I was shocked to find out that my then-teenaged daughter was cutting herself. She was very much loved and wanted by both her parents. We spent lots of quality time with her. When she wanted to talk, we would listen. On the outside to us and her teachers, she came off as a mature, level-headed, smart, confident child. Underneath all that was a dark side. I found out the true extent of it when she went to college and flunked out second semester because she got into hard drugs. At that point, I did something I never did before--I went through her things. After all, she told us she didn't want to live at home ever again. It turned out in addition to the cutting, she was sneaking cigarettes, and engaging in some risky sexual behavior. We knew about the cutting because, while in high school, she told one of her teachers that she felt like cutting, he became alarmed and told her guidance counselor. It took a month of daily calling to our health plan before they got us an appointment with a therapist--25 miles away. After two sessions, the therapist told us that nothing was wrong with her, she was just bored. Our daughter told us that she had only cut twice. Later on, by going through her things I found out that it was far more extensive than that. I had watched for signs of cutting but she just got better at cutting on spots that were hidden under clothing.
Yes, I admit I have beaten myself up over this. I think as a parent, it's hard to avoid doing that. However, as someone else mentioned in this thread, I have come to believe that sometimes low self-esteem, like addictive personalities are just inborn. How else do you explain people who grew up in a horrible environment but never engaged in any self-destructive behavior and grew up to be stable, confident adults? On the flip side, how do you explain people who grew up in a loving, supportive environment but behave in self-destructive ways?
I know the helpless feeling of having an adult child who has problems. In my daughter's case, she never got help for her problems. She is now a mother and everyday I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. It broke my heart that she became a parent before she worked on her problems--but what can I do? All I--or you--can do is tell her that you love her and that if she needs anything you're there. I wish you and your daughter all the best.