Our hardships are meant to be shared so others don’t have to suffer as much.
This isn’t a story I thought I’d ever tell my friends or family, let alone strangers on the internet. Even writing it right now still makes me want to crap my pants to a degree.
But one of my favorite sentiments to remind myself of is that our experiences happen to us because we’re meant to share them — to learn from them, to use them as a catalyst to prevent others from going through the same pain we did, and to empower everyone (including ourselves) to not feel so alone in our experiences.
Plus, I’m fortunately in a place today where I don’t feel shame over this situation, although that wasn’t always the case.
In fact, for seven years of my life, I felt so much guilt over this one single situation that I ran myself into the ground, beat myself up mentally, physically, and emotionally, and withheld myself from pretty much all pleasure and joy.
And that’s exactly why I’m sharing it.
Because I don’t want any other woman to put herself through the mental anguish I did for having a human experience that impacts nearly 1 in 4 women, while at the same time advocating for change to our Sex Education system, which is where this circumstance could have potentially been prevented.
Sex Ed failed me. I did everything 'right' and still f*cked up because I wasn’t properly educated.
When I was 16, I got pregnant and had an abortion less than 6 months after losing my virginity. I was taking birth control at the time (though clearly not correctly), and my boyfriend and I were using protection (though clearly not correctly).
When I started taking birth control, it wasn’t well communicated to me by my OB/GYN that I had to take my progesterone-only “mini-pill” at the same exact time every single day for it to be effective, so I casually took it whenever or “around the same time."
And when a condom broke while my boyfriend and I were having sex, we didn’t fully understand how big of a deal that was.
At the time, I was a straight-A student, multi-sport varsity athlete, and queen of perfection by my own standards. I never saw myself as the “type of person” who would end up in this situation. In my mind, I had done everything right; and yet, this horrific situation still landed in my lap.
I still vividly remember sitting in my car after testing positive on five different pregnancy tests. I cried the hardest I’ve ever cried, silently berating myself with, “This isn’t your life," "This was supposed to happen to someone else,” “You’re going to college,” “How could you be so f*cking stupid?” and everything in between.
I blamed myself for it all: having sex in the first place, thinking it was okay to be vulnerable with someone else, putting my guard down, and the list goes on.
I knew immediately there was no other option than to end the pregnancy because of all of the goals I had and the future I envisioned for myself, but when I walked in and out of Planned Parenthood, I felt like the world was glaring at me.
And when I had my medical abortion at home, I apologized for almost every minute of that 48 hours to the life I realized I was ending to preserve my own.
I extended my own suffering by drowning myself in a shame spiral for seven years.
But the apologizing and the shame didn’t end there. It would come and go in waves over the next several years, depending on what kind of external distraction I had going on at the time.
It wasn’t until I was 23, a year out of college, and in the worst mental and physical state of my life that I realized I had to stop abusing myself over this one decision and mistake.
There was so much more to this “mistake” and my inability to forgive myself.
I didn’t know my body at all (and never did) despite studying Health & Human Science in college with the goal of eventually becoming a doctor.
I wasn’t the only person who had ever gone through this (1 in 4 women will have an abortion at some point in their lifetime).
Sex Ed taught me nothing about birth control, sex, mental health, relationships, communication with partners, my own reproductive health and menstrual cycle, and so much more.
There was actually something I could do in the future to help others not experience the same hell I put myself through.
Most importantly, by not addressing this situation head-on and trying to push it deeper and deeper until the rug, I actually did 10x more damage to my body and mind in the long run.
Just because someone is “thriving” by societal standards doesn’t mean they are on the inside.
I went deeper into my drive for perfection to prove I was “so much better” than this one mistake I had made — that, mind you, pretty much no one knew about at the time.
I went into full-blown “Type-A, control freak mode,” as I like to call it now. I became more anal with my grades, more determined to get into the top 2% of colleges, more driven to be the best athlete, and more obsessive with things like food and exercise to help me get there.
And the thing is: I did reach my goals, despite my destructive coping behaviors. I got into my dream college, walked onto a D-1 sport with no prior experience, made a varsity boat within 6 months of learning how to row, and graduated magna cum laude.
But I wasn’t happy or healthy after achieving any of it. In fact, I was the exact opposite.
My stress and anxiety over my high school abortion and my obsession with being a “high performer” (to combat the inner voice that told me I was a terrible person) manifested itself as never-ending stomach issues, workaholism, irritability, inability to engage in another intimate relationship, not being the kindest person, not being a great friend or family member at times, trust issues, an exercise obsession, disordered eating, binge drinking, and more.
I lost my period and injured my back from overtraining in college as a rower, lost a bunch of weight after battling my stress-rooted stomach issues, and dug my mental health into a massive hole.
So yes, one could say my version of coping wasn't great.
No one should ever have to feel shame about their human experience.
The silver lining to all of this is that it doesn’t have to be this way for others. And it shouldn’t.
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Mistakes are inevitable and part of how we grow. Perfection is a myth we all chase despite knowing it’s impossible to attain.
Life is not always rainbows and butterflies. By simply being alive, we’re signing up for daily obstacles. And every single person on this planet has been impacted by some version of trauma.
Yet, that’s not what we’re sold.
The reality is that we, as modern people, are all going through some version of our own personal hell. And women in particular are struggling with obscure and chronic health issues like infertility, PCOS, autoimmunity, endometriosis, and hormonal irregularities more than ever before.
But the absolute last thing we want to do to ourselves when we’re struggling with something is to further demonize ourselves because that only amplifies the pain.
That's why I’m so excited about Rescripted's mission and the launch of The State of Sex Ed report, as well as my new weekly email newsletter, Sex Ed, Rescripted.
Rescripted is building modern Sex Ed so people don’t have to DIY their body literacy.
In Sex Ed, we learn how to abstain from sex; yet, we don’t get a lick of insight into how our bodies actually work, how to leverage and feel empowered over them, or how to embrace the aspects of our bodies that make us who we are.
As young women, we actually leave Sex Ed feeling more shame about our bodies than understanding. And when we don’t know our bodies and minds, we can’t get ahead of our health, know when something’s off, advocate for ourselves, nourish our mental health, or live the most fulfilling life possible.
The State of Sex Ed is a data report that captures responses from 1,000 of our community members about what they learned in Sex Ed, what they didn’t, what they know about their bodies and the bodies of others, and what they don’t. And the findings, while not necessarily surprising, are staggering.
To download the full report and be entered to win over $16K in women's health prizes (including a free egg-freezing cycle!), click here.
You'll also get access to our new email newsletter Sex Ed, Rescripted — your weekly download on everything you should’ve learned in Sex Ed but didn’t, or the voice of reason in the Wild West of health misinformation on the internet.
We hope you’ll join us in rescripting the Sex Education experience for people of all ages.
It’s never too late, or too early, to get educated and empowered over your own anatomy. And if you care about your mental and physical health outcomes for today and 30 years into the future, you just may want to.
Caroline McMorrow is Rescripted's Content Manager.