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.
Normal life includes some anxiety and fear. In a stressful situation, your brain triggers a flood of chemicals into the bloodstream. Your heart beats faster; your breath becomes shallow and rapid; muscles tense; your mind goes on full alert. It's all part of the human's innate reaction to a threat: You're ready to flee or fight.
Sometimes anxiety and fear linger on and on. The feelings can be overwhelming. When they interfere with normal activities, there's a problem. Doctors call this kind of problem...
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 right."
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."