Teen Mom's Leah Messer Discusses Suicidal Thoughts, Reveals Babysitter Abused Her in New Book
"Reliving those times was really hard, but it was also therapeutic for me," the Teen Mom 2 star tells PEOPLE about writing her book, Hope, Grace & Faith
Teen Mom 2 star Leah Messer is known for her candor— and she’s never been more real than now.
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. But in her upcoming memoir, Hope, Grace & Faith, Messer tells her own story for the first time, revealing painful moments from her past. The 28-year-old details being sexually abused by a babysitter when she was about 5 years old, her struggles before and after daughter Ali’s diagnosis of a rare form of muscular dystrophy, and how depression — coupled with an addiction to pain pills — led to suicidal thoughts.
“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 tells PEOPLE in an exclusive interview. “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.”
Below, Messer discusses the biggest bombshells from Hope, Grace & Faith, out May 5.
Messer considered driving off a cliff.
In Hope, Grace & Faith, the star opens up about becoming addicted to pills she’d been prescribed to manage back pain following the birth of Adalynn in 2013. Messer writes that her guilt over Ali’s struggles — and devastation over the end of her marriage to Calvert (they divorced in 2015) — led her to take a painkiller one day in 2015 before jumping into her car. She then found herself driving down a hill in West Virginia, with her foot hard on the gas.
In the book, Messer writes that she could “barely see the road through the tears” and checked the backseat to make sure her girls weren’t with her. Her car got up to 110 mph.
“There’s a steep cliff off the side of the road just up ahead. It would be so easy to drive my car over the edge,” Messer writes. “Then it would all be over. No more worries. No more failure. No more pain… Everyone would be better off.”
Fortunately, Messer slowed down and pulled over.
“A lifetime of tears comes pouring out of the deepest part of my soul. I cry so hard I wonder if I’ll ever be able to stop,” she writes. “Then a thought cuts through the deafening static in my brain: My daughters need me.”
“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 tells PEOPLE of the incident. “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
She is now sober.
When Messer got home after the driving incident, she listened to a message waiting for her from Teen Mom 2‘s producer, Larry Musnik. He had seen alarming footage of her in the car and called to check on her, according to the book. Musnik had already been encouraging her to go to rehab. This time, Messer decided to listen to him, she writes. (MTV has not responded to PEOPLE’s request for comment.)
“I went to a facility in Arizona, it was here in Tucson. Best place that I’ve ever went to in my life,” Messer tells PEOPLE. “For me it felt like, as silly as it sounds, I didn’t go to college, so it felt like college for me. … It was a schedule, a routine, stability, structure. It was just so empowering for me going there.”
She adds: “There are different tracks that you can go to in a facility. For me, it was like laying that foundation for me to be the person that I am today.”
She was abused by her babysitter when she was a young girl.
In the book, Messer alleges that when she was 5 or 6 years old, her teenage babysitter touched her inappropriately. The abuse went on for six months, and Messer never told anyone, she writes.
“My mom didn’t understand why I screamed every time I went to the babysitter’s house. It was because I was being sexually abused there, and my mom, she didn’t have much support,” Messer tells PEOPLE. “Reliving those times was really hard, but it was also therapeutic for me. … I could go back and really truly allow myself to heal from the child abuse that I went through.”
Messer also writes about struggles with her parents, but she says that she now she’s on great terms with her mom, Dawn.
“My mom had started reading the book. It was really hard for her to read the book, but the relationship with my mom now is like, I finally have a mom that loves me. I finally feel like I have a mom that my kids can look up to for a grandma. It’s changed my entire family,” Messer says. “The other day my mom brought a gift, which I’m not used to being given, and I realized it’s okay to love yourself and accept gifts and accept acknowledgement. That has changed my entire dynamic. For that, I’ll forever be grateful. I would do it all over again to have the family that I finally have now.”
Her miscarriage on Teen Mom 2 was actually an abortion.
Eight years ago, Messer was still dealing with her feelings for Corey Simms (the father of her twins) when she learned that she was pregnant with then-fiancé Jeremy 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. (Dawn declined to comment on her daughter’s claims to PEOPLE.)
“Looking back now, I just wish I would have owned it. I wish I would’ve owned what was going on,” Messer 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.”
She is still frightened about her daughter’s health struggles.
At 4 years old, Ali was diagnosed with a rare form of muscular dystrophy, a genetic disease that causes progressive weakness and loss of muscle mass.
“It’s still scary because Ali is the research. The disease that she has is one in one million,” Messer says of coping with the 2014 diagnosis. “There’s not very many people that have it. And as she grows, we learn more about it.”
She continues: “The hardest part was it being unknown and being okay with it being unknown. It took me a while to get to that place where it’s like, it doesn’t matter. She’s so resilient. She’s so determined. Yes, she gets people staring, but she knows her worth. She knows what she’s capable of, and there’s nothing that’s going to stop her. But I think, honestly, the hardest part is just it being unknown and, as a mom, wanting to fix all of it and not being able to.”
Messer is on good terms with both of her ex-husbands— but isn’t romantically involved with either of them.
“Jeremy and I get along great. As I’ve allowed myself to discover who I want to be in my life, who I get to be and who I want to be, that relationship didn’t align with my life and who I am today,” Messer says. “Do we co-parent great? Yes. Jeremy is someone I can actually call and openly vent to. Does he have a big mouth? Yes. That’s Jeremy. Does Jeremy have a filter? No. But at the end of the day we get along great and we’re like friends… We have a really great co-parenting relationship and our daughter sees that. She’s happy and at the end of the day she is what matters.”
The star also opened up about her relationship with Corey Simms and his new wife, Miranda.
“Corey and I co-parent well. He’s so happy with his family. They’re beautiful. I mean, we did drive by [during the pandemic],” she says. “I drove the girls by just to wave at their dad, say hi to Miranda and their other sisters. We all get along really, really well.”
She adds: “Miranda and I have been talking more, we’ve been communicating more. The kids have little iPods. They’ll message. They call her Randa. They’ll message Miranda and they’ll message their dad at any given time. So really, we’ve all came such a long way.”
She’s done having kids.
“I wish it was a girl, but of course Kail is the perfect boy mom,” Messer says of Lowry’s news that she’s having another baby boy. “She brought so much light into my life. I think both of us leaned on each other at times we needed someone the most, and I love her.”
Messer has no plans to expand her own family.
“I am still perfectly content with my girl tribe. I don’t know if I really want to start all over,” Messer says. “We’re on this path. We’re on this journey together and they’re great kids.”
Hope, Grace, & Faith goes on sale May 5.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text “STRENGTH” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.