A surgical procedure in Russia

It's still hard for me to come to terms with the fact I had an abortion, though now its just over two years ago. I was working in Russia, and was in what I thought was a serious relationship with a Russian man. However, after we had been living together for some time, I discovered he had lied to me and was actually married to another woman. Immensely sad, I broke up with him straight away. However, a few weeks later, I found out I was pregnant with his child.

From the start, I knew I had to have an abortion

Although he tried to convince me to keep the child, he was not willing to get a divorce, and I didn't want to raise the child alone, especially since the child would quote likely not have the opportunity to know his/her father. I never got angry at him, and blamed myself for not being more careful when I was with him. I also, to some degree, blamed myself for not figuring out earlier that he was married.
I tried to stay calm as much as possible, and tried to focus on my (fairly stressful) job. My ex came with me to the hospital for the check-ups and tests beforehand and on the day of the abortion. I had no friends or colleagues in Russia that I felt I could confide in, and consequently he was the only person in the city where I lived who knew about my situation. I told one friend (who was back here in the UK) but have never told my family, or any other close friends.

Everyone sees me as someone who is very professional, competent and responsible

I was ashamed that I had gotten myself into such a situation. At the hospital it was obvious (due to my appearance and lack of Russian language skills) that I was a foreigner, and all the other ladies were staring at and talking about me. I was so scared that one of them might know one of my colleagues, and might tell them where they had seen me.
I had a surgical procedure and was in and out in about 15 minutes. There was no counselling, no advice as to how to take care of myself afterwards, nothing. After the procedure when I had just come out of the anaesthetic, the doctor showed me what they had extracted. I don't know if that happens in other countries, but I'll never forget the small mass of what looked like tissue and blood which was shown to me. Afterwards, I went straight back to work, and tried to ignore what had happened and the sadness I felt. Occasionally, I would run to the toilets and cry, but I never confessed to anyone what was going on.
I never saw my ex again, and just tried to suppress all the bad feelings associated with the event. I felt immense guilt, but could never discuss it with anyone. I couldn't bear to tell any other friends (although I doubt they would have been judgmental), and indeed since then I've lied about my abortion to friends, doctors and family. I couldn't even write about it in my diary for fear someone may one day read it.

This is the first time I've written about happened that day

In order to make up for the guilt I felt during the days, weeks and months following my abortion, I promised myself I would become a better person to "make up for it". I pushed myself in every area of my life and felt/feel that if I wasn't perfect (and who is?) that I wasn't good enough. I constantly worked overtime, and filled any non-work time with working out at the gym (in the hope that a perfect figure would help me find a better boyfriend next time!) and studying Russian. I had to be the best friend possible, had to give the best presentation at work, and expected myself to excel in areas that were far from my speciality. Every time I made one "mistake" (such an responding to an email a few days late, for example) I would criticize myself.
Being me became more and more tiring. Unsurprisingly, gradually over the past year, I've become more and more burnt out. I look back at my "life before the abortion" and remember how happy and confident I was back then. Since the abortion, I don't remember feeling happy, or even feeling like I was allowed to be happy after what I did. I just pushed myself more and more to study more, work more, learn more, all the while feeling miserable, worthless and empty. I couldn't understand why my current boyfriend would choose to be with someone like me and despite him telling me how amazing he thinks I am, and all the achievements I make, I still can't overcome the constant feeling that I'm simply not good enough because I made the (correct, I still believe) decision to terminate my pregnancy.

Editor's Comment

What you are describing is quite a common process for women who experience post abortion stress. Sometimes it is called 'atonement' and it features trying to make amends for what you have done. Some people throw themselves into voluntary work, or good causes, and self punishment and blame make you feel you are paying for what you have done. You do need help to understand what is happening and to work through this pain. Trying to 'make up for it' is like putting a sticking plaster over a festering wound. It won't heal up until you get to the root of the problem. You can call the national helpline 0300 4000 999, log on to Online advisor, or follow the link to find a centre for post abortion support in your area.

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