Hannah Brown Reflects on the Past Year: 'I Wish I Would Have Protected My Heart a Little More'

"When I started this whole journey ... I realized very quickly it's either all or nothing with me," says the Bachelorette star

As 2019 comes to an end, Hannah Brown is looking back on the year that changed her life forever.

In PEOPLE’s exclusive sneak peek at ABC’s 9th annual year-end special The Year: 2019, which airs on Sunday, Brown, 25, reflects on the significant life changes she underwent, most notably her journey on The Bachelorette.

“I feel like a lot of people that have been in similar situations as I have, reality TV stars, you can make a packaged version of yourself if you want to — I just don’t work that way,” Brown says. “I can’t do it. I can’t pretend that I’m happy or pretend to get emotional when I’m not.”

“When I started this whole journey that this year has been, I realized very quickly it’s either all or nothing with me,” she admits. “I chose all, and sometimes I’m like, ‘Gosh dang it, why are you like that?!’ But then I have moments where people come up to me and they’re like, ‘Oh my God, I feel like I know you, you’re my friend!'”

“A lot of people, truly, if they’ve watched me and have been on this ride with me this year — you do know me,” she continues. “I haven’t tried to hold anything back.”

Hannah brown
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Brown acknowledges, however, that her authenticity on television has made life “difficult at times.”

“Sometimes, yeah, I wish I would have protected my heart a little more, absolutely,” she says. “But being able to have that human connection is so worth it I’m really proud of that.”

Brown began 2019 as a contestant Colton Underwood‘s season 23 of The Bachelor. After placing seventh, she was cast as the lead of The Bachelorette‘s 15th season.

She ultimately accepted a proposal from country singer Jed Wyatt on the show, but ended up calling off the engagement and dumping him on-camera up after learning that he allegedly had a girlfriend when he went on the show.

John Fleenor/ ABC

In August, Brown opened up in a lengthy Instagram post, admitting that she had been “struggling” following the end of the ABC series. Later that month, she was announced as one of the celebrities competing on season 28 of Dancing with the Stars.

The Alabama native went on to win the season with pro partner Alan Bersten in November, beating out fellow finalists Kel Mitchell, Ally Brooke, and Lauren Alaina. All four stars will participate in the upcoming Dancing with the Stars — Live Tour 2020, which kicks off in January.

Eric McCandless via Getty Images

However, Brown’s time on reality TV isn’t over just yet. The trailer for Peter Weber‘s season of The Bachelor teased a shocking reunion between the exes as Brown dropped in for a surprise visit. (Weber came in third on Brown’s season of The Bachelorette.)

“I’m making decisions for my heart,” Brown said in the clip. “Because I know there’s still something there. And I would do anything for a relationship.”

A press release revealed that Brown also returns to host a group date, where she explains to nine women that they will be revealing their most memorable sex stories and fantasies in front of a live audience.

“But what happens when Peter discovers a distraught Hannah backstage?” the release teased. “What she shares with him will leave them both as confused as ever. Do the two of them still have feelings for one another and share the same sizzling passion? Will Hannah join the group of women in the Bachelor mansion and continue to date Peter?”

“I was in love with Peter,” Brown told PEOPLE after deciding to end things with the charming pilot during the Bachelorette season finale in July. “I was pulled into different directions every other day. But I had to make a decision. I felt like my heart was broken.”

The Year: 2019 airs this Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.

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