The first time when it became clear to me that I live in a dictatorship was in 2014 when reading, prior to its publication, the landmark (and still the only) scientific empirical study to address the question as to whether or not the United States federal Government is, authentically, a democracy — or, whether, alternatively, it's instead more of a dictatorship, than a democracy.
This study documented conclusively that America's Government is the latter.
So, on 14 April 2014, I headlined "US Is an Oligarchy, Not a Democracy, Says Scientific Study". Subsequently, my editor linked it to the published article at the Journal where the study was published, Perspectives on Politics, from the American Political Science Association, and the full study can be read there.
On 30 April 2014, was posted at youtube the video that remains, to this day, the best and clearest ordinary-language summary of what that badly-written academic study proved. See its explanation here: