Dawn was a junior in high school when her secret was discovered - she was
practicing self-harm, she was cutting herself. That was eight years ago. Today,
Dawn is nearly 25, and has transformed herself and her life. She has focused
her career goals on helping others with emotional problems.
Dawn and Deb (her mother) hope that, in sharing their story, they can help
other families come to grips with the problem of cutting.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) at one time was considered a type of anxiety disorder, but it is now thought to be its own unique condition. It goes beyond the ordinary "double-checking" and worrying that all of us do from time to time. Everybody sometimes wants to make sure the doors are locked or the oven is off. For people with OCD, these thoughts and behaviors are so magnified that they interfere with everyday routines, jobs, and relationships. For example, people with OCD have been known...
Looking back, Dawn can see what went wrong. Things just weren't right at
home. "I always felt, when I was a kid growing up, a lot of anger, but I
didn't know what to do with it," she tells WebMD. "I wasn't really
allowed to get angry at home, to express my anger."
Her father demanded perfection from her, Dawn says. "Also, I lived an
extremely sheltered, controlled life as a child. I was real shy, real passive.
I didn't have hobbies or activities. I didn't belong to clubs. I was always by
myself, always in my room. I didn't have a whole lot of friends."
Her mother has the same memories. "Dawn's father was very strict with
her when she was growing up," says Deb. "Let's face it, you're the
product of how you were raised - and he was raised by a really mean father who
was very strict. He demanded that Dawn be perfect. I was just 19 when I got
married, and at that age I let him take the lead as far as discipline. I wasn't
as strong as I am today. It was only later that I realized, this just isn't
When Dawn was age 10, her brother was born. As often happens, the
second-born didn't face the same strict discipline that Dawn had. "Her
father and I were older then, and we let some things go, her father wasn't as
strict with him," Deb says. "That was hard for Dawn."
Dawn was becoming more isolated. "My brother was a real small baby, and
my parents were really busy with him. Yet I was going through all this stuff,
having a really hard time."
By age 13, Dawn was making threats to kill herself. She went into
counseling, but things didn't get better, her mother says. By age 14, she was
seeing a psychiatrist and was diagnosed with depression.
There was something else no one suspected. Dawn had begun cutting herself.
"I'd never heard of cutting," she says. "I thought I'd made it up.
For me, it was something that I thought might make me feel better. It was like,
I'm going to do this and see what happens."
Hiding the Cuts
In the beginning, she didn't cut herself very often, Dawn explains. "I
started to see it was making me feel better, so I kept doing it. I would do it
in the bathroom at school... hiding in a stall during lunch time. I used a paper
clip that I would sharpen with a file. I just did a lot of little shallow cuts...
I didn't want to need stitches. I hid it for so long because I never needed