My Secret Sickness: Breaking the Silence of Girls Who Struggle with Porn

When I was in seventh grade, I had this weird looking fingernail. It was crooked and bumpy and I thought it was the most embarrassing thing in the whole world. I didn’t want people to see it and think that I was gross or weird, so I covered it up.

For a good year or so, I kept a band-aid on my finger to cover up my weird fingernail, and it worked. No one knew about my fingernail. It just looked like I had a constant paper cut problem. However, the band-aid did not fix my fingernail. In fact, it made it worse. At some point, my finger became infected because the constant band-aids were suffocating it.

It was awful.

My already freaky fingernail turned green and it was so painful that I ended up in the doctor’s office. He looked at my finger and put me on an anti-biotic. I was so relieved… the anti-biotic would make the infection go away, and no one would ever know about my freaky looking finger.

My relief was premature, however. An essential part of the healing process was to allow my finger to breathe… which meant no more band-aid. Everyone would be able to see what I’d been hiding so long — my embarrassing (and now green) fingernail.

Porn and the Good, Catholic Girl

Fast forward 7 years to sophomore year of college. My freaky fingernail was no longer green or weird-looking (thank goodness).

However, the band-aid strategy was not gone. The wound I was covering up this time, however, was not external. It was much more severe and painful than my freaky fingernail had ever been. It made me feel like more of a freak than a whole hand of green fingernails ever could have. I, the girl with a reputation for being a model Catholic — had been struggling with masturbation and pornography for years.

My friends thought that I was perfect, the picture of a good Catholic girl, but I knew that I was not. I knew my sin. I felt alone. And I was determined to never let anyone else find out.

Secrets Keep You Sick

My new band-aid was secrecy and silence. I did not tell anyone about the sins that I struggled with. Even my closest friends did not know. I refused to show anyone my weaknesses and wounds, no matter how much I trusted them or knew that they loved me.

The only people who had ever known were the priests I had confessed it to, and even in the sacred space of Confession, I tried to cover it up as best as I could. I would seek out priests from far away parishes I would never see again, I would sugarcoat the sins as I confessed them, and I would go as long as I possibly could without speaking them out loud.

This secrecy only exacerbated the problem. You see, secrecy is a catalyst of shame. Keeping our brokenness inside only breaks us more. In my situation, not speaking of my wounds left me thinking that I was the only girl who struggled with pornography and masturbation. It made me isolated, anxious, and afraid. I was determined, however, to keep my struggle private.

As with my ill-fated fingernail, however, that plan fell apart. I did not need a band-aid; I needed the Divine Physician. He alone could heal my heart, but His prescription was not an easy one. Just like my finger could only heal if it was not covered up, healing had to begin with vulnerability and telling others what I had kept hidden for so long.

When I realized that, I was terrified. How was I supposed to tell people about this struggle? I didn’t want people to see me differently. I knew that I had to break my secrecy, but I did not know how or with whom. I turned to prayer, and pleaded that God either reconsider this method of healing or bring me someone who could help me.

Healing Through Vulnerability

I’ve found time and time again that God takes our sincere prayers and responds to them more generously than we could have ever imagined. This was no exception. He provided me with two friends that I was able to confide in, and who understood from their own experiences (much to my surprise) the struggles I was going through.

He gave me a spiritual director who listened patiently as I poured out my heart, and then made sure I understood the power and reality of God’s love for me, despite any mistakes I had made, and helped me to move forward fearlessly. Out in the light, my brokenness finally began to heal.

Sin and shame convince us that we are bad, we are alone, and we cannot do anything to fix that. I bought into those lies for 4 long years, and I want to tell you right now that they are not true.

Instead, I want to tell you these three truths:

1. You are not bad.

Sin is bad. You are not the sins that you commit. Shame will try to tell you that your choices define you. I come to you with news of great joy…in his death for you on the cross, Jesus sent that lie down to the fiery pit where it belongs. You are not bad. You are good. You are beautiful. You are beloved. You are made in the image and likeness of God, and you are loved more than you can even begin to fathom.

I think St. John Paul II says it perfectly: “We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures. We are the sum of the Father’s love for us and our real capacity to become the image of his Son.”

2. You are not alone.

I never expected that my two friends would have shared the same sins that I struggled with. One of the most painful scourges shame hit me with was that I was the only girl who struggled with masturbation and pornography. It isn’t really talked about. I knew that boys struggled with those sins, but I had never heard a talk or presentation from a woman who did. (Here’s one I recently found from Audrey Assad)

Isolation is one of the most difficult forms of shame to overcome, especially with the sins of pornography and masturbation. It makes us feel like we are freaks, warped, alone. When I revealed to my spiritual director what I was struggling with, he asked why I was so ashamed. I told him, “Girls don’t struggle with this.”

This kind, older priest looked at me, raised an eyebrow, and said, “They don’t? I’ve been a priest for a long time. I’ve talked to a lot of people. I’ve heard a lot of confessions. You are not alone.”

3. There is hope.

There is nothing that cannot be fixed if we are willing to place it in the hands of Christ. I am not saying that it’s going to be easy. I am not saying that it is going to be comfortable. I am, however, saying that it will be worth it.

Brokenness is merely the entry point for grace, and grace wins every time. Our sin loses its power when it is brought into the light. If you haven’t gone to Confession, go. Do not let shame hold you hostage. Let grace break your chains and set you free.

I know how difficult it is to bring our wounds out into the light. For my sisters in Christ struggling with masturbation and/or pornography, know that I will be praying a rosary for you every day, that you might have the strength to bring shame to the light and let the power of Christ’s love heal your every wound.

Resources to check out:

  1. Shame vs. Guilt: Their Meanings and How You Can Heal
  3. How to Quit Porn
  4. Get 30 days free of this awesome filtering and accountability software!