By: Revanche

On Anonymity, a face and a name, and a revelation

October 6, 2012

There’s a question of whether you can truly believe what a blogger’s saying if you don’t know his or her real name, or see his or her face, of whether there’s disingenuity in hiding behind a pseudonym online.

I’ve been thinking, lightly treading, one moment to the next, about whether or not there’s any point, a benefit, to considering shedding my pseudonymity, whether, if I wanted to take a new, fresh step in my writing, that would be the right step.

Bloggers are doing brave writing, soulful pieces about their journeys; Clare and her discovery process with alcohol: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3; Andrea’s recent revelation about her PTSD.  They’re able to write in the open, under their names and I admire that.

But having always been an anonymous blogger, an open identity looks like open and perhaps treacherous waters from here. Many PF bloggers have come out into the open and seem to have enjoyed the process; why not consider it?

Would it enrich my writing? Would it enrich the experience of blogging?

It’s an interesting thought exercise.  On the one hand, I haven’t had the experience of people caring enough to want to be open and honest with people in my real life about my health, my thoughts about my health, and experiences stemming therein.  I certainly couldn’t have been this open about my family’s life with money with, well, anyone. More of you know that genuine and authentic side of me than anyone in my real life.

On the other hand, of those who care, there’s nothing they can do and I chose not to enlighten them to the depths of my health journey and the related life choices.  Mostly, it was years of knowing that if I added one more thing to the list of things for my parents to worry over, that they couldn’t fix and had to feel guilty about not being able to fix, I couldn’t live with myself. So the encroaching, progressing and overwhelming chronic pain and fatigue issues were all safely tucked away under the hood. They were never to know that it was more than just a bit of pain I just couldn’t shake, that it’d ever gotten worse than the pain they knew about, the pain that started when I was 13.  Not the chest pains, not the vertigo, not the breathing problems, not the weekends of being flat out steamrollered, unable to lift limbs for the exhaustion, nor the parade of pharmaceuticals that wouldn’t breach my crushing defeat.  They were to know nothing about it.  Not when just the fact that I worked incredibly long hours with the little pain they knew about was so distressing.

I kept up a facade for so long that I’d forgotten it was there.

It was a sharp shock remembering this past week that knowing me, my name or my face or even knowing me since birth don’t lend itself to knowing much about me.

I got into a tiff with my dad over, of all things, weddings.

PiC and I had a very quiet courthouse wedding last year with only a handful of people. My side was represented by my parents and very close friends. The rest of the extended family saw the engagement ring at the funeral soon after and then the lying started.

It’s ironclad tradition to have an engagement party, oh well, Mom was so ill we just had to have a quick and small one. They all, of course, felt left out, but what could they say during funeral arrangements?

Then the questions, because, it’s my family and if we did a formal engagement, the date must already have been set.

Oh, well we can’t possibly think about planning anything now, obviously.

We have to wait a while, now, we thought we’d have Mom around for a while…
Oh, I hear someone calling my name, gotta go.

We never got around to planning the reception. Life and grief and work and everything got in the way. I still can’t really bring myself to want to plan one, yet.  I had the worst times thinking about planning it while Mom was struggling with losing her very self.

He brought the subject up the last time we were back home and my throat closed up.

It came up again, this time with the “your aunt and I will take care of all the arrangements,” “you don’t need to worry about the guest list, I’ll deal with it,” and after several attempts to put on the brakes gently, to interject some sense into the runaway train that leads to the 18-hours of Miserable Asian Wedding, trying to compromise before it turned into the Scary Vision of Stress, he said “well, everyone just has to suck it up and deal with it.”

He didn’t know. He doesn’t know how deep my wells of grief are intertwined with my helplessness to save her and my helplessness to save myself.

I lost it.

“NO. No, because if I ‘just deal with it, I will DIE. I can’t even do normal stuff because I’m sick. I can’t even live a normal life now, get dressed, cook meals, eat meals, drive a car, walk to and from the garage without planning which things I can do in a day without falling over, so no, I Can’t. Just. Deal. With. It.”

I shouldn’t have. I really really shouldn’t have. I was tired, I was short-tempered, I had completely forgotten how much I had hidden even from him.  Because in all these long years of chronic pain, fatigue and mystery illness, I hadn’t even told him that it wasn’t just the initial joint pain that he knew of in one isolated area anymore. That it was everywhere, that it was fatigue, and shortness of breath, and chest pain, and dizziness, and and and.

And he didn’t know that my years powering through work and school and work and moving and taking care of everything and more work, that was all on the Scholarship of Faking It. He had no idea that I’ve been slowly falling apart for nearly 20 years.

Because I deliberately didn’t tell him, in case he let it slip and Mom found out and worried herself into an earlier grave.  /Sigh.  And now I feel horrible for telling him because he’s been having survivor guilt, guilt for making my life difficult all these years, guilt for being dependent on me. And I know that. But I just ran right over him.

And of course he felt terrible over it.

So now that’s out and we both feel worse for having it out there in the open just making us both feel bad.

It’s more complicated, of course, than just a secret held too long, grief clouding judgment, guilt clouding judgment, a father feeling he’s neglected his duties. It’s all of that and more.

At the end of this, I don’t think I see a way for me to be a better blogger when I haven’t even figured out how to be a better, more open person yet.

27 Responses to “On Anonymity, a face and a name, and a revelation”

  1. I think revealing your identity is a personal decision and one that is different for everyone. I originally told my family and a few close friends about my old blog. My feelings where hurt when I realized that only one friend was reading it – he still reads it to this day – but none of my family. I have since come to the conclusion blog reading just is not their thing and that I actually enjoyed blogging anonymously. I can write freer and be more honest by being anonymous. Plus, I’d probably be fired if I used my real name. I also think being anonymous does hold me back. There are certain blogging activities and meet ups I don’t participate in when a name is required. And there was the local blogger who was annoyed my name wasn’t on my blog. So I made one up – I told her my name was Claire.

    I think you will make the right choice for you and your blog – which I love by the way. Your honesty about your life are some of my favorites.

    • Revanche says:

      Thank you, I must say I didn’t realize you were a regular reader!

      I agree that I, right now, feel like I can write more freely and honestly. I don’t know that I could have written this post, for example, quite the same way, if I knew my name were attached to it. I suppose that there were moments where I wondered if I could – or if I would be better for it. But maybe not.

  2. I blog openly, but then I tend to shade the truth – I don’t lie, but I leave a lot out of my blog b/c it’s under my name. So really I do envy your anonymity a bit – I think I would put out better writting sometimes if I weren’t holding back so much. Or maybe I need to work on not holding it back.

    As for letting it all loose on your dad – it’s unfortunate, but don’t beat yourself up over it. You’re going through a lot. And yes, you held it until it built up too much, but it’s human. It happens. It happened to me recently – it was ugly, and unfortunate. And I hurt myself and someone else, but sometimes we need that reminder not to bottle things so much. *hugs*

    • Revanche says:

      I guess it all depends on what it is you’re holding back, I guess, yes?

      There are times I can’t write things yet, mainly because I haven’t yet processed that which I need to say. Other times, I write in order to process. And here, I have the freedom to do either form. Perhaps with my name on, I would feel compelled to always have it together, as it were.

      I suppose the beating up thing stems from knowing better and still having screwed up. But with luck and time, it will get better.

  3. Niki says:

    I know you feel terrible and he probably does too. I just hope this can turn into a bonding situation for the both of you. I understand your reasons for not being completely honest, but now that it is out, it shouldn’t keep you guys further apart. There is a lot of healing to be done on both your parts. I know you know that.

    I don’t think using a pseudonym lessens the impact of your writing at all. Even though some bloggers do actually know each other in real life, I for one don’t think knowing your real name or knowing what you look like makes your stories any less real or touching or heartbreaking. You have a wonderful ability to articulate your feelings/thoughts and that comes across clearly.

    • Revanche says:

      Thank you, that’s really kind of you.

      If anything, I can hope that he sees I meant well by it but doesn’t let that guide how we go forward.

      And thank you, I appreciate the notion that my words don’t ring hollow.

  4. Katie C. says:

    I started blogging openly only because it felt more real to me than using a pseudonym. After years of being “Red,” I didn’t want to be her anymore. I wanted to be Katie and for you all to know me.

    But it does lead to some amount of censoring. While reloading blog posts, I made two of the ones that I knew would really offend certain family members private just in case they ever read through old posts. (Like Savvy Working Gal, no one read my blog even when they knew about it, and I’m not telling them about it this time.) I don’t feel like having my name attached has led me to blog about things less openly… It’s not like I wrote posts bashing family members all the time, and I stick behind my thoughts anyway.

    For you, I think there’s more cost to benefit with shedding the pseudonym. Well, okay… I think the costs outweigh the benefits for your readers because you are very open and honest about things on the blog that I doubt very much you would share with us if your name was attached and people in your life could find it. I like that we get your real story here, and I don’t need to know your real name to make that story more authentic.

    I’m sorry to hear that your dad found out about your pain in the way he did, but he needed to know. Reading through your archives, it’s like you’ve been carrying the weight of the world and being everything to all people and sparing your dad this burden. But you can’t! Let him worry. Let him be a dad. And forgive yourself for losing your temper under circumstances during which any normal person would be in the corner eating their hair. You are just one person, and how you’ve done everything you’ve done in 30 years, how you are the person you are… It amazes me! So cut yourself some slack, please! <3

    • Revanche says:

      *hugs*

      And laughing because I can’t say how much sometimes, maybe I DID want to be the person in the corner, gibbering and eating my hair. Though the very image makes me laugh so much I couldn’t move. And that’s why I blog, and stay Revanche and not my real name. You guys have been an amazing support during some rather dark hours.

  5. I don’t necessarily need to know who you are to connect with you as long as your words hit home. That’s the way I feel with other bloggers’ writings.

    I also agree with Katie. You already KNOW how I feel about you going hard on yourself.

  6. Clare says:

    This is so thoughtful, thank you for linking to my posts about giving up alcohol.
    Do you read apracticalwedding.com? It’s one of my favorite blogs because it’s very much about the sanctity/importance/meaning of marriage and anti-wedding industry. Sure, it talks about different weddings and themes and decorations, receptions, etc. but their mission boils down to: it’s about what YOU want. And if you don’t want a long, drawn-out family wedding, you don’t have to have one. It’s truly that simple.
    In my humble opinion, it’s better than your dad knows the truth. Now he can operate from a place of paternal empathy and you won’t resent him for not knowing all you have been bearing.

    xo.

    • Revanche says:

      You’re welcome. 🙂

      I do read it. And I read it for a while when I was trying to plan the wedding but I still couldn’t quite get any sort of vision of what I did want in place.

      And I can see your point of view, and can sort of agree, except for when he starts trying to get involved in my health care to “fix” it and make up for not being involved. Eeesh. That’s not pretty. :/

  7. *hugs* I’m sorry things got so crazy because of a wedding tradition you don’t care about. That stinks 🙁 I hope that you guys can move past this together and maybe it will help with some healing. You’ve been dealing with a lot for a very long time, no one can keep that all in forever. Sending good thoughts your way!

  8. I’ve always believed online anonymity to be a myth. However, I like your fake name and it has served you well. I hope you will consider allowing your family to host a reception for you and your husband. Yes, it will be a long day for you, maybe you can appoint someone to act as a shield for you when you need to take breaks (planner or friends) You need to consider that you might have a great time. Better to regret having a party to CELEBRATE your marriage than not having one at all.
    Blogging feels like writing in water (thank you John Keats.). But our words have strength, especially when posted online.

    • Revanche says:

      I think we all have to be aware that true anonymity is really a myth.

      As far as hosting a reception… honestly, they’d just be helping to make the arrangements, rather than hosting it, but either way, it wouldn’t be anything I enjoyed. I have helped to make many such traditional arrangements for family members and done the “day” for others, and it’s an incredibly long day of tradition, ceremony, and other events, most of which even perfectly healthy people don’t enjoy because they’re too tired to notice what’s going on around them. From the couple through the bridal party through the family participating in the pageantry, too many people are exhausted.

      With absolutely no offense intended, if I did go through with anything, it can’t be anything they’d arrange because that’s all they know. :/

  9. Although it is painful now, I hope that getting this out in the open with your dad will make it easier for both of you in the long run. Also, I have to disagree with Elizabeth; although the wedding industry wants to sell you a big day, you don’t need it. And I know a couple that decided to recreate their wedding with all the trimmings they couldn’t afford the first time around for their 25th anniversary, so it is never too late. Playing along with your toxic extended family dynamics doesn’t sound like a game you need to be in right now, so if there’s nothing you want out of a wedding party, don’t have it.
    As for anonymity, as far as I can tell, you won’t sell as much advertising as long as you are anonymous, but there aren’t any other drawbacks. I also like a place to put my stuff out there without my friends and family looking over my shoulder. If you wanted to attend blog meetups and the like, I don’t see why you couldn’t. And I like your current blog style, I don’t think it needs a change unless you are feeling drawn in a different direction.

  10. Antonia says:

    That was an amazing post. We don’t need real names in order to trust a blogger or connect with what they say. We need real people, sharing their real joys and pains, making us feel a little less alone.
    Thank you for your sincerity.

  11. Stephanie says:

    You’ve been through a lot. I think we’ve learned a lot about you and grown with you through your blog. The anonymity decision is on a bit of a sliding scale. There’s the sharing of personal stories (like here), as well as financial stuff, either specific financials ($X earned in a month, $Y spent, etc.). There’s blogging with your real name (like Andrea) and sometimes using at least a first name or a photo. There’s telling your friends/family about you blog.

    The decision to attach your name to you blog is up to you. Some people very carefully shield their personal identity, on their blog, others don’t mind if a reader figures out their real name through careful sleuthing. I;d love to put a name and face to your profile. I’ve become facebook friends with some other pf bloggers. And my friends know about my blog. I’m probably never going to put my full name on my blog for obvious googling/career reasons. But at the same time, I probably won’t post actual $ numbers on my blog, nor will I be coming out about my depression/anxiety story there. Because I don’t want “real life” friends to know all about it.

    It’s all up to you. We love you no matter what and we’re here to listen to your stories, whether happy or sad. Thank you for opening up.

  12. Grace says:

    Anonymity in a blog strikes me as very different than hiding medical information from one’s loved ones. Downplaying the latter, I get, but not hiding it. I’m reminded of the recent New York Magazine article on Nora Ephron who wrote about her childhood, her life, her husbands and her work with blazing honesty, but hid her cancer from even her closest friends.

    But naming names in a blog? I figure one need do that only if one is planning to write a book or use the blog as the basis of a career. Those of us who write to understand ourselves, and to get advice and support from our readers don’t have any reason to “come out.” I cannot imagine writing what I do if my family or colleagues were reading and knew who I was.

    As a reader, I don’t much care about the “real” identity of bloggers–I am reading for information rather than expertise.

  13. Karen says:

    I don’t see the need for attaching one’s name to one’s blog. I read blogs for entertainment.
    I hope you don’t have to suffer through the reception 🙂
    *hugs*

  14. Quest says:

    I wouldn’t worry about being open with your identity until you’re ready to do it. I will probably never identify myself because my money and hoarding struggles have been a huge source of embarrassment and anger to me and I wouldn’t know how to face people with them knowing everything they know. If you find comfort, closure or release in writing openly about your problems without everyone knowing who you are, I say keep doing what works. If you come out into the open, you may find yourself censoring the things you’d really like to say …perhaps.

  15. Miss JJ says:

    The Chinese has a saying that one of the pillars of filial piety is to take care of the body that your parents gifted you with. I somehow choose to interpret that as also not worrying them with illnesses. Plus the fact that we lost my brother to cancer about 25 years back and my mum never got over it (does a parent ever get over losing a child?), so she freaks out when my sister and I falls ill. So I can understand where you are coming from with regards to your keeping your ill health from your parents.

    Anyway, to me there is no difference between your blogging anonymously or not, I will enjoy your writing equally either way!

  16. We know your name: you’re Revanche.

    And we know the important things about you: you’re a great writer with an interesting story. And you have a PiC and a doggle. As for cyber-identity: a person has to do with she’s comfortable with.

    And your dad? Not to sound cold, but he’ll get over it. And I’ll bet in the long run your leveling with him at this juncture will draw him closer to you.

  17. […] up the wedding reception thing a few times, though he’s sworn off bringing it up ever again after I accidentally spilled the truth, there’s been a suggestion made by an engaged couple to share the cost of a reception by […]

  18. I’ve gone back and forth: anonymous, then not, on my old blog, and now semi-anonymous. Either way, I censor what I write about and reveal about myself and those around me. Friends and family know about my blog, as do some co-workers (long story). It’s a choice I consciously made.

    You, on the other hand, have been bravely sharing your stories with us for a long time, and I think anonymity suits you perfectly. You need an outlet and, whether you admit it or not, the support you get from your readers.

    No matter what, I’ll always be reading. I’m just a sucky commenter.

  19. Lacy says:

    I enjoy this site because of all the drama, truthfully. I’m a sucker for drama and bloggers who complain about other people. I don’t know why, but at least I’m honest!

    If you come out, it will relieve my curiosity, but it might hamper your ability to write posts about others. Hence, I would suggest not coming out!

    thx

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