Sunday is Father's Day. Rather than marking it with declarations about why our fathers are the greatest, or how-to guides on buying Dad the best ties or tools, Yahoo News solicited first-person anecdotes about the contentious or disagreeable moments we've had with our fathers. Here's one reader's story.
FIRST PERSON | The last time my father hit me, I was 17 years old.
My father is mentally ill. That's what I remember best about his involvement in my childhood. In the '70s, mental illness was even less understood and even more stigmatized than it is today. The chances of an accurate diagnosis and proper medication were slim to none. So he was never properly medicated until I became an adult.
His illness included symptoms of extreme paranoia, a persecution complex and a propensity for violence toward those he was believed were persecuting him. Usually this meant his immediate family. Domestic violence was an even more hush-hush thing then, too, but my mom got out relatively quickly.
Unfortunately she agreed to joint custody because, at the time, he had thus far left us alone.
I do not remember the first time he hit me, only the last. I received less of the physical abuse than my older sister, but he had plenty of emotional and verbal abuse to go round, too. We were belittled, ridiculed, treated like we were stupid and generally made to feel like bad, unworthy children for not being better and more grateful to our father.
The last time he hit me, I hit back. I stood up to him and I told him he would never hit any of us again. To my knowledge, he has not. About five years later, he was finally put on a decent medication that seemed to control his extreme unpredictable mood swings. I remember it as a peaceful time. I was able to forgive him for many things because I could see a different person than the one who had so hurt me and my mom and siblings.
Then his own mother, most likely mentally ill herself, talked him out of taking the good medication that was working -- and though the violence is gone, life around him still has been a continuing see-saw ever since.
I am 38 now and he will soon be 66. I will never love my father the way that other people love theirs. These days he still has mood swings, but there is no violence. He remains selfish, childish and prone to bouts of extreme negativity. I don't blame him for every bad event in my life, but nearly every day I see some quirk in my personality that is directly related to something he did when I was a child.
His illness affected my childhood. It influenced how I thought about myself, how I viewed my friends and how I saw the world. His erratic behavior and emotional abuse damaged my ability to trust. To this day, during an argument, my instinct is to yell really loud and then run and hide. And that is exactly what I did the last time I saw him, three days ago.
When it comes to our parents, do we ever stop being children?