06/23/2015 10:54 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Former 'Real Housewives' Star Taylor Armstrong: 'I Didn't Get To Be Myself'

When Taylor Armstrong appeared on "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills," her troubled relationship with her late husband Russell was a central part of her story. Parenting clashes, mounting tensions, allegations of abuse -- cameras captured it all. Then, after Russell took his own life in 2011, filming took an even more complex, emotional turn, with the former "Housewife" speaking pointedly about the alleged abuse in her marriage. Today, Taylor says she's found much-needed healing and, as she tells "Oprah: Where Are They Now -- Extra," has spent time reflecting on not just her relationships, but also on her experience filming a reality show.

While filming "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills," Taylor says that her true personality remained hidden. "The years that I filmed 'The Real Housewives,' I didn't get to be myself," she says. "I was just a shadow of a human being."

Taylor says that "Real Housewives" didn't capture her fun-loving side and other core aspects of her personality.

"I wish that people could see how much I love to laugh and how much fun I love to have, and that I have my own opinions," she says. "All of the things I [was] holding inside during those years are back."

In 2014, Taylor married attorney John Bluher. The relationship marked a powerful turning point for her.

"It's the first time in my life that I've been exactly who I want to be," she says. "I said to John when we got married, I said, 'I can't change anymore. You have to love me exactly the way that I am.' Because I changed so much... Now, I've actually become the girl that I wanted to be. And I'm going to stay there."

Their happy union, she adds, has taught her something very important. "I've come to realize that I deserve to be respected and cherished and loved," she says. "That's the most valuable lesson I could have learned."

Now, the 44-year-old says she's embraces being her true self.

"I laugh as loud as I want to now, I don't ever keep my words to myself," Taylor says. "I get to be exactly who I want to be. Every day."

"Oprah: Where Are They Now -- Extra" is a digital series from the OWN show "Oprah: Where Are They Now?"

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