Mark: Childhood and Teen Years

Before Gene’s first hospitalization, Mark had some “okay times” but he mainly remembers that his father was mad and mean most of the time.

I didn’t know enough to know if anything with Gene was good or bad at that age. But when he yelled at you or would physically do something to you that obviously would not be a positive thing. Maybe too, I just associate him with bad things and there’s a lot of anger toward Gene, even until today.

When Gene was still at home, he “was either angry or doing 100 things, 100 miles an hour.” Although today Gene continues to call the family, he is stuck “living in 1990, like nothing’s changed.” He obsesses about the state of the equipment and buildings on the family farm as if they were in 1990 condition.

As a teenager, Mark grew up without a father figure.

It derailed my life I think quite a bit. I didn’t have anybody. I had a grandfather—he passed away in 2001. Gene and his father-in-law didn’t have a good relationship, but his hatred and feelings towards my father, I think he transferred to me. Then other men, uncles, cousins, had a lot of anger involved with Gene or just didn’t care. I don’t think anybody processed it appropriately. They took it out on a 10-year-old boy. Me being the oldest, I maybe felt more responsibility—we had the farm there, just a hobby farm, but I had to take care of that and feed the animals.

Mark describes his teenage years as horrible and rough. He had a lot of anger and thinks that he internalized much of his anger. Every time he interacted with his father on the phone, Mark would yell at him in order to feel okay again.

It was challenging to grow up in a small town where people knew about his father’s mental illness.

They hear the gossip, so they ask you. That’s like a knife. Every question you get asked, I never wanted to answer any of the questions because it wasn’t me. I wasn’t the one that had the illness or the problem. People ask and some people for lack of a better term don’t give two shits about you as a person. They just want to gossip. They don’t care about you. I don’t know as a teenager that I knew how to even cope with my own emotions. Then people are asking you questions and you don’t have an answer. You can tell them and tell them but some of that stuff I think should have been private. You don’t know to say no.