Learning to love self
A new mindset has freed Dawn from self-blame for a childhood burns accident, foster care and a friend’s suicide
Dawn (left), pictured with friend Lisa, says “I can now be myself and I do not have to put on a fake smile.”
Fighting for her life from horrific burns caused by an accident involving a hot urn at age five, Dawn House spent 12 months in hospital before being ripped away from everything she knew.
"While I was in hospital my nanna went to the authorities and had my brother and I taken away from our parents because she did not think they could care for me properly due to the accident," Dawn explains.
"We were placed in foster care and I was made to believe that every bad thing that had ever happened was my fault. I began to feel hatred and jealously towards people because of this and I struggled with self-worth."
Then, at age 10, Dawn's parents got divorced and her mum remarried to a man whom she did not get along well with.
She started dance classes where she met some girls who later invited her to join them at a church youth group on Friday nights.
"I started attending youth group and then church regularly because I didn't want to be home," she explains.
Then one Sunday in 2010, Dawn's best friend invited her to come to his church but she turned down the offer to attend another one "where all the cool people were".
"That night he committed suicide and again I thought it was my fault," Dawn says sadly.
"So I chose to shut everyone out of my life and just put a smile on my face so no one would ask me if I was okay."
She continued to go to youth group but an inability to process her deep hurts lead her to wonder if life was worth living.
"Life felt so worthless and I started to self-harm and began smoking and drinking heavily at 14," she admits.
"Very quickly I became tired of living this double life, pretending to be happy on the outside when I just wanted to take my own life and get it over with."
While these thoughts swirled around in her head, Dawn longed for the joy some of her friends at youth group seemed to have, a sort of peace and happiness that lasted even through the bad times.
"Then during the devotion at youth group one night I heard about how Jesus loved me so much that He died for my sins so that God could heal me from all the bad things that had happened in my life and could help me through the hard times," she recalls.
After talking to a leader about what Jesus' sacrifice meant, Dawn realised that she did truly believe that Jesus could save her from herself and that night she prayed to receive Jesus as her personal Lord and Saviour.
Looking back on how far she has come, Dawn says she is now confident that Jesus loves her and, because of that, she has learnt to love herself and other people.
"I know I can now be myself and I do not have to put on a fake smile," she says genuinely.
When she starts to doubt herself or her salvation Dawn says she looks to the Bible for reassurance, encouragement and to help her cope with life.
"One of my favourite verses comes from Ephesian chapter 2, verse 8," she concludes.
"For it is by grace (undeserved kindness) that you have been saved, through faith (in Jesus Christ); and this is not your own doing, it is a gift from God."