When I was 15, I was at the top of my class and had a bright future ahead of me. I also had what I now know was an abusive boyfriend. At the time, I thought he was the best human who walked the Earth. He was my everything, but he was also systematically isolating me from my friends and family and undermining my confidence in myself.
When we started having sex (which was usually consensual, but not always) I only received rejection and anger at home from my family. My mom slapped me and called me a derogatory names. She told me I’d have to go to Planned Parenthood; for some reason she thought they would tell me to stop having sex. I cannot stress enough that at that point, nothing in the world would have stopped me from having sex with that guy. I was totally in love. Being with him was the most validated I had ever felt in my young life, especially as my family rejected me, and I went to great lengths to make it happen.
I was nervous, but I skipped school one day, walked four miles in the snow, and went to Planned Parenthood on my own. Instead of judging me, they treated me with respect and they gave me excellent health information and the tools I needed to stay safe, including birth control. Even though I had been going to a pediatrician regularly before this, Planned Parenthood was the first health care provider to ever detect my heart murmur. They gave me a referral to a cardiologist and I still visit a cardiologist regularly and keep track of symptoms.
Luckily for me, the boyfriend moved away and I later learned that several of the women he dated ended up getting pregnant because he tended to engage in risky and deceitful behavior. I was on-track to become one of them, but fortunately, I was in charge of my own birth control.
I ended up leaving home and starting college at 16 and grad school at 20, and this month, I’m finishing my PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience at one of the best research institutions in our country. I’ve published studies on how the brain processes reward, and my work informs our understanding of topics like decision-making, addiction, depression, and eating disorders. I love being a scientist, and am looking forward to a fulfilling career learning more about the brain. I hope to have kids one day, but I am very glad it didn’t happen when I was 15 and in those circumstances. I’m infinitely grateful for the high quality care I received when I was scared and didn’t have any support from friends or family.