Sunday, August 26, 2007

What's in a Name?

In my family of origin, names were very important. While I was named after my grandmother I was not called by that name, instead I was called my middle name, Kathleen.

Over the years, it was fine for my mother to call me names other than my given middle name or for her to bastardize my name. That was all part of her power and control. But it was not ok for me to go by any other name than the one she preferred.

When I was younger, I imagine it didn't matter to me much but then since I have little memory of much of my life before age eleven mostly (excluding recovered memories of abuse) I can't really say. I do know that by eleven or twelve when my friends wanted to call me Kathy instead of Kathleen my mother about had a cow.

One thing I do remember is that it was always confusing at school with a new teacher because my records would have my first name and I would only answer to my middle name. More than one time in my life I was in trouble because of the confusion surrounding my name.

I was always reminded that my name was Kathleen, not Kath or Kathy or Kathi or Kats or Lena or whatever else. It was a big deal to my mother that I could only be called Kathleen. I learned to live with it. It was easier to appease her at home than deal with her wrath.

I was sent off to boarding school for my high school years and during that time frame, my friends called me by a shortened version of my last name. My mother wasn't around to hear it so it was good.

It wasn't until I got into therapy that the issue of my name came up. I had done quite a bit of the initial work around the molestation by my older brother and I was really beginning to change as a person. The old family rules were being discarded and I was learning to stand up for myself.

I remember a number of us from my incest survivors therapy group went up to Seattle to a tv show, Northwest Afternoon. The subject of the show was to be some form of childhood sexual abuse and we wanted to participate.

We were lined up outside the television station waiting to be admitted when a tech or aid came by asking each our names and giving us name tags.

I remember when he asked me my name, I gave him a blank look. My mind raced trying to figure out what my name was. It was an awkward moment and he made a joke of it but I was disturbed.

I did tell him my name was Kathleen but after he moved on I explained to my friends how difficult that had been to do. That person was gone. She really didn't exist anymore and it felt uncomfortable wearing her name.

My friends laughed in a supportive way and encouraged me to chose a new name. I thought about it for a while and decided that's what I was going to do.

Discovering the right name was an interesting journey. I was pretty convinced that everything I had been was dictated by my mother. The only think I could think of in my entire life that had not been decided by her or chosen to be acceptable to her except for one thing.

The way I walked, talked, dressed, lived, etc all was determined based on passing her approval. The only thing I could think of that she had not been able to control was my handwriting. Granted it had to be neat or she'd have made my pay, but what it really looked like was my individual choice.

With that discovery I decided that the only thing I had from my childhood that was really mine was my signature. So while I wanted to change my name I didn't want to give up the one piece of me that was truly mine.

Before therapy my initials had been M.K. I wanted to keep those, they were part of my signature. That's how I ended up with MiKael for my name. I took my father's name, which was Michael and changed the "ch" to a capital "K." My name was changed but my signature remained intact.

Later, it was suggested that there was a hidden reason that I had selected the name of Michael. Once the satanism memories began to surface, most of my support network thought it was no coincidence that I had chosen the name of the mightiest of archangels to help me do battle with the forces of the devil.

Do you have a story about your name or that or your alters?


iz said...

You are brave for writing this blog. I'm glad you helped me discover it by commenting ion my space. I will be back at all your blogs often.

jumpinginpuddles said...

interestingly im not even sure the name we use is one we actually recognise i think its jhust a name similar to hey you, bizarre that this blog said what we were thinking .

Limbic Susie said...

We settled on a name that was chosen when we turned 18. We were at college far from home and decided we would choose, essentially a new host name. We changed it legally too, right then. 14 years later, we figured out it was one of our parts that did it, and as time went by, the others came back and protested, because there were many of us, and the new-named host, was just another part again. It was very difficult to manage this took 2 years of therapy to get through it and cope with who we were.

I too was always called many names as a child, not the one I was given. Perhaps it contributed to the separate selves, not sure. But it sure is confusing as a child when you've been told you're somebody, but your own family NEVER addresses you by that name.

Hope this makes sense to someone out there.
Limbic Susie

Kahless said...

Kathleen is a good Catholic name!!!

I was told by my mother three different stories about my name:
+ that my dad mucked up when we registered me. That I was meant to have a first name of Rose and a second name of Marie but he registered it as one. So that is why I have no middle name.
+ That I am named after the canadian mountie film Rose-Marie because my mother loved that film
+ That Rosemarie is latin for sea-mist which describes the day I was born.

I am not sure what is true. I dont use my full name. My father uses my name in full. I dont like it. I hate being called Rose too.

Actually I think peoples blog names can be really revealing. Kahless is a Klingon warrior. (Star Trek.) My avatar is a lion. So does all of this represent me finding my courage?

Kahless said...

Oh and the family nickname for me...
Buck Teeth Dandruff Hairy Legs Dads Feet Sausage Legs Formulate Fatness Repeat.