While I'm away, readers give the advice.
On growing up with a toxic parent:
My father was, in retrospect, amazingly insecure and passively abusive. If I misbehaved or otherwise gained his ire, he would sometimes not speak to me for a week. When I was about 9, I remember I had done something that really angered him. He threatened to take me to a psychiatrist! I wasn't quite sure what that was, but I said, "Let's go now." He was stumped with nothing to say. It was the first time I remember, in a naive way, prevailing. I never heard this threat again.
I feel I chose my issues, those where I stood up to him, by accident. In my first university term, I plotted to visit a girl who lived out of state. My parents did not approve of her family. I carefully organized guys on my dorm floor to have a consistent story for my parents if they called. It was a great trip but my parents figured out what I had done and my father informed me that I was coming home to finish my education.
I immediately went to the dean, who opened the scholarship/work door to my staying at the university. I wrote to my parents that I was not returning home.
After earning my degree and being accepted to grad school, and with about $1,300 to my name, I decided to join two other grads on their European trip. My father's reaction was predictable: If I went, I was financially cut off.
I accepted the "offer." Cut off, I went to Europe for 12 weeks. It was life-changing.
My father's ever-present weakness pushed me to be independent and accept risk. I learned to get along on my own and to do what I could to achieve my own goals.