I admitted to premarital sex as a teenage girl. I did this willingly because I was told it was the right thing to do and I believed it. The whole process was quite traumatizing, but I had already been shamed enough to have suicidal ideation prior to admitting to the sin in the interview. He asked things such as “Did you masturbate?” or “Did you look at pornography?” I don’t think he believed me when I (honestly) said that I hadn’t. I didn’t get the impression that the bishop wanted to ask these questions or that he enjoyed them, just that he thought it was an unpleasant but necessary part of his job.
The bishop interview process taught me that my self-worth is not something I can judge for myself, but it is something that has to be validated by other people. That’s something it would have taught me whether or not I had sinned. I had poor self-esteem for many years, and felt that I was permanently marked as defective — like there was something about me that I needed to apologize for. A secular counselor told me that having sex as a teenager wasn’t all that bad so I stopped going to see her and went to an LDS counselor. I actually rejected the support of people who accepted me as I am because I didn’t feel they had high enough standards. When I was 23 I spent two months in a psych ward for suicide attempts and it took me several years before I didn’t actively want to die — and the only reason that changed is because I finally did accept that it was OK to be human.
At 30, I still have panic attacks when I am supposed to enter a room and talk to a man across a desk. I have had to learn coping strategies for calming myself down prior to meeting with supervisors in an academic setting. I associate that setting with feeling extremely guilty and that I’m about to disappoint someone.