Why Changing My Name Helped Me Heal From Childhood Trauma
If you have experienced emotional abuse, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.
I was 8 years old when I realized what my name was. I had been through so much trauma and episodes of dissociation that it honestly never occurred to me that I had a name. I thought “Brittni” was just a word people used to get my attention or something. I hated the word, too, because it was always being used negatively. My abuser would say it with a look of disgust on her face or she would say it before or after criticizing me. Simply hearing the word made my body tense up.
Then, one day, I was writing the word in school at the top of my paper, as I had always been instructed to do and at the same time the teacher said that word and something clicked.
“Brittni?” I said, sounding the name out in my mouth.
“That’s your name,” the teacher said with that worried look on her face, the way she always looked at me.
I was so confused by this that I spent the rest of the day telling anyone who would listen that my name was Brittni and asking them if they knew that. By the third time I told my mother this, she snapped at me and told me to stop being ridiculous. My name was Brittni, it always had been and always would be.
This revelation sparked a deep hurt inside of me, a heavy discomfort that would last years. I hated my name and the memories associated with it and as I grew up and began realizing the abuse I was experiencing, it began difficult for me to break free. Even as I left home and cut off contact from my abuser, I felt my name still connected me to her and the awful things done to me, things I would rather forget. Every time someone said my name, I would look around to check who was saying it to make sure I was safe. If people were upset with me and said my name, it intensified my pain and triggered my defense mechanisms.
Finally, about a year ago, I began thinking more seriously about changing my name. I knew I no longer identified as Brittni, this broken victim. I was stronger, more independent and I wanted a name that would reflect that.
After a long time of consideration and thought, I decided to begin going by “Mary-Teresa” after my grandmother, whom I had always loved very much. Thus, the social media purging began. I deleted anything with my old name in it, edited things to my new name if possible and told my friends and family of my new persona.
I wanted to change my name legally but the process of paperwork, court dates and the financial cost is too much for me at the moment. One day, I hope to be able to do this. But for now, the people who matter most know who I am and that’s what’s important.
Not everyone took it well, especially my family, but I didn’t really require their support. I had good friends of mine who understood and stood behind me as I became Mary-Teresa. I changed jobs, also, and go by this new name. Nobody even knows who Brittni is, now. I have put her to rest, collecting some of her items and memories and storing them in a box in the attic. If I need to be her for a day, I can look in there. But for now, I am content with my new identity.
Photo by Devin Justesen on Unsplash