Why I Choose to Write About Mental Illness Under a Pen Name
Last week, I wrote a post stating that “Natasha Tracy” is my nom de plume – it is my writing name and not my legal name. Some people showed concern over this and felt it was inconsistent with my convictions regarding stigma and standing up for one’s rights.
I would now like to respond to these concerns regarding my own choices, writing and reasons.
Disclosing Your Mental Illness
I get asked quite frequently about when and how to disclose you have a mental illness. I have responded on disclosing to family, significant others and employers. The one thing I tell people more often than anything else is: do what is right for you. Disclose to people you think are safe. Put your own wellness ahead of telling others. Take your needs into account. In general, carefully think through “coming out” as mentally ill because once the cat’s out of the bag on that topic, you cannot put it back in.
In fact, I explicitly recommended that bloggers remain anonymous online for reasons that relate to their own safety.
Why I Choose Not to Disclose My Name
There are several reasons I choose not to use my real name when writing.
1. Hate groups, stalkers and those who would do me harm.
Here and elsewhere I am read by tens of thousands of people, which is great, but in addition to helping many people, it also means that there are going to be people who are going to hate me for my point of view. This is okay. This is just the internet at work. Unfortunately, such online hatred can easily bleed into real life hatred in the form of stalking and even physical violence.
I don’t just make my living as a mental health writer – I work in the tech industry as well. And it is an unfortunate reality that if I am Googled before a job interview and my mental health history comes up, I am not going to get the job. No employer wants to know that their possible employee has been hospitalized for suicidal ideation.
While I don’t consider this a major factor, I don’t believe it’s right to name people (like my father and mother) in my blog and have their security compromised. My mother owns a business in a small town and she doesn’t need the publicity from seeing the kind of things I disclose online.
While I believe that a person’s mental illness shouldn’t affect the way others treat them, that is simply not the world in which we live. And in a world where I have to pay rent and buy kitty litter and count on businesses to write the checks that allow for that, I can’t afford, personally, to take the chance of becoming unhirable.
Thanks to everyone for their comments and insight on this matter. And as for the people who were surprised that I use a pen name, I apologize. I certainly didn’t intend to be misleading or hurtful.
What is True
To be clear, everything I say here, my picture, my videos are all me and are all true and real. Partly, my nom de plume gives me greater ability to be honest in that way.
Tracy, N. (2012, March 19). Why I Choose to Write About Mental Illness Under a Pen Name, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, June 20 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/breakingbipolar/2012/03/why-i-choose-to-write-about-mental-illness-under-a-pen-name
Author: Natasha Tracy
Thankfully, I stumbled upon your blog and this post. I want you to know, it is 100 percent understandable and OK for you to writer under a pen name. Your safety is what is important!!
what a nice
sincerely Gregg that's my real name
i like it
Keep it up :)
the point I'm making or asking is,what's the difference on having your picture on your blog and writing in a nom de plum? what's the use? don't you think it is such an irony? I'm just worried for you and can't understand what you're trying to do....
Thanks. I appreciate that. I shall try. :)
- Natasha Tracy
Thanks for your support in this matter, it is appreciated. I didn't realize there would be any sort of backlash and I was unprepared for it. Thank-you for expressing some positive sentiments.
i'v been following your writings for a while now. i respect your decision as a writer to not reveal your true name. i don't feel betrayed by that. i like the honesty that shines through in your writing. for me its the content of your writing that counts.whether you choose to appear on the blog as natasha or in any other name is of little importance as far as i'm concerned.all i know is i find your writing very sincere, and i have no doubt at all that it comes from a person whose heart is in the right place when it comes to the advocacy of mental health issues.
Consider NAMI's Stigma Busters campaign. It's a concerted effort to raise awareness and teach people that it is hurtful to judge a person just because they have a mental illness.
I'm obviously not there yet, since I am not "out" on my blog. But I do hope to get there someday.
My feelings on this? I understand how people can be, initially, a bit surprised. Maybe Angry. But I understand your perspective as a writer of mental health.
I use my real name but have, at times, questioned if I made the right choice. Stigma exists. I wonder, well, perhaps I might want to enter the work force as I did before writing for a living, prospective employers would look up my name. That's the reality. They may judge me. That is the reality.
People who might do us harm exist, as you mention, and it's a personal choice to protect oneself. Writers can be targets because we voice our opinion.
That is also the reality.
I find it interesting that this post has few comments and the last has many.
So, I can understand how people might feel, but further to this, I understand the need for privacy.
I personally respect your decision and, the writer in my has to point out, that I wish others would think about it a little bit more.
Writing about mental health our goal is shared: to reduce stigma but it is our choice whether or not we share our real name.
In the end, it is the content of your writing, our writing, that speaks for itself.
Just my thoughts.
I painted a small rickety bookstand for my youngest stepdaughter (who read not a thing, but I read to her nightly so she wouldn't miss out on that world a'blessed) and on the edges of that bookstand I painted the words of Nietzshe: Even a thought, even a possibility, can shatter us and transform us." They were lost on here, but they broke my heart wide open. It was enough that I gave and was lost in wonder and pleasure for all those years. An extended childhood for me of being able to read aloud. On her deaf ears but not mine.
I believe still...even a thought, even a possibility, can shatter us and transform us.
Never stop writing. Never stop 'talking'. Never stop sharing. Someone is waiting to hear. Names mean nothing. Only the Truth. The Truth of Humanity. Of what it is to be Human.
In May I will exhibit a solo exhibition of art entitled "Hellbent" about the coming out of a bipolar depression of an artist to exhibit art...again...always again. The backgrounds will all be black and muddled thick textures but the figures will be somewhat represetative of 'pure' and angelic in way and vibrant and colourful and multihued and beautiful. Bright in the midst of darkness. Lots of textures and Life even when there seems no Life. Always there is viable textures. We are always "real"and there and we feel even though 'you' may not see our shape, we have shape, and we exist, always we exist.
Well, in one person's opinion, I think you have some writing talent there so if I were you, I'd give it a go in whatever way makes sense for you.
I appreciate your support in this matter and I can see you have given it quite a bit of thought in your own life.
Thank-you for your kind words.
Natasha, suprisingly, commented that I was 'obviously a writer', and I was shocked and appreciative of that comment as I am a 'wannabe' writer as I have only written on friends' writer sites and have studied to be a writer and wanted to be a writer but not made my foray into the field. My bipolar disability makes it difficult (to say the least) to be consistent in my endeavours.
But when I do write it is about my passion, my passion about the life of people like myself struggling to life with childhood abuse and mental illness, and because my mother is deceased I feel I can write about our life together. But because the people who love her our not deceased I am bound to write with compassion an respect. But there are others in our life who I don't feel any great compassion or respect and so when I write about them I will write under a nom de plume. That is respect for the living. That is the writer's code. I am deeply bound to that.
The story is necessary and true and so I will tell it, but the name of the storyteller is not necessary, only the story. I will not tell a story that causes harm. I will only tell a story that may help. I have the right to tell the story of my life, but my name is not necessary to the telling of the story except to the people in my immediate life who love and respect me. In print it is not necessary. To the masses only the story and the truth matter. As it is with Natasha. Bless her. Love you Natasha for the stories you have brought to my life and to the lives of others like me. The truth will prevail. The humanity in the stories is not lost. The names matter only to you and your beloved.