"For me to be dubbed the villain, it hurt," Ashley tells ET. "I started to think, you know, where did I go wrong, and what could I have done differently? I can certainly be blunt, and I can certainly… I have a sharp tongue, and I know how that can be misconstrued."
The 34-year-old registered nurse entered the world of Bravo’s Southern Charm with a bang on season five, making quite possibly the worst first impression in reality TV history. In the opening moments of last year’s premiere, Ashley told her then-boyfriend, Thomas Ravenel’s, ex, Kathryn Dennis, that she was "nothing but an egg donor."
"I did say some hurtful things," she admits. "My No. 1 regret is saying those things to Kathryn. My regret is not keeping my mouth shut. My regret is letting my feelings get the best of me, and reacting without thinking. Sitting on those feelings. My regret is saying those things in front of a large group, not pulling her aside and talking to her, and explaining my feelings."
"I might have felt that way, but that wasn't -- that wasn't the time or place," she continues. "That wasn't the way to do it."
Kathryn and viewers last saw Ashley at season five’s reunion, where she looked drastically different from the woman they met on the show. She was rail-thin and gaunt. Looking back, Ashley calls her time with Thomas "the worst year of my life." Thomas is currently embattled in a number of legal issues, from a custody battle with Kathryn, to at least one civil suit and allegations of sexual misconduct, all of which he’s denied.
"It was dark, and it was really lonely," Ashley says of that time. "I lost a lot of weight. I wasn't taking care of myself mentally, and I felt that I had so much more that I wanted to say and to do."
"There was a lot of regrets, and a lot of things I wanted to do over," she recalls. "The more I tried to control that, or wish things were different, the worst -- the more of a toll it took on me. I suffered from depression, situational depression."
Ashley made her much anticipated return to Southern Charm in episode nine of season six, which aired last week. She says she made the choice to show up to a group event at Eliza Limehouse’s house "on a whim," in hopes of getting closure. Her last big encounter with the cast was at the reunion, where the consensus seemed to be, "Never show your face in Charleston, South Carolina, again, Ashley."
'Southern Charm' Cast Sounds Off on Ashley's Return
"I didn't wanna look back and say, what if?" she shares. "How would things have been different had I tried? What if things went well?"
At this point, Ashley had started to distance herself from Thomas, who was no longer a cast member of the show, and, she says, made the decision to move out of Charleston, back to her hometown of Santa Barbara, California. However, she didn’t officially call it quits with Thomas until February 2019, when she made the move. That was a couple of months after she showed up at Eliza’s party.
"I was gonna start the process of asking for people's forgiveness," she says. "I wanted them to see that I was trying, and that I was trying to be a better person, and that I had worked on myself."
"I was an optimist," she adds. "And some people say I'm delusional for thinking that way, but I always think, how would I want someone to treat me? So I thought, maybe they’re gonna put themselves in my position and just listen to me."
Ashley, as expected, received a cold response from the group upon her arrival, which she confesses put her in a bad headspace that resulted in her less-than-stellar conversations with them.
"Did I feel like I owed them an apology? No," she admits. "I owed Kathryn an apology, but everyone was saying that, in order to get to Kathryn, I'd have to speak with them. I didn't really understand that, but I thought, whatever I need to do, I'll try that if that helps."
"They never wanted to be my friend to begin with, that's the truth," she claims. "But I dug myself a deep grave that I just thought I had to try to make them understand."
The 'Charmers' called Ashley out for her off-camera behavior at the party, including a run-in with Naomie Olindo that allegedly ended with Ashley calling Naomie a "b***h." They also brought up some social media comments, in which Ashley referred to the cast as "a bunch of losers." She claims that, had she known she’d have an opportunity to talk things out with this group, she would’ve never posted negatively about them online.
"That would be my luck that, you know, just a few weeks after me making that comment, that I go to the party," she says. "So, I was screwed."
"I wish one of them had said, what led you to feel that way?" she continues. "You know, why did you feel that way? So they could better understand. I'm not saying that I'm right, I'm just saying that I have feelings, too, and I reacted!"
"I remember in that moment thinking, I don't have a chance, you know?" she shares. "I definitely get myself in trouble with the words that I use."
In one particularly cringey moment, Ashley told a friend of the group, Madison Simon, to "keep your mouth shut," and attempted to explain how that phrase is different from "shut your mouth."
"I wanted to say a lot worse," she admits. "I was not thinking clearly … I was trying to backpedal, because I thought, 'Well, there goes my chance.'"
'Southern Charm' Cast Dishes on How the Show Works Without Thomas Ravenel (Exclusive)
Ashley admits she sometimes lives in a "fantasy land," where she envisions everything going perfectly, thinking about the outcome before she figures out how to get to that place. In hindsight, she says she wishes she had reached out to the cast members individually to make amends, rather than surprising them as a group, though she’s not sure those hypothetical meetings would’ve gone any better.
"I know that I made some mistakes, I said some hurtful things, and I had to pay the price, I'm still paying the price in a lot of ways," she notes. "It was a good life lesson for me."
Ashley says she still has a lot more to share, but it will take time to fully say her piece.
"[The biggest misconception about me is] that I’m evil, that I’m psychotic," she says. "That I, you know, need mental help. I mean I did, I got some help for the situational depression."
"I have a story to tell," she continues. "There's obviously more, legally, that I can't talk about. And I think that's the hardest thing."
"The truth always rises to the top," she adds. "It could take a few months, it could take a year, it could take two years, but it will come out. And I'm gonna be able to tell people, 'I told you so!' Yes, I'm gonna be able to say 'I told you so.'"