I was seven years old, and my sisters were six and one, in 1972, when my father had a nervous breakdown. It all started with my father screaming at my mother during a typical temper tantrum, but this time, he started waving one of his guns around, screaming he was going to kill us. (He had been discharged from the army because of mental illness, but was somehow still able to legally purchase guns.)
My mother grabbed my baby sister and told my other sister and me to run into the bedroom, where she locked the door. The bedroom that she herded us into did not have a telephone, so we sat there for three terrifying hours, screaming and crying, while he was raging in the hallway threatening to kick the door down. I remember thinking, “This is how I will die. Daddy will kill us.” He finally exhausted himself and left the house, but since my mother didn’t leave him, that scene replayed itself many more times over the next 10 years, until I escaped to college at the age of 17. As a result, I’ve lived with crippling anxiety and trauma my whole life.