About six months ago, I started a new journey in my life. I changed my name. I stopped going by the name I have had for 25 years and have started going by a new name. I changed my name on Facebook and I have started the process of changing my name legally.
Why? Because for me, my old name is associated with a lot of pain and suffering and was becoming a huge trigger for my mental health. You may find it odd that after all these years a name is suddenly triggering for me, but if I was honest, I would tell you that my name has been a trigger for me for a long time. I just didn't think it was "acceptable" to change my name because it was a trigger.
I had seen, and still see, many transgender people changing their names but that seemed obvious and acceptable to me. They change their name because they are also changing everything about them. They are becoming the person that they have felt they have been their whole lives.
But I wasn't. Sure, in the last year and a half I have definitely done a lot of changing, a lot of it for the better — or at least, my better. But it wasn't the same to me. I just wanted to be able to be addressed without feeling a jolt of panic every time. I only knew one other person that had changed their name because it was a trigger and thankfully, I had her to talk to about what I was thinking and feeling. I hadn't even talked to my boyfriend about it yet, but after talking things out with my dear friend, I informed him that I was considering it.
After trying to find the perfect name and trying out a few with my close friends, I finally settled on my new name. Ashling. For the first four months, it was just my boyfriend, our roommate, and the people I talk to on a daily basis and understand my mental health problems that I had using my new name. I was afraid of what other people in my life, especially my family, would think and say about my name change. It was a huge step.
Finally, about two months ago, I took the step of changing my name on Facebook and made an announcement post about my name change. As expected, it didn't go well, but I stood my ground and have gotten a lot more support than I expected as well. I even stood my ground with my family, the biggest hurdle for me personally.
Let me tell you though, the last two months of having people tag me, contact me, and call me by my new name has been insanely refreshing. I still find myself awing over how good it feels when someone uses my new name. I can finally be addressed and not feel a sense of panic about it. It has definitely helped me have less PTSD flashbacks.
So, why am I writing about this? I just wanted to encourage anyone else who may be in the same place I was six months ago, or even two months ago. If, for any reason, you feel like you need a name change, I encourage you to explore those options. It has been a great step for me in my mental health journey, and I hope it will be for you as well.