"Looking back now, I just wish I would have owned it," the star tells PEOPLE about the decision to keep the abortion a secret, which she reveals in her new book, Hope, Grace, & Faith
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Leah Messer
Credit: Leah Messer/Instagram

Leah Messer’s memoir, Hope, Grace, & Faith, hits shelves on May 5, but it’s already making headlines.

In a candid interview with PEOPLE, the Teen Mom 2 star discusses one of the more shocking revelations in the book. In the season 4 premiere, she told fans that she’d suffered a miscarriage, but in actuality, she’d had an abortion. Now, the mom of three shares why she’s decided to come forward, eight years later, about that choice.

“I had very low self esteem at that point in my life and I 100 percent allowed others to control my decision making,” Messer, 28, tells PEOPLE about keeping the abortion a secret on the show. In the book, she writes that people in her circle — including her mom, Dawn — encouraged her to say she’d had a miscarriage after she revealed her hesitations about having a baby with then-fiancé Jeremy Calvert. (Dawn declined to comment about her daughter’s claims.)

“I truly, wholeheartedly felt like I convinced myself that that’s really what was happening,” Messer says about claiming to have a miscarriage.

MTV has not responded to PEOPLE’s request for comment.

Messer is the mother of three daughters: 10-year-old twins Aliannah and Aleeah with ex Corey Simms, and 7-year-old Adalynn with ex Jeremy Calvert. The star’s romantic ups and downs, as well as her struggles as a young mom, have been caught on camera since 2010. Never did Messer feel the burden of the spotlight more than when she got pregnant for the second time in 2012, a year before her youngest daughter was born.

Leah messer
Credit: About to Snap Photography/ Holly Aldridge

Messer was still dealing with her feelings for Simms (the father of her twins) when she learned that she was pregnant with Calvert’s baby. She and Calvert struggled with news of the pregnancy and, following conversations with her mom and another person in her circle, Messer decided to take abortion pills, she writes in the book. After Messer called Teen Mom 2 producers to tell them she had “lost the baby,” her distress over what she said at the time was a miscarriage — but was actually the painful aftermath of an abortion —was caught on film. (See below for PEOPLE’s excerpt of the scene in which Messer opens up about the abortion.)

“Looking back now, I just wish I would have owned it. I wish I would’ve owned what was going on,” she says. “[I wish I hadn’t been] fearful of what everyone was going to say … but I’m not going to dwell on the decision I made at that time. I’m going to rise above the decision I made and learn from that experience.”

For Messer, taking control of her story has been an empowering and healing experience.

“At the end of the day, if I was going to own my story and own my truth, I was going to own it all,” she says. “That was the whole purpose behind the writing process, the passion behind my book, all the drive that I had behind it. [I wanted to] open up and allow others to see all the imperfections, because it’s okay. We’re perfectly imperfect and we get to embrace every imperfection that comes our way, all the adversity, no matter what.”

Leah messer
The star with her daughters
| Credit: About to Snap Photography/ Holly Aldridge

Messer’s painful decision is just one of many difficult moments from her past that she revisits in Hope, Grace, & Faith. She also gets candid about her struggles with her parents and opens up about her frightening journey to diagnose and then manage her daughter Ali’s rare form of muscular dystrophy. The star also shares her struggles with pain pills, which she became addicted to after she was prescribed them to manage back pain following the birth of Adalynn in 2013.

In the book, Messer writes that her guilt over Ali’s struggles and her devastation over the end of her marriage to Calvert (they divorced in 2015) led to suicidal thoughts while she was driving alone in her car. At one point, she writes that she thought about driving over a cliff. The frightening incident pushed Messer to attend a month-long drug treatment program, after encouragement from her producer.

“It was so scary because I just didn’t feel worthy enough. I didn’t feel that I was good enough to be their mom,” Messer explains. “It was definitely a turning point for me when I realized that I was legit trying to take my own life. The car was going so fast and I was watching it and I was so angry. That was it for me. That’s when I realized like, ‘All right, Leah, you’ve got to do something.'”

RELATED VIDEO: Teen Mom 2 Star Leah Messer Shares Heartbreaking Question Daughter Ali Asked Her

The star is now sober and hopes that by claiming her full story, she’ll help others.

“I want my supporters and viewers to see me for who I truly am. I feel like there’s this misconception of me, ‘Oh, she was 17 and pregnant.’ It was portrayed like, ‘She was a cheerleader. She had everything planned out for her,'” Messer tells PEOPLE of her appearance on MTV’s 16 and Pregnant and why she decided to write her memoir. “But there was so much more to my story and my life that the viewers hadn’t seen. I wanted to open up and inspire others who may be going through the same thing.”

Now single, Messer says that writing Hope, Grace, & Faith has helped her understand past decisions, many of which were rooted in low self-worth.

“I didn’t realize what loving myself was,” she says. “[Loving myself] got me out of codependent relationships. Now, I’m okay with being alone and living my life and being the mother and the woman that I was meant to be.”

Leah messer
Leah Messer

Keep reading for more from Hope, Grace, & Faith.

We had already finished filming for that season so I thought at least I wouldn’t have to film about it, but when I called the producers that night to tell them I had lost the baby, they said they were sending a film crew out to my house to film the miscarriage for the show. When they showed up the next morning I was still cramping and bleeding heavily. I had barely processed what had happened, and I was genuinely heartbroken because I had convinced myself I had given up the only boy I would ever have. I hated myself for the lie, but I was in so deep there was no turning back.

I can look back now without regret, but for the longest time, I wasn’t okay with the choice I had made. It felt so dark because it was hidden. I wasn’t able to talk publicly or privately about it because I let the people who were closest to me at the time convince me that it was something I needed to hide. It wasn’t until I was finally able to bring myself to tell Jeremy what had really happened that I started to realize that as long as I was living with the lie it would keep eating away at me. I carried the pain and the guilt around with me for years, until I finally got to the point where I could hold myself accountable for my choices without punishing myself for them.

Published by permission of Post Hill Press, LLC.

Hope, Grace, & Faith is on sale now.