I have a father who left me when I was 5. He moved out of state when I was 7. We saw each other once every year or two. He returned to my area when I was 13. By the time I was 21, we still had a very limited relationship. He was/is an alcoholic and considering my own mental illness (I’m bipolar) and his own admission to the likelihood of him having something of the sort, he likely has a mental illness as well.
Through my 20s, we tried to get closer but it was not very successful. I was in and out of mental health facilities and he was stagnant in his own life, not really doing anything to change his behavior.
About two years ago, I was 29, we began talking on the phone every couple of days, attempting to establish a relationship. It was going well for a few months, until one night, when out of nowhere (it began with him criticizing how I ate a tostada) he berated me and told me vile things for over an hour that was amongst the most traumatic experiences of my life. Referring to my past suicidal tendencies, he was shouting at me that “he wouldn’t care if I killed myself” as I sat in meditation trying to calm myself from the painful attack.
After that night, we didn’t speak for over a year.
I forgave him, but I needed my space for a while.
As a Buddhist, I have always read that is important to love & deal compassionately with our parents, because we are not separate. My love is his love. His pain is my pain.
He has been living with my grandparents for the last year and now I see him quite a bit. I try and stay cordial as best I can. He’s only attacked me verbally a few times since. I thought things were getting better, but tonight he sent me a text message that makes me feel uncomfortable to respond to. He complains that I don’t treat him like he’s my father and I’m too casual with the way I talk to him. He says he’s been feeling that way for a while and is afraid of exploding on me again.
I’m having a tough time with what to do because I love him, truly. But trying to navigate our relationship is difficult for me and my mental health. I feel somewhat helpless in this situation and was hoping there was a perspective from this community that could help me understand how to handle this situation with guidance from a Buddhist perspective.