I Was But One Of Many

Nobody likes me and everyone is better than me. That’s been my default setting for most of my life. It’s a defence mechanism I’ve created to cut ‘them’ off at the pass and highlight my own inadequacies before ‘they’ can grab me by the hair and expose my frightened face to the reality of myself as it brazenly stares back at me, a melancholy mirror of brutal teenage experiences that have carried over into my adult life, the most unwelcome of historic hangovers.

I say brutal but I’m being melodramatic. My teenage years were comfortable enough, nothing compared to the horrors many have to navigate on their way to adulthood. I wasn’t abused, didn’t live on the breadline, didn’t really want for anything. There were many happy moments. But then there were the moments that weren’t so happy and these are the ones I seem to have brought along for the ride, a rotting albatross of dark, unwanted memories.

They live with me now, slick jagged rocks just below the glassy surface, waiting to rip me open on a whim. When I’m least expecting them they rise to gut me like a fish flopping on the deck of a boat. Striking me down, reducing me to the shy, fragile boy who was no good at sport in a school where sport was everything. Bullied by students and teachers alike. Some physical, yes, sly punches and knuckles rapped against the head. More shocking than painful.

Those wounds healed within days. The mental ones I still carry, unseen but ever present, just beneath my thick/thin skin. The words, the taunts, the ridicule. I will carry them to my grave, weighing me down with each faltering step. The teachers were the worst. Old men now, harmless, yet what harm they wreaked in their prime. I read their obituaries now, pillars of the community or so they would have you believe. But I know the truth of their reigns of terror.

One of them, the worst of them, came to my father’s funeral. I wasn’t even aware of the connection between them. He stood in line to shake my hand, oblivious as to who I was or the impact he’d had on my life. He never lifted a hand to me, instead preferring public humiliation in front of the class, a gibbering wreck who wilted beneath the heat of his glare and miserably dropped out of his class. A subject I was excelling at before I entered his torture chamber of a classroom.

He’s dead now and teachers wouldn’t be allowed to ‘get away with that’ these days. And yet he did, leaving me to pick up the pieces whenever that small, frightened voice inside me soars and I succumb to the demons uncoiling within. I will always carry them, waiting to pounce and bring the man to his boyish knees. I shook his hand that day, stiff upper lip and all that, not wanting to cause a scene, to let the family down. I looked into his eyes and saw nothing, no recognition, shame or guilt. I was but one of many.

Published by Fractured Faith Blog

We are Stephen and Fionnuala and this is our story. We live in Northern Ireland, have been married for 17 years and have three kids - Adam, Hannah and Rebecca. We hope that our story will inspire and encourage others. We have walked a rocky road yet here we are today, together and stronger than ever. We are far from perfect and our faith has been battered and bruised. But an untested faith is a pointless faith. Just as a fractured faith is better than none at all. We hope you enjoy the blog.

22 thoughts on “I Was But One Of Many

  1. It’s deplorable, but that’s the way things were done ‘in those days’. I know kids can be merciless when it comes to showing who’s the boss and maybe the teachers thought it was a way to make you work harder or toughen you up. (Perhaps it did in a way). Luckily you don’t have to go through that again, but I sense the obvious mental and physical pain it brought at the time and that still lives on unfortunately. Though I suspect you’re the boss now!


  2. Unfortunately, many of us have one of “these.” Mine actually told my Mom she just didn’t like me. Well, that ended that and I was moved out of her class. But for my mother, I would have questioned what was wrong with me. I got to see my mother in action as she reduced that teacher and her enabling vice principal to shame, all in her quiet way.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Thank you for your honest, raw account. The memory of my first-ever teacher, who singled me out in kindergarten for daily humiliation and bullying, haunts me to this day. What’s even more frustration is that other students from that time remember her as a fun teacher. I understand how it can still hurt. Thank you for your story.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This reminds me that we have to be aware every day of the impact we have on others. We can leave lifelong wounds and be blissfully unaware. There are people our there who prefer to bully rather than face their own inadequacies. We can’t be like them.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I can definitely relate. Thank you for validating this type of thing for me and doubtless, many others. I messed up also, but was hurt by some as well.


  6. I thankfully never had this happen in school but I have had several peers and adults who have said things that totally destroyed me to my core. I am sorry you experienced this my friend. Words are powerful and can last a lifetime. But it is obvious in your work and in the lives of your family that your words of adventure and love will also last a lifetime. Try to have a good day today and remember you are a good man and great writer ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  7. That is absolutely horrible! I am lucky to have never had a teacher like that in any phase of my education. I honestly can’t imagine how painful something like that would be and how long the scars of that abuse might last. Just in case you have forgotten, you are a REMARKABLE human being with talents far outweighing the pettiness of those who sought to demean you.

    God loves you and so do I.


  8. Dear Stephen,

    As a child, I was bullied by kids at school mostly, but the attitude back then was “just ignore them” Tried that, didn’t work. Then the vice principal/principal (those in authority) actually blamed me for getting bullied when I hadn’t done a thing. That philosophy never made sense to me. Still doesn’t. There are some people who are not fit to teach and be around children.

    When someone has had years of verbal abuse in their family, school, and work it’s impossible to dump that negative garbage all at once. For me, I’m still working on silencing those voices. Almost daily, I try to focus on positive motivation quotes to try and replace the bad with the good. It’s a struggle. There are days I’m fragile like a piece of china. I have to stop and consciously stop the negative thinking. I’m still retraining my brain to reach for the positive.
    The good days outweigh the bad and I appreciate the blessings all the more. Keeping track of what I’m accomplishing in my writing and art is helping me see the steps I’m taking to reach my dreams and goals.

    The scars and wounds are there and have made me who I am today. A highly sensitive person (HSP) who is taking that emotion and experience and putting it into my characters hoping what is there will find its way to helping others. Sending you hugs and prayers!


  9. Hearing stories like this saddens me. Teachers have a vital role to play in the upbringing of children, and can push in any number of directions. At some point in all of our lives, whether we have formally trained to be one or not, we will find ourselves in the position of teacher. It is our responsibility to encourage hope, and curiosity to figure something out when we don’t know, and to see our strengths even when clouded in self-doubt.

    From your writing, and the way you speak about your family, and the way you encourage others into healthy discussion here, I you being a driver for change. Thank you for your courage and honesty in sharing.

    Peace to you and family Stephen. ♥


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