I’m Kate Heussler. I usually introduce myself as a branding specialist, model coach and mother. For this article, I’m going to reintroduce myself as a recovering people pleaser, good girl syndrome cycle-breaker and my family’s scapegoat. Because I can’t acknowledge my life and work achievements and accolades without honouring the little girl inside me that helped me get there.
Here, I talk about how I shattered a dysfunctional generational for the sake of my daughter. I hope that my telling my story and sharing my experience, alongside my professional expertise, it will other single mums in a similar situation.
When people say to you:
"You're so funny."
Is your response:
"Thank you, it's from my trauma."
And then you both laugh?
There were some phrases and labels that weren’t discussed in my upbringing, though it would have been helpful if they were. They include:
- Dysfunctional families
- Childhood trauma
- Family and domestic violence
- Child abuse
- Mental health disorders
- Narcissistic personality disorder
- Anxious and avoidant attachments
- Alcohol and substance abuse
- Eating disorders
- The ‘scapegoat’
- Black sheep of the family
Are you a victim of an abusive family dynamic?
If you have never experienced a toxic or abusive family dynamic, or never been in or had to flee from a domestic violent relationship, I am truly happy for you.
For those who have experienced these things, ‘no contact’ isn’t a word that is thrown around lightly. It’s born from years of trying to make a relationship work, all in the name of ‘family’, and at the sole detriment to your mental health.
And, to those people doing those things now, choose you. You can only heal from a burn if you take your hand off the burner.
It is time to choose 'you'
One of the most difficult things you’ll ever do in your life, if you choose to, is work on yourself.
If you’re reading this and thinking “that's selfish” then you’re either the problem or someone who hasn’t realised they are a victim of the same thing I’ve had to work through.
You want to be able to see things differently by design though oftentimes the best time to self reflect and take accountability for your part is after disaster.
Might I point out, both are perfectly acceptable - and normal.
Once you’ve cried all of your tears, parked your ego to reflect, there is something quite powerful about being at rock bottom. I’ve been there a few times in my four decades.
My rock bottom
For me, this is acknowledging child abuse and the ways in which family members covered it up. Sexual assault at 15, spousal rape at 21 and 26, miscarriage due to abuse at 15, 21 and 34, $12,000 of reconstructive dental surgery over two years at 36, x-rays that revealed years of repeated broken noses in my adolescence, police intervention and four Apprehended Violence Orders over two years whilst pregnant and with a newborn, leaving partners who have physically, emotionally and financially betrayed me and counselling to work through all of those moments as they happened.
The funny thing is (in a not so funny way) when I think of all the traumatising moments I’ve had to live through, survive and heal from, 99% of them have been perpetrated by family members.
My daughter made me change
When I sat with my own shameful, intrusive, uncomfortable feelings with tears rolling down my cheeks, the times I reflected on those traumatising moments in my life, taking one look at my infant daughter sleeping peacefully, something changed in me.
Becoming a mother was the first time in my entire life where I had an abrupt awakening. Acknowledging my upbringing and lived experiences taught me that if I knew nothing else, my daughter was not going to have my childhood, no matter the cost.
That’s where you take a good look at yourself, your habits, your traits, your decision making ability or lack thereof, your opinions and their origins, the choices you’ve made and the path you have walked versus where you want to go.
Then you have two choices:
- Keep going like this
- Change the way this ends
How I shattered a dysfunctional generational cycle for the sake of my daughter
So long story short, if you want to break the cycle, pull back all of your energy and turn it inwards. Disappear for a few years. Work on you for you.
You know what I found when I removed the following type of people from my life? This little black sheep was never the problem.
If you want things to change you first have to make some changes.
- Physically violent and verbally abusive men, gone
- Emotionally and psychologically abusive women, gone
- Family member who threatened my daughter's life and physically assaulted her as a baby, gone
- Family members who tried to convince me of a different reality to suit their narrative, gone
- Friends who turned a blind eye to domestic violence, gone
- Family members who only ever used me for emotional, physical and financial support, gone
- Long term partners who have used, abused, humiliated and betrayed me, gone
- People who saw me as competition while I saw them as family or friends, gone
- People who frequently consume pornography and/or self soothe with alcohol and drugs, gone
- People who have caused an insurmountable amount of stress due to projecting all their own unhealed trauma and self-loathing onto me, gone
- People who only want to remember the ‘old me’ because I was easier to manipulate, gone
- People who yell, scream and hit their children relentlessly and call it discipline, gone
What did becoming a mother and cycle-breaker cost me?
Answer: Everything and everyone that I have ever known.
I didn’t miss any of the red flags. Abusive and toxic behaviour and dysfunction had been normalised.
I’d spent decades being gaslit and manipulated into silence and obedience to ‘save face.’
In my experience the people who say ‘but they’re your family’ are either the perpetrators or enablers of abuse.
When an adult cuts themselves off from certain family members, or their entire family, it’s because no contact is the only healthy way to heal, move forward and ensure the cycle breaks once and for all.
It’s not an easy job and it always falls on the shoulders of the black sheep of the family. This is me. And I am sure my ancestors are proud.
All of those above-mentioned people have spent my lifetime accusing me of things I’ve never said and never done, all whilst holding me accountable for their behaviour and expecting me to make up for it.
The price you pay for calling it out is abuse and isolation.
So, for a time you go with the flow. You rely on them for survival. Until you find the strength and courage to call it out and leave for good.
They’re never going to change, so that’s why you have to.
I have no regrets and I haven’t looked back.
My daughter’s mere existence saved my life.
Prior to her I was just in survival mode without even realising it. With her here, and me having done my inner work to cut the circuit of a dysfunctional generational cycle, I am the healthiest I have ever been.
I don’t know everything, though I have learned that the happiest and most peaceful people have lived through a lot of violence to get there.
Watching her grow before my eyes, seeing her express her feelings and opinions without fear, nurturing her curiosity and answering her questions in factual and age appropriate ways, not giving her labels so she can explore and become the person she was meant to be, giving her the physical touch and affection she needs when she needs it.
I get to see how I would have turned out if I had a safe and loving home environment. I didn’t get that though it doesn't mean I can’t provide it.
Are you in a dysfunctional generational cycle: Questions to prompt action
If you have read my words and are still asking yourself if you're in a toxic cycle that you seriously need to break, ask yourself these questions.
Note: Be ready for some hard truths:
- Do I need therapy to save my marriage, or am I simply the only one ‘doing the work’ and making their life easy and comfortable at the expense of my own?
- If I stop being the first and only one to initiate a phone call or organise a catch up with my family members (or friends), how many of them will call me to see if I’m ok or want to catch up?
- If I stop doing ‘all the things’ that I do on a daily and weekly basis, how long will it take for my home to implode?
- If I stop giving 100% of my availability, or financial, emotional or physical support and energy to my family member(s), will I see any reciprocity?
- Do I despise my kids or is it simply that I am doing what 2 parents should do and getting no support?
- Do I needing therapy or medication to ‘cope’ with my family, or
- Do I actually have anxiety or depression, or both, or am I surrounded by toxic and abusive people who make me feel worthless?
- Am I a bad mother, or am I a woman who works the job of 5 people whilst trying to be ‘hot and flawless’ at the same time with no support?
Final words: How I shattered a dysfunctional generational cycle for the sake of my daughter
In my quest to break a dysfunctional generational cycle, sacrifices were made as I severed ties with toxic relationships.
Becoming a mother ignited a transformative shift, compelling me to protect my daughter from the traumas I endured.
The journey involved acknowledging abuse, assault, and loss, necessitating detachment from hindering relationships. Courage was required to confront uncomfortable truths and discard societal expectations. 'No contact' became the path to true healing.
Witnessing my daughter flourish in a nurturing environment reminds me that renewal is never too late.
For those facing similar struggles, these words serve as a beacon of resilience. Trust the process, embrace past strength, and remember, it's never too late for to brake a dysfunctional generational cycle.