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Wed Dec 12, 2012, 03:31 PM

Abusive fathers, abused sons. Has this affected you in your life?

Probably another TMI post. And also very, very long. If this stuff makes you uncomfortable, please ignore. If this isn’t the kind of thing the moderators would like to see on this forum, please let me know and I’ll delete, TIA.

How many of you were ever victims of abuse, physical or mental, at the hands of your own father? How did it affect your life, goals, self-esteem, your ability to be a partner to your SO, and most especially your ability to be a father to your own children?

Unfortunately, this is something I know first-hand. My father was a monster, pure and simple, no other way to say it. Was it all his fault? No, not entirely. I was diagnosed as bipolar this past summer, and I can see clearly a long history of mental health issues going back to past generations in my father’s family, so I believe there is a genetic, biological component to this. But there is also an environmental component. In my father’s case, although I have no evidence, I have long conjectured that he was the victim of sexual abuse by his mother, because of things he did as an adult, and things I witnessed as a child in his interactions with her. Whatever the causes, the effect was that he was a horrible, brutal devil of a man, who abused my mother and myself terribly for decades. Let me be clear, the abuse was not physical, I can count on one hand the number of times he ever hit me, and those were actually pretty normal childhood/teenage punishment as was typical of those times, the 60’s and 70’s. His form of abuse was extreme cruelty, controlling an manipulative behavior, and reigning with an iron fist by means of terror. Kind of like growing up in some kind of closed, harsh, repressive society along the lines of North Korea, where no one was allowed to question anything about the ruler, and his word, no matter how bizarre, was law.

Late in life, through involuntary treatment, my father was diagnosed with “paranoid delusional disorder” – essentially, per my understanding of it, abnormal thoughts that lead him to believe that people were “doing things to get him” – basically like schizophrenia except without the auditory or visual hallucinations true schizophrenics endure. His particular delusions revolved around a couple of things, the first was that my mother was serially unfaithful and promiscuous to the point of having tens to dozens of “lovers” every day while my father was at work, and the second was that my mother’s family was “out to get him”. Because he would go into a rant at any little thing, such as a letter with an unknown return address showing up in the mail, or a cigarette butt along the roadside, we lived a life of constant surveillance to try to minimize his extreme outbursts, which could be hours of screaming, shouting, cursing, berating us, and usually ended in my mother sobbing and complaining about chest pains, which was her own little delusional coping method, I guess. At any rate, as a young boy and teenager, I was always living in fear and waiting for him to kill her. He hated me with a passion, denying paternity before I was even born, and telling my mother that he “knew” the milkman was my biological father. As an adolescent/teenager, it turned darker, he liked to pin me down in the site of a gun, berate me, and tell me it was a shame he couldn’t pull the trigger, because I didn’t deserve to live but wasn’t worth going to prison over. I got guns, my mother got knives, where he would pull out a large hunting knife, make slashing motions against his throat, and then point at her. Needless to say, not a happy childhood. This didn’t happen all of the time, perhaps once or twice a year, usually in the fall around hunting season, when he got the weapons out to clean/maintain them and an opportunity presented itself.

I also mentioned above that I believe my father was the victim of sexual abuse at the hands of his mother. Aside from his jealous, violent side, he also had another “secret” – for many years when I was young, and about 15 years before, my father was a closet transvestite. And not in a manner which lead me to believe he might be gay, but in a very creepy, hard to describe manner. I guess I’ll just say this – I was about 20 when I first saw the movie ‘Psycho’ and it left me completely freaked out, because I instantly recognized a great deal of my father in the character of Normal Bates.

I am still, at 47, struggling with the legacy of all of this. My deep anger over this came out earlier in the summer, as a form of rage very out of character with my basic personality. It progressed to the point, along with some other events and incidents, that yes, I ended up spending three weeks in a psychiatric partial hospital program in September. NOT something I am proud of, and frankly the circumstances of my ending up there involved my own inability to stand up to authority, and a completely uncaring, unsympathetic physician who I feel betrayed my trust to the point of committing grave ethical breaches and serious illegal violations of my basic rights under Michigan’s Public Health and Mental Health codes. But that is a separate issue, not relevant here. Let’s just say, though, that the circumstances left me devastated, I truly felt I didn’t belong there, I was utterly terrified of going there, and of my entire diagnosis and treatment being “found out” by anyone in the flesh and blood world. And after I got there and got over my fears, I got a lot out of it, and actually felt as if it were, on some level, the vacation from the everyday that I needed for a long, long time. Ironic, probably bizarre, but yes, I did enjoy my stay in the psych ward. The fact that it was a very nice hospital, and a very well-run program, helped a lot. I mean, honestly, who can’t like a psych ward where you can come and go as you please, run downstairs to Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts any time you want, get an hour and fifteen minutes off for lunch, a hospital with no only an enormous cafeteria, but a food court with local and name-brand restaurant kiosks, a shopping area, and a major shopping center around the corner?

At any rate, I essentially grew up not with a father, but with a tyrant whose goal, it seemed, was to make me miserable. And I desperately craved his attention and approval in spite of this, which I now realize was a fool’s errand at best, and sad and pathetic. Little things stick with me, such as the first morning of kindergarten, when I got up early to find him sitting at the dining room table in a white t-shirt with a padded bra on underneath, or when I was about 7, in the springtime, and I desperately wanted him to teach me how to throw and catch, and he had no interest, but my mother forced him to take me out in the backyard, where he threw the baseball to me twice before he left, silently, to go indoors and “dress” as we called it, where he would put on his female paraphernalia and stare into space on the sofa, with all of the drapes in the house drawn tightly, in his Norman Bates mode.

It has affected me, but thank God, not in the way some would probably imagine. I knew, when I was five or before, that what he did was wrong, and sick, and I had nothing but contempt for his little “hobby”. And I grew up to be a “normal” guy with appropriate and healthy sexual attitudes. The overall experience left me with extremely poor self-confidence, and frankly I have only been in a few relationships with women, and had a few more opportunities I passed up, including one that could have been, I believe, the love of my life, but I declined because she was older, married, and I didn’t want to go there and be the guy that broke up a marriage and family. Because of the isolation, being alone with him in the house, no brothers and older sisters who were out of the house, and “prison camp” atmosphere I grew up in, I was socially isolated, had no friends because none were allowed, had no opportunities for any outside interactions other than what happened during school hours, as I wasn’t allowed to participate in sports, band, or any of the normal things kids do. I wasn’t allowed to have a job as a teenager, my first limited work experience came in college, my first “real” job when I graduated. It was a very isolated and sad life. I still fight a great deal of social anxiety, but I am doing much better with that than I was.

The biggest effect, though, is the fact that I made a decision years ago, when I was about 18 or 19, that I would NEVER pass these genes, and the burden of living with this type of disease/condition, onto another generation. I had always thought, in spite of everything, that I would make a great husband and father, because I recognized what happened to me as a grave breach of the normal father-son relationship and ran with my life, my attitudes, and my behaviors in the other direction as fast and as far as I could. Even this late in life, a small part of me always thought I someday might find a SO who would be interest perhaps in adoption. Now with this latest development in my life, I could never justify that, and frankly probably never be allowed to, so another thing my father, 14 years after his death, has taken away from me.

I could have gone either way. The day I was diagnosed and then “sentenced” to the psych ward, I drove home down the freeway looking for some solid concrete structure I could drive straight into at 90 mph and effectively end my problems. Then I thought about my mother, who I have tried to take care of with the utmost respect and love since she was liberated from my father’s terror, so that her last years could be happier, and I couldn’t do that. So, I went through with my “sentence” and actually, good has come out of it. I’m now on mood stabilizing medication, have a new doctor who is kind, compassionate, and understanding, not cruel, cold, and brutal like the first one. I am seeing the same therapist I have seen on and off since 1999, who is great. I feel like I have been given a second chance, despite a mental illness diagnosis, and, while I still struggle daily with memories of what happened, and some weird quirks like being literally “gun shy” if I see one, I think the future will be better than the past.

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Reply Abusive fathers, abused sons. Has this affected you in your life? (Original post)
Denninmi Dec 2012 OP
Major Nikon Dec 2012 #1
Warren DeMontague Dec 2012 #2
Denninmi Dec 2012 #3
Warren DeMontague Dec 2012 #4
Denninmi Dec 2012 #5
mythology Dec 2012 #6
Bonobo Dec 2012 #7

Response to Denninmi (Original post)

Wed Dec 12, 2012, 04:04 PM

1. My mom was more abusive than my dad

My dad was a Unitarian minister and wasn't abusive at all. He very rarely even raised his voice. My mom clearly had anger issues, depression, and dog knows what else. She alienated pretty much everyone. I'm not really sure how my dad put up with her, but he always did. My mom kept trying to pit me against my wife and eventually forced me into making a decision between my wife or her. It wasn't really a hard decision to make. My wife is a very gentle soul who never manages to offend anyone.

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Response to Denninmi (Original post)

Wed Dec 12, 2012, 05:12 PM

2. Wow, man. As one of the two hosts here I'm fine with it, I appreciate you sharing and

Certainly if it helps YOU to get it off your chest here, by all means do so. And I think the discussion could be a good one for this group.

I also know DU has a mental health support group, which is to say that in addition to discussing here you might find people with knowledge or experience pertaining to some of the stuff you mention, there as well. I dont know, maybe you've already brought it up there, and I dont mention this to be, like, "oh, take it to mental health" --- I just want to be sure that you have every opportunity to get in touch with anyone who might be able to help and/or sympathize.

My relationship with my own Dad, who is now deceased, could probably be summed up by the word "distant". He was a raging alcoholic, but being the youngest I missed most of the worst of it. He was possibly physically abusive to my mom on at least a couple occasions, for obvious reasons i've never sat down and discussed it with her in any detail, but that seems to be the case. What I remember from my early childhood is a lot of fighting and screaming. Or he'd be gone, come back, and after a brief period of relative "normalcy" fall off the wagon and the cycle would start over. Then, finally, he was gone for good, and my overwhelming feeling from that development was relief.

I personally escaped most of the fallout, screaming, etc. simply by virtue of being so young. But I do think it caused me to close up and be a far more withdrawn, introverted, afraid kid than I might have been otherwise.

He sobered up a few years after that, and we maintained a friendly, if not exactly close, relationship for the rest of his life. Knowing what I know about alcoholism, it is difficult for me to draw a line on exactly where "blame" begins and ends. Plus, he's gone now, so what's the point? I have no doubt in my mind that one of his first mistakes - and my mom's - was getting married way too young, and for probably not much more reason than "we cant really think of anything else to to with ourselves right now" ...But, then, my sitting here writing this is a product of that, so, go figure.

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Response to Warren DeMontague (Reply #2)

Wed Dec 12, 2012, 05:24 PM

3. Thanks.

I have posted ad nauseum on the MHS forum. About all of this. Just thought/hoped it would be appropriate here. And it does help, a lot. Exercising the demons, big and small, on a daily basis. Even weird stuff, like the fact no one ever showed me how to properly tie a tie, so the rare time I wore one it was usually a tacky clip on. I bought new suits and ties the other day, and found websites with instruction diagrams. I guess I have to be the father to myself that I never had.

For the record, I may have a mental illness, but other than my recent, um, "vacation" I'm fully functional in the real world, hold down a full time job as a paralegal, pay my bills, cut my lawn, that sort of thing. Not a scary psycho like dad, just a guy who went though a rough patch and am picking up the pieces pretty well, actually.

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Response to Denninmi (Reply #3)

Wed Dec 12, 2012, 05:39 PM

4. Cool. Like i said, my point in bringing it up wasnt to try to shunt it over there or otherwise

Stigmatize, just to be sure you were aware of it.

Interestingly enough, the ONLY reason I know how to tie a tie is because I took a very uncharacteristic brief job in my dad's office in my early 20s. My Dad was very much a 9 to 5 corporate suit and tie dude (i think one of the subtexts of his life was that he was this frustrated musician who instead tried endlessly to be something he wasnt cut out to be, by dong what he was "supposed" to, and was never very happy about it) who, despite the personal misadventures managed somehow to maintain a fairly high relative degree of professional success. I was his long haired hippie kid, i needed a job, so I said what fuck, got a haircut, bought a suit, yadda yadda.

Did not take me long to figure out it was not the life for me. But on the very rare occasions when I need to wear a tie... It's pretty easy. let both parts hang around your neck, wrap the upper part of the thicker end around the thin part, and then pull the bottom of the thicker part up and through the loop.

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Response to Warren DeMontague (Reply #4)

Wed Dec 12, 2012, 07:06 PM

5. Yeah, here's an irony, too.

Dear old dad kept a very responsible, good upper middle management job in Corporate for the GM truck and bus group for decades. They all seemed to love him, had no clue what went on behind the scenes, and we had to play the perfect happy little family to the outside world. Which made me want to puke as a teenager, and I started to push my luck in making little cryptic comments to people.

Kim Jong Un has nothing over dad in the psycho dictator department.

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Response to Denninmi (Original post)

Fri Dec 14, 2012, 09:05 PM

6. My dad was mostly emotionally abusive toward me, although sometimes physically

He would go out of his way to tell me (and to be fair pretty much everybody else) that they were worthless and less intelligent than he was. He was also just a condescending ass toward the people in his life (I've never met anybody else who would call their wife an albatross).

The physical was mostly just randomly smacking me, although there was the time he made me bike about a mile after a dog ripped the back of my knee open on the excuse doing otherwise would scare the owner of the dog that had attacked me.

As for how it affected me, I think it has cost me the opportunity to have any real deep relationships. I often can't imagine why a potential friend or significant other who I am interested in would be interested in me, and I struggle to actually let myself trust the ones who are willing to try to get past my outer walls.

But I figure it's better that way. If I don't let them in, then I can't repeat the cycle. My dad was treated the same way he treated me. It's better that I don't risk hurting others they way I've been hurt. It's the biggest reason I know I should never be a parent. It would be awful enough to do it to an adult who can tell me to fuck off, but doing it to a kid would rip my guts out.

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Response to Denninmi (Original post)

Fri Dec 14, 2012, 11:29 PM

7. My dad was abusive. It taught me not to be.

My dad was abused by his second wife, it also taught me that women can be abusers too.

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