Real Housewives of Dallas star LeeAnne Locken tells PEOPLE about her health battle with a flesh-eating bacteria and what fans can expect from season 2
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LeeAnne Locken did not enjoy watching herself on reality TV.

The 50-year-old actress and former Miss USA contestant may have become The Real Housewives of Dallas‘ season 1 breakout with her explosive temper and willingness to fight for what she believes in, but being the bad girl wasn’t nearly as fun for Locken as it was for fans eating up the drama at home.

“It was miserable, I’m not going to lie to you,” Locken tells PEOPLE, looking back. “I cried every day of filming, then I was stressed beyond stressed waiting for it to air, and then it aired and I didn’t have myself together because I knew that I was in the wrong.”

“No one in the city looks at me that way. They’re like, ‘Oh my God, LeeAnne’s the sweetest, LeeAnne will help anybody’ — I just don’t have that reputation here,” she continues. “So to have it on a national level? It injured my soul.”

The Real Housewives of Dallas - Season 2
Kameron Westcott, D’Andra Callway Simmons, Brandi Redmond, Carey Deuber, Stephanie Hollman, and LeeAnne Locken
| Credit: Michael Larsen/F. Scott Schafer/Bravo

Broken and beaten up on social media, Locken made a choice to go to therapy and change.

“Was I disappointed in myself? Did I beat myself up about it and torture myself about it daily? Yes — until I realized I needed help so I don’t repeat my mistakes,” she explains. “I said, ”I can get bitter or I can better.’ And I decided to make the bad parts better. I’m truly a person who believes in self-growth every day. And it’s nice to elevate my core — my authenticity and honesty — and to suffocate all that external crap.”

Coming back for season 2, Locken had a whole new attitude. “The exact words I used were, ‘You can’t make me look any worse, so let’s do it!” she recalls. “I’ve pretty much been an ass on camera. But filming [this time] was so much different and so much better. I love to be funny, I love to be witty, I love to have fun — and you get to see that this time around.”

LeeAnne Locken
| Credit: Charles Sykes/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

It wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns. In early December, during a break between filming, Locken contracted a flesh-eating bacteria that left her in excruciating pain. Nine months later, she says her internal injuries are “just starting to recover.”

“It was the worst health scare I’ve ever had in my entire life,” she says. “It took me three months to kill that thing. I was sleeping 18 hours a day, I couldn’t get out of bed. My veins were collapsing from dehydration. I was at the doctor three times a week. I had to shower twice a day and dry off with a sponge. And took topical and oral medication daily. It was just an exhausting experience. I knew it was not right the second I got it, but I couldn’t have imagined how bad it would be.”

The show will document her health battle as well as the motivational speaking gigs she leads, which — like her inspirational daily blog — she hopes will empowering and promote women to value themselves. “If you value yourself, you’re not going to let someone else talk down on you,” Locken says. “And then you leave the situation before you let yourself get caught in the trap of ‘This is my life, breaking your self-esteem down every day.’ I know because I’ve been there. More times than I’ve liked to count.”

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And for those fans looking for a little bit of the old Locken, well, the reality star promises she peaks her head out now and then — like in one scene shown in the season 2 trailer in which she smashes a glass and gets in the face of one of her costars.

“Look, I’m human,” Locken says, in her defense. “I have my moments. The only perfect person to ever walk the planet is Jesus, and I’m going to tell you now — I am nowhere near His level. So if you’re looking for perfection from me? Sweetie I graduated from pageants a log time ago.”

“I’ve made it fairly obvious season 1 how I feel about bulls— and lies. And when you sit there and deflect and talk s— and lie about me to my face, you’re kind of asking for it,” she says. “If you’re still poking the bear, don’t blame me when the bear eats your damn head off. That’s not my fault!”

The Real Housewives of Dallas airs Mondays (10 p.m. ET) on Bravo.