Peter Kramer/AP
May 23, 2010 12:00 AM

Kelly Bensimon wants to be clear about one thing. She’s not crazy — and that wasn’t a nervous breakdown you saw on The Real Housewives of New York City Thursday, as she blew up at her costars during a trip to the Virgin Islands.

“It was a nervous breakthrough,” Bensimon tells PEOPLE in an exclusive interview appearing in next week’s issue.

“I learned don’t do it. Don’t be around who don’t like you. I will never engage them like that ever again. I learned my lesson, as should everyone.”

The lesson involved comes as a result of what Bensimon, 42, calls the group’s “systematic bullying” of her throughout the vacation, during which she and costars Ramona Singer, Alex McCord, Sonja Morgan and her former rival Bethenny Frankel were sequestered on a yacht.

“It was four against one. I go on this trip, I’m trying to be open. I have no expectations. I’m trying to be nice to these women who clearly don’t like me,” Bensimon says. “But the minute I got on the trip, they went after me. It was constant.”

Being away from her children Sea, 12, and Teddy, 9, was an added stressor. The isolated maritime setting didn’t help much either. “It’s an awkward position. Normally you’d be like, ‘I’m not dealing with this… I’m leaving,'” she says. “But this is not a situation where you can leave. You have to stay and you have to police them otherwise then you’re not a part of what’s going on and then they go off.”

But fans shouldn’t judge Bensimon based on this one episode. “This is me being a Housewife on a television show,” she says. “This is not me in my real life.”

For more information on the blow-up, including her ongoing feud with Bethenny, check out next week’s issue of PEOPLE.

— Charlotte Triggs

Peter Kramer/AP

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