If You See Me, Please – Call Me By My First Name
If you’ve experienced sexual abuse or assault, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact The National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.
When you first meet me, there are many things you might notice. You might notice that I am a little shorter than most women my age, or that I have flyaway hair on days I don’t have time to tame it. You might notice the tan lines on my feet, the stretch marks on my thighs, or scars running up and down my arms. But no matter what you might notice first, I ask you one thing – call me by my first name.
Call me by my first name, because my abuser didn’t. In the darkness of a bedroom with the curtains pulled down, and my small body shaking, he called me “dirty” and “disgusting.” While he did unspeakable things, he might whisper “sweetheart” into my ear, smelling of stale beer and nightmares, but in that room, he never called me by my name.
Call me by my first name, because when self-harm whispered its trails down my arms and thighs, it called me “stupid” and “worthless.” It told me “you deserve this” and called me “liar.” Those words were all that were allowed on my body – a name was too precious for someone like me.
Call me by my first name, because even as anorexia sucked all of me from my bones, it told me I was “fat” and “huge” and “someone no one will ever want.” It took away my tears, but also my joy, my spirit, my relationships. It labelled everything in the kitchen “not allowed” and everything on my body “too much.”
Call me by my first name, because my first therapist called me “unfixable” during our first meeting. Amid the colorful chairs and pillows, and the token box of tissues, she looked me up and down and inside out and decided that she couldn’t help me, without ever using my name.
Call me by my first name, because when depression wrapped its dark clouds around me, it called me “lazy” and “a waste of space,” mocking me as I struggled to find the energy and the willpower to get out of bed, to wash my hair, to brush my teeth.
Call me by my first name, because PTSD calls me “unworthy” of such a diagnosis, “ridiculous” for reliving my trauma over and over, “weak” for dissociating when it’s all too much to bear. Because it swirls memories around and around in my head, overwhelming me, until I’m not even sure who I am.
Call me by my first name, because for so many hospitalizations I was called “the patient” in hushed tones by well-meaning doctors and nurses. And I know that my emaciated body, the tube up my nose, the hospital gown – they all helped me look the part, but I could have known I was so much more.
Call me by my first name, over and over, because so many rounds of ECT made me forget. The haze, the fog, the stumbling through the hospital hallways, pale green and sterile, trying desperately to remember anything I could.
Call me by my first name, with compassion, like the staff at the treatment center where I stayed for months. Who slowly helped me reshape my sense of self. Who guided me while I learned to eat, to breathe, and to talk.
Call me by my first name, with firmness, the way my current therapist does as she leads me though memories I never thought I could face, but never lets me go deeper than I can handle.
Call me by my first name, with love and softness, like my girlfriend does when she holds my hand and pulls me close.
Call me by my first name, with joy, like my family and friends do when they see the spark returning to my eyes.
Call me by my first name, with pride, the way it will be read at my college graduation.
I may have suffered childhood sexual abuse. I may have depression, anorexia, and PTSD. I may have self-harmed. I may have been in and out of hospitals since I was 13 years old. But I am also thriving. I am strong, I am resilient, and I continue working every day – thanks to the people along the way who reminded me that I am human, that I am more than a number. I am Meg. So, if you see me, please – call me by my first name.
Getty photo by Anna Ismagilova