Transcending The Wounded Mother

There’s a saying amongst us therapists, ‘Strict parents make sneaky children.’ I was one of those kids. I tried every kind of drug, cigarette, and alcohol. I skipped classes because I hated school. I was dating a boy five years my senior. I was sneaking into my boyfriend’s bedroom, at seventeen, by climbing the drainpipe up to his window. It’s a wonder that it held my weight.

Other times, I told my parents I was staying at a girlfriend’s place, but we were actually canoeing a river, with rapids, over to Upper Duck Island for the weekends. Thankfully for me, this was well before cell-phones. I learned a lot of skills as an outdoors-woman from back then. I still love being in the wilderness.

Everything was reasonably good until my father suddenly died of a heart attack when I was just about to turn eighteen, and I was relocated to Toronto to live with my godparents. You see, my mother had committed suicide when I was eight, and I wasn’t about to stay with my narcissistic, abusive step-mother. My little sister moved in with her boyfriend’s family the following year for the same reason. Her orphan’s benefits paid for her room and board.

I don’t have to fill in too much more of the gory details for you to get the picture of what kind of troubled teen I was. I was heading on a collision course with destiny as my so-called caregivers were actually more damaged than I was. By a lot. I actually became an unpaid therapist of sorts by the time I was eighteen. If you want the whole gnarly story you can read my book, Trauma Bonded In Canada.

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“Someday your kids are going to figure you out. I promise you they will. The type of parent you are. The type of spouse you are. How you treat other people. How much effort you put into them. You’re either going to be someone they look up to, or someone they never wanna be like. Always remember they are watching and absorbing.”

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Just a couple of years ago, in my late 50s, I asked my sister, “What made you such an awesome mother? Our past was such a gnarly shitshow and you seemed to cobble together shards of pure love, patience, and integrity that I found stunning to witness.” She laughed and said without skipping a heart beat, “Why from you, Ally! After our mother died, you were there for me every step of the way and I simply leaned in.”

That was a shock to me. I didn’t really think I had anything of value that would have been relied on by another. My love for my sister was so primal and innate, it never occurred to me that it might have had a long-lasting effect. Sounds funny, but I was truly gobsmacked when she told me this bit of information. It felt like a balm to my heart. A legacy of sorts.

My sister was four years of age when our mother took her own life in our closed garage, by turning the key in the ignition. My father and a taxi driver hacked the wood door down with an ax to try and save her. Sadly they didn’t arrive in time. There would be no more revolving door of mental institutions for her, that also plagued my childhood.

The Wounded Mother Enters The Scene

When my son was born, I felt useless as a mother. He was so sick after the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaxx, only passing stool every one or two weeks, leaking bolus around the impacted stool, and suffering ASD (Autism Syndrome Disorder) issues; little eye contact, rocking back and forth repetitively, loss of speech, OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), and frequent tantrums so violent, I had to duck his attacks. It was like living in a horror film I was not remotely equipped for.

I came to this system of Heilkunst medicine as a very last ditch effort to recover him. If you want to read more about his recovery, you can check out my free audiobook, The Path to Cure.

 I felt triggered from every possible juxtaposition; exhaustion, my own core wounds, suppressed anger, victimization, and a grief so profound that I rarely cried due to being numbed out and chronically disassociated.

After my son was starting to stabilize by addressing his sequential timeline, I went intensively into Heilkunst Therapy for my own PTSD – Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome  just after my daughter was born. As I peeled my own onion of traumas sequentially, everything began to change drastically for me. I began to thaw emotionally. 

As a result, I was able to discharge my rage, snorkels full of grief I’d been drowning in, a marriage coming apart at the seams, guilt for having unknowingly harmed my son iatrogenically, a profound resentment for the medical system, and a terror so primal that any loud noises would cause me to go through the roof or burst into uncontrollable sobs. 

All this to say. I was broken on so many levels that parenting with any integrity was going to take some kind of miracle. My children were watching me, and now that they were both bordering on healthy, I had to step up to match their strides if I didn’t want to pass on my legacy of psychic wounds. I had generations of deep, unspoken carnage to face (see my book, Trauma Bonded in Canada).

As I started to crawl out of the doldrums of my depression and pain, I began to be more and more conscious of how I was being perceived by my kids. I had one shot at being a good mother, and it was important to me to get it right. I thought of my relationship with them like a bank. I could either make regular withdrawals that I would feel eternally guilty for, or I could start a dynamic investment portfolio that I could make regular deposits to day by day. Which did I want? What would be the outcome in either scenario?

As I was peeling my own traumatic timeline, I developed more agency to make choices about how I wanted to react to my children’s spicy reactions. If my son needed to tantrum in the park, I simply sat with him until it was all out of his system and I could offer him a hug. If my daughter was over-tired or over-stimulated, I could carry her up the stairs to bed without reacting to the kicks to my abdomen. If the kids were losing it in the backseat of the car, I was able to use music or humor to diffuse the intensity more and more. 

It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it. I started to see bigger and bigger changes in my children’s behavior, as well as my own. They were more self-regulating, more able to express their feelings with words, and they stopped projecting their anger onto me and each other. It was astounding to me how much less I interpreted their raw emotions as a reflection of my own unexpressed pain. Less and less, we were projecting our expressed feelings onto each other instead of just independently getting it out.

We used expressive dance, drawing/coloring, hard exercise, pillow punching, bed tantrums, loud sighing, and singing to express our unexpressed emotions. I broke cheap dishes against a large tree,  whipped a mop at the same tree (I went through several mops), and I screamed obscenities at the roof of our seven thousand square foot barn. I also would howl my frustration in the car, by myself while parked, until I was hoarse. I learned that no one is to blame for my rage or anger and that transferring it onto others destroys relationships instead of being a respectful place where love and agency blooms.

Unfolding The Essential Self; From Rage To Orgastic Potency

As I continually worked to discharge my own unresolved rage, sadness, resentment, guilt, and fear, I gained greater facility to be the more patient and validating mother/mentor that I had needed so badly as a kid. By parenting my own children with integrity and respect, I heard the phrases and nurturing come out of my mouth that I’d so craved to hear myself. It was like a two-for-one mothering special!

On the law of cure, like cures like, I was able to reparent myself while parenting my beloved babies. It blew my doors off how much respect, validation, and integrity is needed to consistently craft healthy kids. I was in awe that they actually wanted to be with me, that they respected me, and that they felt safe to share everything with me. I knew that I must be on the right track. The experiment of transcending the wounded mother was actually working!  

People began to comment, saying that they loved how I related to my children, and that they wondered if they could get the same results by adopting the same principles. It became a pleasure for me to mentor other parents in my Heilkunst practice.

Today, my approach has become more widespread. For this, I’m super happy. Transcending the wounded mother seems to be a burgeoning world-wide theme. Even in the course of my twenty-one year practice, I’ve seen a huge shift and leveling up of mature parenting practices, as others also take the ultimate responsibility for their own core wounds in favor of mothering, and fathering, out of integrity. 

And boy, my children could spot the wounded adult a mile away. They’d come home and ask what had happened to their friend’s parents in their childhood that caused them to be so ‘mean’.  And how did their friend survive all the ‘angry’ behavior from their parents? These were tough subjects to discuss, but it meant that by the time my kids became teens (and later adults) themselves, we had gone to thousands of seemingly forbidden lands of hard topics. 

Just this past summer, I turned sixty. In a tent in Fundy National Park, in New Brunswick, my adult daughter put her cold hands on my belly to warm them, commenting about what a furnace I am. She wanted to discuss a tough relationship she’d just let go of. She said that she knew that her ex’s abuse was misplaced and that she had to get out of there because of the way she’d been raised. I championed this development and realization. I was thrilled that her essential value had remained intact because of the effort I’d put in to resolve my own childhood trauma, and to break the generational abuse and mental illness that plagued the generations before me. 

I’m so thankful that I’ve been afforded the opportunity to observe this more healed gesture play out in my children, and potentially even my grandchildren. I know that indeed, I’ve transcended the wounded mother in me and the generations to come. Someone had to do it. It may as well have been me.

Resources:

Trauma Bonded in Canada by Allyson McQuinn

Self-Education for Excellence by Allyson McQuinn

The Art of Falling Apart by Allyson McQuinn

The Path to Cure Audiobook by Allyson McQuinn

Unfolding the Essential Self by Allyson McQuinn

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