This is kind of an unfinished thought, but (a) it’s been sitting “unfinished” in my drafts for a while now (b) it’s pretty long, so it may as well stand on its own.
This is about bullying, a little bit, and also about that feel when you’re afraid of a problem but you’re more afraid of asking for help with it.
So yeah a common theme of my childhood was not just not-reporting bad stuff that happened to me, but actively covering it up, for fear that I’d be told it was my fault.
This is a totally minor thing but it illustrates some of the factors that led me to feel that way.
One day in middle school, the last class had just finished and everyone was getting ready to go home. The halls were lined with people getting stuff out of their lockers. I had my cello with me. I laid it down on the floor, as out-of-the-way as I could make it which was not very out of the way because of all the people around me. Two kids walked past and instead of going around or stepping over my cello, they stepped on it. One of them called it a stupid big violin.
The cello wasn’t damaged which is what makes this a minor thing.
I tried to report this, but I didn’t know the kids’ names and hadn’t seen their faces well enough to recognize them, so the only thing that happened was various administrative people being confused and irritated with me because I couldn’t give them a better description.
(If I was able to clearly see them step on it why didn’t I recognize them, why couldn’t I describe them? Because my brain sucks at actually absorbing and remembering that kind of information unless I’m specifically thinking about it, and I was busy being shocked that someone would deliberately step on a musical instrument. And because my brain sucks at putting things into words in general.)
So that’s the thing.
Best case scenario: authority figures are upset with you because you can’t explain things correctly or don’t know hte correct things.
Worst case scenario: authority figures decide the thing is actually your fault.
Result: If I thought something might conceivably be partially my fault, I’d choose covering it up over maybe getting help with it and maybe getting blamed for it.
Result: If I didn’t understand something or wasn’t sure how to describe it, I’d choose not trying to explain it over maybe getting help and maybe making people mad at me.
It’s kind of amazing how consistently “badly explaining that something is wrong” got negative reactions towatds me that overshadowed whatever eventual help I got with the problem. Like, I understand now why people react that way and it’s a completely normal reaction, but I was a kid. My ability to talk myself through “they’re angry because they’re worried, they’re not really angry At You” was not that great, because I was a kid.
Adults did sometimes say things like that–“We’re not mad, we’re just worried”– but weighed against people being visibly&audibly frustrated and angry, and knowing it was because of something I’d said or done, it didn’t help much.