Every morning as I get ready for work I am faced with past mistakes looking back at me through the bathroom mirror. The scars leftover on my body burn into my sides as I curl on my mascara. Never did I think I would be in the situation I am in now; in fact, I always thought I’d end up quite the opposite. By not protecting myself I ended up losing a piece of my identity almost indefinitely. I sometimes feel traces of the disease and him leftover like marks on my skin. The shame I feel is overwhelming. I’m angry.

After it was all said and done my doctor pulled me aside gingerly to explain the importance of being safe. He advised me to protect myself against boys until I found one who I did not feel I needed to be protected from. I’ve always considered myself somewhat of a closed shell, harder to crack than most yet seemingly always open. It’s openness that can ruin a person. These past few months as I’ve been going through the motions, my doctor’s advice keeps ringing through my head. I often question what it means to meet someone who you can organically open up to, not being afraid to break from the pressure. I am in a situation much like many others yet feel alone and lost when it comes to searching for comfort. Nothing is more frustrating than reaching out for a lifeline only to receive judgment and confusion from the other end. There is little less embarrassing than inappropriate outbursts of self-pity. I am not writing because I am sad, but rather I’m writing to prevent what happened to me from happening to anyone who reads this.

A year ago I contracted chlamydia from a summer fling, which I mistook for something real. I trusted him; he made me feel safe and secure, so naturally I did not think to argue when he suggested we skip protection. I thought I was so lucky to be with him and I wanted nothing more than to stand out among all of his past sexual partners. I should have known what I was giving up. For a few months everything was fine but then I felt a simple pain in my side while I was out for a run. After a few days the pain still lingered as my fever grew.  I was admitted into the hospital and told that I probably had appendicitis.

In a twist of fate my summer fling decided to end things while I was in the hospital. I give him credit for sending me flowers, though  the last thing he complained about was how much money he had spent on them. After days of tests they released me, only having found a few less than harmful ovarian cysts, which birth control was prescribed for.  I bled for four months. The bleeding was so severe that I actually had to go back to the hospital for loss of blood. Nothing helped, and after changing birth control for the fourth time, I was still bleeding and the cysts were more present than ever. My doctor decided that it was time for a minor invasive surgery called laproscopy.

I remember waking up in the recovery room with my doctor looming overhead. This is when he told me I only had one fallopian tube left with the other severely damaged. It wasn’t until after a few weeks of an excruciating healing process that I went back for my follow-up. That’s when I learned that having children naturally probably is not in the cards for me due to my own careless decision. My summer fling had given me chlamydia, the disease that tore through my reproductive organs like a razor leaving scars and blocks in all of the wrong places. My fallopian tubes and ovaries were stuck up against my pelvic walls, the tubes filled like cement with scars.

This past year has been the most difficult of my life, and I have to admit I’ve had dark moments where I questioned what the point of it all is. It had always been my dream to have children, but now at the age of 23 I realize these are children I may never meet outside of my own imagination. I am filled with anger and shame. But with all of this, after a year I am slowly starting to see past these surface feelings into those of hopefulness and compassion. I have forgiven my summer fling, even though he has no idea what he did to me. But more importantly, after a great deal of understanding, I have finally forgiven myself.

This post was written by guest blogger Erin McArdle for STD Awareness month.