Dawn "People Are Just Beautiful"

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Randy Bacon with 7 Billion Ones in partnership with National Alliance on Mental Illness Southwest Missouri (NAMI) are proud to announce a major, multifaceted portrait art exhibition, story and short film series:

It Knows No Face

Portraits of Suicide Survivors.

Learn more HERE

Dawn’s Story:

Photography by    Randy Bacon

Photography by Randy Bacon

I grew up an only child and was very socially awkward. I wasn’t able to make friends very easily. I guess you would say I had trouble communicating with people so I just didn’t communicate at all in school. I was just the quiet kid that never really spoke. I had a lot of anxiety in school. I don’t remember going to birthday parties, or really having any friends. My mom wanted me to be like normal kids, so she bought a horse for me when I was nine and that taught me a lot. I was still very lonely but I wasn’t quite so alone.

I was sexually abused from the ages of twelve to fifteen. I tried to tell some people, of course I wasn’t heard. When I was thirteen years old I ingested a bottle of something, I don’t know what it was. I went to bed and the next morning I was alive; I was sick, but I was alive. My parents don’t know anything about that, because I never told them. I had to be the strong kid. Only the strong survive and you don’t talk about that stuff. You have to be strong.

I was probably about thirteen when I decided that I probably wasn’t going to live until twenty. I didn’t fit in the world anywhere. I was raped at thirteen, put into juvenile detention for that, and then I was put in a psychiatric center and that made me know that I was alone. Nobody was going to listen.

I was molested by a friend’s father. That’s when I really did try to tell. I didn’t tell my parents, they don’t know any of this. But I did try to tell my friend and her mother that it happened and they said that it didn’t happen. Then when I was fifteen I really wanted to have a boyfriend. My neighbor was twenty one, he was pretty mean to me, but at least I wasn’t alone. I ended up getting pregnant around fifteen years old. I was so disassociated at the time that I didn’t even know I was pregnant. It turned out I was six months along when my mom found out, and I didn’t even know it. She took me to Oklahoma and took care of that, because you keep it in the family. You don’t talk about those things.

When I was sixteen, I kinda started to think, “You know, I just don’t really want to live this way.” That’s when I met a really nice guy and dropped out of school because I just couldn’t do anything. I was basically agoraphobic and wouldn’t leave the house for a few years. Then at nineteen I got pregnant with my son. I decided that, “I guess I’m not gonna die, so I’m gonna have to try to figure out my way in this world, as scary as it is.” My then-husband, he stayed with me and was very supportive. The only thing I knew how to do was to work with horses, so I started giving riding lessons because that was the only way I knew how to be in the world.  It was just part time and it helped build my confidence so I felt like, well maybe I can do something. Other than being out with the horses, I still stayed home, I didn’t go out. I had terrible panic attacks, I couldn’t go anywhere, except I could be with the horses.

When my son was old enough to go to school I decided that I could then start college. I didn’t want him to see me as a failure, so I went to school. I was terrified. I would sit in my car and shake. But I managed to get my bachelor’s degree and decided I wanted to go into a helping profession, so I could help others overcome life’s difficulties, and I graduated in psychology, then graduated with a master’s degree in special education. Now I’m working as a social worker, but I plan on going back to school in the fall and focusing on children that are on the spectrum, children that have language disorders or communication disorders that maybe make it difficult for them to have friends.

Life’s an adventure. Riding horses taught me that we all get bucked off, we all fall off, but the most important thing is to get back on. You just never know what’s gonna happen, and if you surround yourself with good people, kind people, amazing things can happen in your life. Life isn’t fair, and bad things happen, but because of the things I’ve experienced and seen, I have a very deep empathy for a multitude of situations that children and adults face. I guess that’s a good quality? I can see past all the bad things and just see how beautiful people are in the rawness of life. People are just beautiful, just the way they are. A behavior is a behavior, but it has nothing to do with how beautiful they are inside.

Sometimes I feel like I don’t affect the world, and then I have to tell myself that every person makes an impact on the world. I still do have feelings of hopelessness. When I get stuck in those feelings of sadness, those feelings of “I’m not good enough”, I just try to think of something better. I try to think of something that’s positive or reach out to somebody and talk to them. Reach out for healthy people, people that are going to lift you up. Know that you matter. Everything in your life matters and can help someone else down the line. Or things change in an instant, and you can put yourself in a different place the next day and amazing things can happen. Know that people love you. You may think they don’t love you right now, but they do. People love you and they care about you.

Brought to you in partnership with:

7Billion Ones, Annie Busch, NAMI Southwest Missouri, and Touchstone Counseling