The actress will reflect on her post-O.C. years on DWTS April 4.

By Patrick Gomez
Updated April 04, 2016 10:00 PM
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Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic

When Mischa Barton said goodbye to The O.C., she also said goodbye to Hollywood.

“I just got to this place where I needed space,” Barton tells PEOPLE of life after being killed off her hit Fox drama. “I needed to rediscover what I loved about being an actress because, at a certain point, I was robbed of the fun aspects by being that much under the microscope.”

She’d struggled with life in the spotlight for years. And after a DUI in 2007, the actress made a permanent move to London.

“It was one of those times that things culminated for better or worse,” she says. “So I moved to Europe and was able to take time and really explore who I was and who I wanted to be.”

“I needed that time for myself to really do that self-exploration and get back in touch with my roots,” says Barton, who enjoyed spending time with her “peers” as a student at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. “I just needed time to be me and be a regular person. That balance is important. I am nothing but happy to have had that time in my life.”

Now, as she honored that time in her life during Most Memorable Year week on Dancing with the Stars Monday, Barton – who was committed to a psych ward in 2009 after threatening to kill herself – says enough time has passed for her to look back with gratitude at her first years in Hollywood.

“I was 17 years old and fresh out of high school in New York when I got cast on The O.C.,” says Barton, who blogs about her DWTS experience exclusively for PEOPLE. “It was a huge time in my life and I’m grateful for it. Now, I can embrace it and be happy about it.”

Though Barton was eliminated on Monday’s DWTS, she said on-air she had no regrets, telling the crowd on-air: “It’s been a wonderful experience. It really has.”

Season 22 of Dancing with the Stars airs Mondays (at 8 p.m. ET) on ABC.