Key Childhood Events That Changed, Shaped, and Broke(?) Me

“Unhappy is he to whom the memories of childhood
bring only fear and sadness.” ~ H. P. Lovecraft Generally speaking, I would say that I had
a fairly happy childhood, but a few key negative events stand out in my mind that I think had
a huge impact on me as an individual and have shaped the way I am today. Although my recollections
are probably not perfect, the resulting feelings are real. There’s a total of six key events
which I will discuss today in chronological order. So let’s begin. 1. Mickey Monkey and the Gas Chamber: When
I was about four or five, perhaps younger, I had some undisclosed medical condition which
I won’t go into here, but it required surgery. I was told by my parents that I had to go
see the doctor to “make everything better”. On the drive over, I knew something was not
quite right as they were acting a little bit different from normal. We arrived at the hospital
and I was put into a small, white treatment room stinking of disinfectant. I remember
sitting on the examination table with a small simian friend by my side, a soft toy which
I called Mickey Monkey. My parents were outside talking to the doctors, so I immediately knew
something was wrong. If everything was okay, then surely they would be talking in front
of me. Eventually, a doctor entered with a gas mask in hand. He tried to explain to me
that I needed to put on the gas mask so that I could go to sleep, but I wasn’t having
any of it. I think I screamed and cried and the doctor knew that I wasn’t going to give
in that easily. As a final act of persuasion, the doctor placed the mask over Mickey Monkey’s
face and sent him to sleep in his arms. My only thought was that Mickey Monkey was now
dead and that if I didn’t fight, I would suffer the same fate. Eventually, over-powered
by a number of hospital staff, I was gassed, and that was the last memory I have of that
incident. Many years later, I remember smelling Mickey Monkey and still being able to smell
that noxious, nauseating gas. It just didn’t seem to wash out. Perhaps, it was all in my
imagination, or I had associated the smell of the monkey with the smell of the gas chamber.
Either way, I have never forgotten that moment. They may as well have been trying to kill
me, because that’s what it felt like. To this day, I’m hesitant around doctors. I
tend to question them a lot, especially when it comes to matters of anaesthesia. As an
example, a few years ago, a dentist recommended that it would be easiest to work on my two-year-old
son’s teeth if he was put under a so-called GA, a general anaesthetic, but I wasn’t
buying it. I had heard a lot about dentists profiteering from these sorts of treatments
and really couldn’t see the need. Not to mention the possible risks of GA on the developing
brain. I politely refused and said I needed to seek out a second opinion. The next dentist
also recommended a GA, so I sought out a third, and then a fourth opinion. Finally, I came
upon a dentist who had young children himself and recommend against general anaesthesia.
He said that my son’s cavities weren’t that bad and that we could simply monitor
them over the next year or so until he was ready to sit in the dentist’s chair. It
worked out well, and now my son’s teeth are fine. There was absolutely no need for
him to undergo general anaesthesia with all its associated risks, but yet so many dentists
tried to convince me otherwise. 2. The Wife of Satan. At the age of about
9, I had moved to a new school, the fourth school in as many years. It was a Christian
school, as my mum was now Christian, and apparently public school wasn’t cutting it. I remember
the teacher well. He was a kind man and treated me well. But one day, he was sick, and the
substitute teacher happened to be the wife of the then Pastor. I knew of her, but had
never previously interacted with her. On that one fateful day, I remember her asking a question
to the class, “Who is the Governor General of Australia?”. I had no idea, so I hid
my eyes from her menacing gaze. Of course, she chose me to answer the question despite
other children having raised their hands. I simply told her I didn’t know. She then
replied, “You don’t know who the Governor General of Australia is?”, and then she
made me stand up. She continued to berate me. “You are Australian, right? Then surely
you should know who the Governor General is?”. This went on for what felt like an eternity.
I started to go red in the face from embarrassment, but she continued. “I can’t understand
how a nine-year-old boy doesn’t know who the Governor General of Australia is. It beggars
belief!”. Finally, I started crying, which obviously is what she wanted all along. She
made me sit down and I remember trembling in my chair, all the children around me staring
at me. From that day, I had fantasies of her falling into a pit, or being bitten by a poisonous
snake. But it never happened. As far as I know, she’s still alive — hopefully frail
enough so that she can’t hurt anybody ever again. Of course, I’ve had extreme anxiety
ever since whenever I’ve been in a classroom environment, fearful that I won’t know the
answer to one of the teacher’s arbitrary questions and be stood up and openly mocked
in front of my peers. 3. The Wailing Witch. As a child, I remember
enjoying singing and making music. I would make recordings with my friends on my Dad’s
stereo and play them back. I remember laughing and having a great time. But then at that
same Christian school, the music teacher decided to destroy any semblance of interest I had
in music. The school had a seniors’ choir for all children in grades five, six, and
seven. However, we all had to attend an individual trial just to make sure that we were suitable.
It came to my turn and I stood in front of the piano as the music teacher played the
tune to Jingle Bells. I confidently sang along thinking I was doing really well. But then
all of a sudden, she stopped playing and said something along the lines of, “No, no, no!
That was awful, just awful! You obviously can’t sing, so I won’t be inviting you
to sing in the school choir.” I think only me and three other kids in the school weren’t
invited. There was the obese kid, the nerdy kid with coke-bottle glasses, a smelly kid
who wore dirty clothes, and then of course, me. We were assigned to a room during choir
practice where we had to build Lego. Every year, we’d do the same stupid trial, and
every year I’d be assigned to the Lego room. I honestly felt like a real failure. No doubt
it had untold effects on my mental health. I remember having fantasies of the music teacher
drinking hot tea and burning out her voice box, or her leaning over too closely to the
sewing machine and stitching up her mouth. But it never happened. As far as I know, she’s
still alive — hopefully frail enough so that she can’t hurt anybody else ever again.
Of course, from that day, I’ve had extreme anxiety whenever I’ve needed to sing. I’ve
tried to overcome it, but still have feelings of dread whenever a microphone is put in front
of me. Luckily, I’ve had none of these feelings when singing to my children. They don’t
seem to judge me like that music teacher did, you know, the one who was supposed to be TEACHING
ME MUSIC. 4. The Devil’s Cane. One day, at the same
Christian school, I remember it being unseasonably hot. I was at the bubbler getting a drink
when somebody next to me started squirting me with water. I squirted him back and we
spent the next 30 seconds or so having a bit of a water fight. It was a lot of fun, especially
on a hot Summer’s day. But then some prissy little girls decided to go tell a teacher
about our little water fight and as a result, I was sent to the headmaster’s office. The
headmaster told me that the girls had told him that I had squirted them. I said, “No,
I wet the boy next to me after he had wet me! The girls weren’t even near me!”.
The headmaster stood up and said that he didn’t believe me. He reached over behind his desk
and pulled out a long box. Inside the box was a weaponized cane. He pulled it out and
said that obviously I was lying and the punishment for lying is three strikes of the cane. I
started screaming and crying telling him that I didn’t even wet the girls. Fortunately
for me, he put the cane away, but promised that if I was ever sent to his office again,
the outcome would be a very different one. I ran out crying, angry at the injustice.
I remember having fantasies of him being publicly flogged with his backside exposed in front
of the entire school. But it never happened. As far as I know, he’s still alive — hopefully
frail enough so that he can’t hurt anybody ever again. Of course, from that day, I’ve
had extreme anxiety whenever I’ve needed to deal with people in positions of authority.
Actually, only a few years ago (when I was in my early thirties), I was riding to uni
when a police officer stopped me for not-dismounting when crossing a pedestrian crossing (even
though there was absolutely nobody else on the crossing and no cars to be seen). He gave
me a lecture about the reasons we need to dismount and a stern warning telling me that
if ever I got caught doing it again, there’ll be consequences to pay. I remember riding
off crying, I mean, a man in my thirties, because a police officer got angry at me.
The tears came from nowhere. Again, I just felt complete injustice. Actually, that law
no longer exists in Queensland. You can now legally ride across a zebra crossing as long
as you do so in a safe manner. It just goes to show you how arbitrary these laws really
are. 5. The Apathetic Assistant. Again, at the
same Christian school (I know, there seems to be a pattern occurring here), it was sports
trials. I was in line for the long jump and one of the boys behind me decided that I’d
be a good target for one of his newly-learnt karate kicks. He kicked me straight in the
kidneys and I fell to the floor. I got up crying and walked straight up to the assistant
teacher who was taking all the long jump measurements. I told him what just happened, but his first
response was, “Look, I’m busy! Just tell him not to do it again!”. I remember walking
back still whimpering. As I got back in line, the boy told me that because I had dobbed,
he’d have to kick me again. But this time, I was ready. I put my hands up in front of
my face and body to protect myself, so he kicked me three times in quick succession
in the side of the legs. It hurt like hell and I started bawling. I hobbled up to the
assistant teacher with everybody staring at me as I walked by, but he showed no remorse.
He just yelled at me, “I told you before! I’m busy! Get back in line!”. The boy
who kicked me laughed, but luckily for me, he didn’t kick me again. I guess he thought
he had dispensed enough hurt that day. I knew the boy liked BMXs, so I remember having fantasies
of him losing his legs in a bicycle accident. But it never happened. As far as I know, he
became a security guard. I saw him one time a few years ago at a multistory car park where
he was manning the front gate. He seemed friendly enough towards me and honestly, I don’t
hold any grudges against him. Kids do stupid things. The assistant teacher on the other
hand, should have known better. He should have stepped in and done something. Instead,
he was too concerned about getting his precious long jump measurements. As far as I know,
he’s still alive — probably still an active teacher. Hopefully he’s learnt to, you know,
LOOK AFTER CHILDREN. 6. The Merciless Mother. One day at home (I
was probably 10 or 11), I thought it would be interesting to try to flush a plastic bag
down the toilet. Unsurprisingly, it got stuck, and the toilet bowl started to fill up. I
ran for the hills hoping that no one would notice. Suddenly, I heard a scream from my
mother. “Who put a plastic bag in the toilet?!”. She screamed out my name and I had no choice
but to come. In her hands, she had the infamous dog leash — the one that she would use to
punish us with. We hadn’t owned a dog for a number of years, but yet, she hung on to
it. I was scared. I didn’t want to be hit, so when she asked me who put the plastic bag
down the toilet, I swore that it wasn’t me. She wanted to know who did it, so I gave
her a name — the name of my intellectually and physically-impaired older brother. She
immediately went to his room and thrashed him. I remember his cries for help and the
extreme feelings of guilt that I had afterwards. I have since spoken to my mother about this,
and she has apologised a number of times for the ongoing physical abuse. But to be fair
to her, it was much more common back then. Most families I knew believed in smacking
their children. Actually, it was odd for a family NOT to physically punish their children.
I remember the lady next door punishing her grandchildren with an actual whip. She would
stand them out in front of the whole family and publicly whip them. In my family, unfortunately
for my brother, he copped the brunt of the abuse, even when he wasn’t responsible.
Yes, I feel bad, but I was put in a situation as a young child where I was threatened with
physical violence. That’s not a good place to be in as a kid. The only thing I could
think of doing to escape the violence was to blame my disabled brother knowing full
well that he couldn’t articulate his innocence. It was a horrible situation to be put in,
and it has affected me throughout my life. As an aside, I had suffered years of teasing
and torment for having a brother who had such an obvious disability. But luckily, by the
age of 16 or 17, I learnt to deal with it and defended my brother at all costs. I don’t
bear any grudges against my mother as she has apologised a number of times for the torment.
I’m not going to live a life where I don’t forgive people. I suppose she was going through
some tough times herself, not that that’s an excuse, but it does explain a lot. Despite
the history, I now regularly see my mother and she enjoys spending time with my children.
She also happens to watch this channel fairly regularly, so “Hi Mum! No hard feelings!”.
One good thing that has come out of all of this is that I don’t smack my own children
or threaten them with violence of any kind. My son is the first to speak up whenever there’s
an injustice, or even a perceived injustice. And that’s good. That’s exactly what I
want him to do. I don’t want him to fall victim to some sociopath teacher at school. These events have changed me, whether that
be for good or bad. To some extent, they explain why I am the way I am today. I’m not very
social. I’m not very good with people. I have an innate distrust of those in authority
and find it very hard to get on well with managers, team leaders, and all the rest of
them. It’s probably the reason why I hate full-time work so much. However, as a positive
consequence of these experiences, I stand up against injustice whenever it arises as
I’ve suffered a lot of it myself. I’ll be the first to step in when I see someone
being treated unfairly. If that’s all that I’ve gotten out of all of this, well, I
think that’s probably a good thing. Thanks for listening.

About the author


  1. Thank you for sharing such personal stories.

    Re the trauma, it is interesting how it is purely perception of an event rather than the event itself that producers trauma.

    It is said there are 7 ways this can occur, one of which is helplessness. Which I presume is what has occured in most of these situations.

  2. Would have been Midazolam (body can control respiration normally), not a general anaesthesia. Maybe the dentist just said GA out of simplicity, but they usuay talk about this as Twilight dentistry. Midazolam is an amazing medicine. I've come across many children who've had rotten teeth who've needed such treatment due to the stressful nature of dentistry, e.g needles for extractions and deep decay.

  3. My dealings with authority have left me with with the same view, it is very hard to adjust that reflexive distrust.

  4. Injustice is often wielded as a weapon by those with power, popularly or privilege, upon those who don’t.

    Only a remarkable few actually truly support and encourage the potential within others.

    Which is a sad failure of society.

  5. Injustice is often wielded as a weapon by those with power, popularly or privilege, upon those who don’t.

    Only a remarkable few actually truly support and encourage the potential within others.

    Which is a sad failure of society.

  6. From your video I suggest you are a male "Feeler".. It's tough for those like us. May I suggest you do the MBTI test, discover what makes you tick, many people benefit from knowing how their mind works, why they think and act the way they do.

  7. I think alot of us (of a certain age) have had mostly similar experiences AND still suffer the consequences of injustice & embarrassment. Upward & onward eh! TFS

  8. The major event in my childhood that changed me was a severe and rare chronic illness that has left me with lifelong disability. I don't really want to state why as it will cause great arguments on the internet by a bunch of people on both sides who argue blue in the face despite neither side actually having any depth of understanding of biology or medicine. But this ignorance is also reflected within the medical community – most general practitioners don't read peer reviewed literature and have no idea what to do when a zebra comes along. They're trained to look for horses and pretend everything is a horse, they're told that otherwise they're just wasting time and money and even causing harm to patients. Without accepting responsibility that if they get it wrong or hesitate to act, it can cause mortality or lifelong disability. Anyway, this over time shattered my prior comfortable middle class worldview and revealed how little most people care about those in society who fall through the cracks, particularly people with disabilities who are unable to work. And how little many family members care either for that matter. I'm sure Mr Daily rant is an exception, as he is suggesting he has developed some rare empathy for his brother that his mother and most of society seemed to lack. Empathy is hard work and hurts emotionally, which is probably why most people choose not to do it.

  9. That was very encouraging thankyou for sharing your experiences very relatable I still have hurtful memories from my childhood its comforting to hear others talking about it thankyou 🙂

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