview, Panettiere said that she felt allowing Klitschko to have full custody was "the best thing for my daughter." She also said that she still had a good relationship with Kaya, who remains with her father. Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February, Panettiere wrote in a comment on Instagram that Kaya was "safe and not in Ukraine."
"Going through the situation between Ukraine and Russia has been really scary in so many ways. I had a conversation with her, I said, 'Your dad and your uncle are being amazingly brave, and they're trying to defend Ukraine,'" Panettiere says on "RTT," referring to Kaya's uncle Vitali Klitschko, the mayor of Kyiv. Panettiere adds that Kaya is still not back in the Ukraine, but she has flown out to visit her.
Watch Panettiere's full interview above.