My strange relationship with my Dad was the single most impacting relationship of my childhood. This is my first attempt to post about it so please bear with me, because it will hands down be the most difficult post I am sure I will ever write. I would like to start out by saying that our relationship comes with some very graphic unpleasant details, so this may not be a post that’s suitable for you. I would also like you to know that in spite of some of the details I will share with you, my intention is to bring some perspective on what it’s like to be the child of someone who was mentally ill, and was never diagnosed. This above all else is the true tragedy in my story. In fact my Dad is the main victim in this situation, because he was cast as the villain in his own life story.
Being born in the wrong the era can make a catastrophic difference in your life story. Just ask the women who were burned at the stake for being cast in the roles of witches. Being mentally ill in today’s world is incredibly difficult at best, but being mentally ill in the 60’s was a completely different animal. Are you familiar with the term “there’s a fine line between genius and insanity”? I fully understand this concept. Having known many people who deal with mental illnesses, I can tell you that in my experiences the majority are highly intelligent people bordering on genius. My Dad was extremely intelligent. One might think well this should be a great asset in life, but I have found this to be the complete opposite for people dealing with mental illness. It perpetuates the false belief that intelligence should over ride the symptoms of their disorder. This is about as logical as telling a diabetic “Well use that intelligence of yours to tell your pancreas to work correctly” you see my point? Stigmas associated with mental illness keep people from seeking medical care. The fear of being labeled as crazy, and being thrown into some horrifying mental institution (sadly not that far from the truth) was a very liable reason for my Dad to keep his personal issues a secret and certainly played a huge part in his self medicating with alcohol. My Dad was a severe alcoholic.
Dad’s violent, paranoid, and erratic behavior was always attributed to his constant drinking. I believe this false concept is frequently assigned to people with mental illness by unknowing, well-meaning family members, friends, and co-workers… Just one more thing “they” should be able to control. It’s no wonder the suicide rate is so significant among people who have mental illnesses. Can you even begin to imagine being smart enough to know something is terribly wrong within yourself, the self loathing, and to have a society that blames you ( for something that those without mental illness) fail to recognize? For many years of my life I inflicted this judgement onto my Dad, not only during my entire childhood but well into my adult life! I for lack of a better depiction tied him to the proverbial stake, and lit the fire every time I felt the need to defend myself from his deplorable behavior.This thought alone haunts me on a constant basis.
Every time he would come home drunk, enraged by his own delusions yanking me from my childhood bed to beat me unmercifully I would pray for his death! Even worse was to watch him beat your mother or siblings, you would do anything to divert his attention back unto you just so you would not have to watch in horror as your other family members endured his torture! I still vividly remember not being able to sleep, my stomach in knots knowing that at some point when he returned home from the bar that we would hear those footsteps coming down the hallway. The anticipation of what was about to happen to you was as damaging as each physical blow. The emotional and verbal abuse was unimaginable, the horrible words, accusations left marks on our souls that we carry even today. The deep humiliation of having other people witness these almost daily abuses even more devastating. Every single day uncertain of what might happen. Hating him, loving him, in those even stranger days where he seemed “normal” and he was so loving we were still somehow tortured inside.
It would take a thousand posts, and a much better writer than myself to accurately tell this story. After all this is a story that has lasted for fifty years plus. My intention today was to bring about some awareness regarding our worldwide lack of knowledge, empathy, research, and ability to recognize mental illness. To point out how improper diagnosis, and treatment has the potential to destroy a person’s life story. My hope is that by removing blame, shame, and stigma we will be able to someday give everyone’s life story a shot at being a fairy tale. 😉