Why Natasha Tracy? Why a Nom de Plume?

Last week on HealthyPlace’s Breaking Bipolar I mentioned that I use a nom de plume. Yes, that’s right, Natasha Tracy is not my legal name. I don’t think this should come as a gigantic shock to anyone given as writers have been writing under pen names since the beginning of the written word.

But apparently it did come as a shock. And apparently people felt betrayed by this piece of information. And apparently some people felt like being rather nasty about it. And apparently some people felt like becoming ex-readers over it.

Well, OK, fine, that’s your prerogative. But I have my reasons for not using my real name. Here are a few.

I don’t want people knowing where I live. I don’t want stalkers.

Allow me to relay a short tale to you.

Writing and Death Threats

I have a good friend who is a writer. He writes on sensitive, emotionally-charged subjects similar to mental illness. And is the case with us online personalities, he got death threats. Horrible, but not something that isn’t expected in the world of the internet.

My friend was the kind of person who did share real details about his life and family and he did use his real name. So when it came time that a stalker really hated him, the stalker found out where his kids went to school and made threats against them.

Yes, that’s right, threats against his kids. Deplorable. Unthinkable. And illegal.

And if you think I’m going to facilitate that type of behavior where I’m involved you’re downright batty.

No, I’m not in the Book

The reason that I don’t use my real name and I don’t tell people exactly where I live is because I don’t want a real-life stalker. It’s because I don’t want someone to make death threats and easily have the capacity to follow them through. It’s because my privacy is important to me. It doesn’t mean I’m not open, or honest, or even make public appearances and videos, but it does mean that you don’t get to be able to easily find me. That is not your right.

I want to be hirable in fields other than mental health.

Again, a short story.

A Nom de Plume for Mental Illness WritingHealth Problems and Stigma

I was working for a very fancy software company. One that makes the software you’ve probably got on your computer right now. I worked among some of the smartest people you can imagine. Their big brains were barely contained in our building.

And while I was working there I had a vagul nerve stimulator implanted. The details aren’t important but suffice it to say that when it activates it cuts off my throat and makes it difficult to speak. So if I was in the middle of a conversation with a co-worker I would wave a magnet in front of the computer implanted in my chest to turn it off so I could continue speaking. I never told people what it was or why I did that, trying to make it as inconspicuous as possible.

However, my co-workers decided on their own that the device must have to do with my heart and that every time I waved something over that area of my body it must be because I was so stressed in the conversation that something was going wrong with my heart. My co-workers assumed that I couldn’t take the stress of the job due to something that had nothing to do with stress.

They just made a judgement without facts.

(I didn’t know this for a long time. Eventually one of my co-workers told me.)

And once I found this out I realized that’s why people had started treating me differently – not because there was anything wrong with me but simply because they perceived that something was.

Employees Judge You

And you can bet the judgements would have been worse if, heaven forbid, they thought I had a mental illness. People suggest that others don’t judge you for your differences when this blatantly isn’t true. I had a slight difference that produced no change in my behavior and yet it changed the way other people treated me. People can be biased and bigoted and small-minded. If nothing else, it’s a subconscious thing.

Employers Judge You

And even worse, in the same environment one of the employees was assumed to be bipolar. And he had to leave the country (and finally the company) to get a fresh start because of how it affected how people treated him.

These are not things I made up. These are things that I have witnessed, things that I have lived. If your experience has been different that is great, but I wouldn’t risk having that kind of experience again. I just wouldn’t.

(Keep in mind that I’ve work in very-corporate America where backstabbing and politics run extremely amok.)

Employers Google You

And let’s not forget that before any techie geek is hired the employer Googles the heck out of them and if they were to find my writings, judgements would run rampant.

Why I Use a Nom de Plume

So, quite frankly, death threats, stalkers, prejudice, hirability and other reasons are why I use a nom de plume.

And I will not apologize for that. You can judge me and feel it discredits me if you like, but I believe my work speaks for itself and your judgement speaks considerably more about you than it does about me.

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  1. Pingback: Anonymity and Mental Illness | Brute Reason

    • Hi Elianne,

      Great. I believe an honest discussion of issues can help everyone who is looking at the question of privacy whether they choose to use a legal name or not.

      – Natasha Tracy

  2. The more I read through this blog, the less convinced I am it is actually about lived experiences of mental ill health. A vanity project for the double-barrelled Miss, who inspite of what a couple of blinded by the attention disciples, denies this blog it’s right to maturity. Who cares what you think? Who the hell are you anyway? Another consumer, not fighting the stigma, but bowing nom de plume syle to it. References to working at ” big” places with “big” brained people, all inspite of a diagnosed mental illness, fail to convince me of your intellectual prowess, wit, candour, sincerity (transparently absent), humorousness, and most blatantly, your humilty and reverence for the topic. The topic is why we were diverted here, not ego-laden, ineptly written opinion from- who are you again? You made reference to “before you got a name”. Irrelevant fluff. People are dying through neglect and abuse, not the mental health condition they live with. Suggesting any person abandon any individual on the basis of diagnosed illness is irresponsible- and I am being extremely generous with my wording here. Discriminating on the basis of mental health diagnosis is a hate crime. I am not suggesting that has occured on this site. Yet.

    • Definitely agree with the comment about the irresponsibility of blogging about abandoning someone, especially a brother, on grounds of a perceived mental illness – just as well this so-called expert uses a pen name – was really hard to stomach the alarming blog about abandoning her younger brother – no wonder this [moderated] fears what employers might think etc and wants to be incognito. The sort of thing this individual espouses is, indeed, a hate crime, and I only hope a decent, well balanced person with an ounce of common sense will help her brother rebuild his life – now that his sister has ‘decided’ to ‘say goodbye’ – really sickening to read …

    • The word which has been moderated out in the contribution, see above, is not in any way improper or offensive but, by moderating one word as above, NT manages to give the impression it was an inappropriate or offensive word – this misrepresents the contributor. I have even checked in the OED and not slang or offensive in any way whatsoever.

      It is a word famously used by a certain British primeminister in reference to a voter’s views loudly expressed to him, he muttered it as he got into his car (rather than to the voter’s face) and his microphone was still turned on – it caused a furore but the word itself is entirely acceptable, enough for a primeminister to use in earshot of his driver and other staff, but not something he expected to be picked up by mistake on his microphone and then scrutinised at length.

      Contributors beware that when a normal, acceptable word is moderated out, as above, it can mislead other readers into believing you wrote something offensive – when this is not the case at all. Contributors could be misrepresented in this way. As Natasha apparently does not like the use of this acceptable word, I have not repeated it here, but please bear this issue in mind when you post.

  3. Hi Natasha (or whoever your are) from Rachel (or whoever I am) :)

    Anyway, I just heard about a “Writers Challenge for Health Activity’s” that I thought you might want to know about. Sounds somewhat time intensive as you’re supposed to write something daily for 30 days, but you can use it for your site and kill two birds with one stone if you like. In case you wanna know more here’s the link http://blog.wegohealth.com/2012/04/01/april-is-health-activist-writers-month-hawmc/

    Hope you’re doing well.

    • Hi Rachel,

      Thanks for the link. I’m actually in contact with the WegoHealth people from time to time already so I did know about the challenge. And as much as I might like to write every day for the month (I used to write every day) these days I need to spend my time writing for money. It’s just the way it is when you make your living as a writer.


      – Natasha Tracy

  4. I have been commenting on the blog even before but now I am using a pen name. I myself found the necessity for it since I have begun to realise that, when you write about being bipolar, people tend to see it as though you’re schizophrenic. And become reluctant to befriend you or worse, EMPLOY you. And since, now, I would be writing more and more personal ideas online about being bipolar (with having complex partial seizures in between) there is always a 50/50 chance that people who know me but not understand my condition might unwittingly stumble across my blog and create some backlash or write inappropriate comments. This would not be too good, and what’s worse, it could affect my work in general.

    So Natasha, it’s OK. I could not agree less with you.

    • Hi Reira,

      It sounds to me like you’ve thought this issue through and using a pen name makes the most sense for you. Congratulations on taking that step to protect yourself and claim what you need.

      Thanks for your support also.

      – Natasha Tracy

      • Yes indeed. Thank you as well. I have found such a pressing need since I teach in a reputable university. I do not wish that my employment be compromised just because I post about bipolar disorder and mental illness and that everyone would think I am crazy or what-not just because I am such an advocate.

        • Reira,

          It’s so sad that you have to have that fear in, of all places, an institution of higher _learning_. But unfortunately, your fear is reasonable.

          – Natasha Tracy

  5. Thanks Herb and Natasha for the info on ECT in depressed folks with seizures. I asked because I was told by a neurologist (after a 1-hour, then a 48-hour EEG) that i was having seizures throughout the day. He said it looked bad enough that he had to send me to U of MD Epilepsy Center. The neurologist there said she saw nothing abnormal on the EEGs he’d done and had no idea why he thought he was looking at seizures. I have since learned of folks who went through many neurologists and workups before confirming their seizures. I’ve chosen to just go with what the “specialist” told me. I just remember my therapist talking about concerns of ECT with seizures, so I was curious.

    Glad your wife’s doing better – that depression is no longer an issue. So hard to resolve altogether and these stories are good to hear.

  6. Herb,

    Your points to Natasha were eloquently put. Am sorry for the way you, Natasha and so many others who don’t deserve it have been treated.

    I just mosied over to your website, and it looks great! Two questions:

    With electric shock therapy, wouldn’t it be a concern for folks who have seizures?

    And second question” How’s your wife doing? What’s helping the most and what changes have you seen if you don’t mind disclosing that here?

    • Dear Rachael,

      Your first question is truly an interesting one:

      “With electric shock therapy, wouldn’t it be a concern for folks who have seizures?”

      Quite frankly I never thought about the issue as it doesn’t relate to our personal challenges and I had no answer to your question until you just raised the question for which I do thank you. It is folks like you who have through the years stimulated my interests which in turn has helped me to help Joyce (my spouse). I can relate from my knowledge that those individuals who do suffer from Epilepsy often are cursed with concurrent depression and it is through the Epilepsy community and their initial use of VNS Therapy that I’ve come to learn as much as I have as it relates to this particular treatment option for the depression patient.

      Now that you’ve asked the question I’ll share a little piece of information I’ve found although there is information on the Internet relating to your very question:

      “In patients with epilepsy, ECT may be an appropriate treatment intervention for refractory depression or mania. One effect of ECT is a temporary increase in the seizure threshold, which commonly results in the need for higher stimulus intensity during the course of ECT. A complicating factor in the patient with epilepsy is the need to reduce blood levels of AEDs during the course of ECT, with the risk of exacerbating the underlying seizure disorder. Despite this risk, ECT can be a useful treatment for some patients with severe psychiatric symptoms refractory to other treatments. A contraindication to ECT is increased intracranial pressure.”


      In answer to your last two questions:

      “How’s your wife doing? What’s helping the most and what changes have you seen if you don’t mind disclosing that here?”

      I don’t ever mind sharing our experiences, research and knowledge from the standpoint of MDD (Major Depressive Disorder) while proactively endorsing education and encourage hope and persistence. Joyce is doing remarkably well. In Joyce’s case history and with the advent of her VNS Therapy she has been almost continuously depression from these past 12 years. Depression is no longer a subject that we discuss although as luck would have it she has been diagnosed more recently with Parkinson’s disease which was then further refined to PSP (Progressive Supranuclear Palsy) for which we have no current interventions to the best of my knowledge. Despite these challenges, in her case, depression continues to remain a non-issue.

      Should you have further interest as it relates to Joyce we too have additionally shared our experiences via YouTube. Amongst a number of uploads (I do amateur videography and photography) one can find Joyce’s annual updates. On YouTube search my earliest screen name “lifetime56” and thanks for asking about Joyce. We’re both hanging in there.

      Lastly and as a further aside a girlfriend of ours is a Multiple Myeloma survivor so while perusing my videos you might also find interest in a four (4) part video I recorded from an awareness luncheon of the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, FL

      I wish you and yours and all those challenged by these serious neurological issues speedy recovery and wellness.


  7. Natasha,
    Not that you need an explanation as to why I won’t be a part of this thread anymore.You have way too much going on to be concerned about such things. I do have strong opinions and feelings about anything or anyone I care about and will always give myself the permission to express them. Since this site is all about people expressing themselves I thought it was a good fit. The topics were stimulating and thought-provoking. I could relate to the like-minded people and their own struggles. Especially you But lately it has turned ugly and some of the comments I read are obviously not motivated by the desire to be truthful and sincere. I don’t want to find myself sinking to that level. My uncanny, ability to detect bullshit comes in handy but also makes me see things I would rather not be aware of sometimes. I never put you on a pedestal or would say some crap about you being a true celebrity just to get your approval. I did sincerely appreciate your biting sense of humor and in- your- face writing style. But I now question what you appreciate in your followers. Never would consider myself a follower of anyone for any reason. Not that you reqiure that, but I have observed that you repond with gratitude to people who give false praise. I had the impression you had more character than that. But you are trying to sell yourself so I can see where anyones admiration, whether sincere or not, is useful. Bottom line is that I respected what I though was a determination to stay true to yourself but in this short time have seen that you can be passive- aggressive and react to whatever you don’t agree with in a rather nasty way. I thought that by accident I had come across a person who clearly understood the agonies of being Bipolar, suffered as we all do, and did it with flair and unswavering loyalty to her beliefs. Yeah, people will be pissed and have their say-so when they read this but I don’t care. I know I speak with truth and courage which is not always popular. You claimed to do the same. As I have read more of your responses to readers I can’t help but see that your reactions are not what I would expect from someone promoting what you do. It is somewhat diappointing but seeing the truth is enlightening and necessary for growth. I am sure you will always to successful, but at what cost.

  8. From the first time I found your website, I assumed that you used a pen name. Because of the subject matter, and for the reasons you mentioned above, I saw no reason why you would use your real name. I don’t understand why people are so upset with you. To me, you made a common sense decision. Don’t let those negative people get you down. You do an awesome job of educating and informing the masses about bipolar disorder and mental illness. I was newly diagnosed with bipolar disorder when I first came to your site, and I have learned so much about how to manage and live with this illness. I greatly appreciate you and all that you do. Keep up the good work!

    • Hi Louise,

      Honestly, I thought _everyone_ would assume it’s a pen name. It never occurred to me that they wouldn’t so I was surprised with the surprise.

      And now I’ve seen such amazing, positive support for my decision the others really aren’t getting me down. I really appreciate people taking the time to show their support. It has helped me a lot.

      – Natasha Tracy

  9. Natasha,

    After a number of years of reading your original blog and your more recent endeavors it matters not to me what screen name or Nom de Plume you choose. It is the contents of your writings and your abilities to emotionally and vividly pen your thoughts that jump off the page to engross and captivate me early on.

    I very much understand and accept you want to maintain some degree of safety, privacy and the fact you’re still seeking game full means of employment. I am extremely troubled by your receiving death threats. After many years of blogging and maintaining my own website and message forum relating to a particular subject that I unfortunately accumulated a cadre of undesirables (trolls) who followed me about the Internet. Unable to debate the issues with me many of these same individuals resorted to name calling and other subterfuge. In fact a webpage was fallaciously posted by someone as to my character and at one point my site was hacked. One woman in particular fear mongering and disseminating misinformation also was unable to civilly debate the issues. She still maintains a website and similarly posted unflattering comments as to my nature. I did go so far as to consult with an attorney, with just cause as I copied her entire message forum, to institute a legal action. The bottom line is the fact the woman couldn’t rub two nickels together so I let the matter drop. Being pragmatic I preferred money over principle.

    On the other hand, I do you use my own name and through the years those interested in what I have to share know where to reach me. We’ve also entertained a number of individuals in our home who’ve had similar shared medical issues that I’ve come to know through the years but I have never received any death threats nor would I take such comments lightly.

    In the many years I facilitated group meetings for DBSA I can say most all participating individuals were very civilized with only one or two exceptions when the individual was politely asked to leave for disrupting the meeting. Obviously individuals feel fewer restraints in anonymity then face to face.

    Lastly and I’ve stated this several times prior, I appreciate your outstanding efforts as I find you to be one of the rare breed of bloggers maintaining a balanced perspective on issues as opposed to the many biased blog sites and message forums I’ve come across through more than a decade of participation.

    Keep up the very good work and even more importantly I wish you wellness.


    • Hi Herb,

      Yes, you’re one of my longest-time readers here – back before I had a name at all. I thank-you for your long-time support.

      I appreciate your choice to use your real name as well and glad that it has lead to some positive experiences as well as negative ones. If if makes you feel any better, someone created a blog just to disparage me, so you’re in good company :)

      Thanks again.

      – Natasha Tracy

  10. I’m with your Roxanne. Name means nothing. It’s who you are, what you share, and the integrity (or lack of integrity) you have in sharing that speaks to who you are.

    I’ve seen some unfortunate responses on this thread from people who love to share their judgement calls, but have issues with others expressing themselves – When these folks resort to name calling and character bashing.. I am reminded of this quote …

    “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”


    • Okay, done wasting my time speaking the truth to people who themselves are hypocritical and self-serving. Do you even thiink before you write or ever take responsibility for the insults you have thrown out. Yeah, I am insulting you right now and am fine with owning it, I am not a hypocrit or mean-spirited or phony. Just like to keep it real. Your agenda to sell a book you wrote about your daughter is obvious and the so is the way you kiss up to Natasha to do so. Haven’t seen your submission be posted yet. Saw your not so subtle attempts at using this site to accomplish your goal. Maybe just not enough compliments perhaps. It’s all about intention. I worked for many years with the sole goal of actually helping the mentally ill, not for any gain other than the satisfaction of doing it. You have no idea of who you are talking to and that my daily life is now consumed with coping with my 16 year old mentally ill son. Oh yeah, I am also going back to school too to get my MA in Forensic Psychology. My point is that I no longer will be wasting my time on reacting to unsubstantiated claims that insult my character. Just remember to think before you speak and remember what you have so irresponsibly stated in the past.

  11. Pffft. I don’t understand how adults can be so damned high schoolish about something that, in the scheme of things, really isn’t that big a deal.

    I’ve grown up with musicians, actors, porn stars and other performers all my life. If someone uses a “stage name,” that doesn’t make them any better or worse at their craft. A rose by any other name and all that hoo-ha.Who cares, and why should they? Does it make your writing any less valid, or different, or relevant to those of us who are on the same hard road with you? Doesn’t make a goddamned bit of difference to me!

    Finding you and your writing is one of the best things that’s happened to me since I ruined my life and THEN got a diagnosis. I don’t care what you call yourself, and I totally understand why you choose to use a pseudonym. Hell no you shouldn’t make things easier for stalkers and other people who think harassing or threatening people they disagree with is OK. Eff ’em! Someone’s got to speak for us, and you do a fine job of it. Thank you again SO much, just for being…

  12. :)

    And yes, being bipolar is actually sexy when you’re a celeb and can work in your favor to wear it on your sleeve for the world. And yes, too, to your comment that actors have the luxury to not worry about the consequences of losing a job.

    And I will make a third point then go on my way … That you care about how your family could be hurt says something of your character too. It certainly was the reason I used all different names, but whatever your reason, it’s just that . YOUR reason.

    Take care my friend.

    • Rachel,
      Is your objective to state an informed opinion or just be mean-spirited and win acceptance from someone who can help you with personal gain?
      Are you serious? And are you really that pessimistic and bitter that you think anyone, celebs or not, would think admitting to being Bipoar is sexy? That is just so wrong. Some people actually do courageous things because they have integrity and want to help others. Yes, we can all have our opinions, but can you at least inject a little fact into yours.

  13. Natasha,

    I hope no one’s comments here have you thinking you are less courageous or expressive than any of them. But that you write so boldly, let people know you use a pen name and why, that you are gracious about their judgements rather than judge back — tells me you probably are strong enough to not be bothered.

    That you have such an incredible following, have won so many awards, have written TWO books and write for so many high-profile mental health pubs tells me loud and clear you are anything but “in the closet.”

    Honestly if you used your real name, I would totally respect you for it, but only because you’d be doing what you wanted. But I certainly wouldn’t see it as a badge of courage … just your personal choice.

    And BTW, you are more a voice and face to me than the celebrities referenced here – most of whom actually don’t use their real names either; they just may not have gone public with that. You let us get closer to you than the actors and actresses and so have touched and motivated me in ways that count way more. Thank you for that. :)

    • Hi Rachel,

      What a kind and gracious comment, thank-you. While I try to be strong on multiple fronts I certainly appreciate you bolstering me. I need that sort of thing now and then.

      I believe I am anything but “in the closet” too and I never realized that by using a pen name people would think any differently. I didn’t see this being an issue, it just turned out to be one.

      And I certainly don’t want to disrespect any of the celebrities who have been forthright about their mental illness issues, but they have a luxury I don’t – they’re rich and never have to worry about anything for the rest of their lives. It’s pretty easy to be Katherine Zeta Jones with a loving husband and more money than god and take a little flack (or in her case mostly praise) for being ill. She gets to use it as a career _booster_ unlike the rest of us. Heck, even after Charlie Sheen’s very public meltdown he still got hired for a major network gig. All press is good press in Hollywood. (With few exceptions.)

      Again, thank-you for your kind words and your appreciation. It means a lot to me.

      – Natasha Tracy

  14. I have to use my real name because I am a real person. If I disclose my illness and somebody cares, so be it. I’ve been persecuted too! I think Ted Turner, Patty Duke , etc
    use their real name. I want to put a face on this illness. You can google all the bad things people have done to me because of my illnesss, thanks to the State Board of Pharmacy in CA

    Your choice is your choice.

    I will still read your stuff

    • Hi Mark,

      I respect that and appreciate your standing up even when people try to knock you down.

      Thanks for your support even through I’m making a different choice.

      – Natasha Tracy

    • Hi Mark,
      I appreciate your beliefs and courage to speak out too. I am of the same opinion and it is good to see I am not alone. Good call on naming people who are very much in the public eye and are open and honest about their challenges. So proud of Katherine Zeta-Jones when she “came out” too. Can only be a positive thing to present yourself for all that you are. I will do that no matter who chooses to judge me (their problem) and you reminded me that there are others that are courageous too.

      • I was even upfront before the State Board outed me on Google bigtime. It’s kind of like a Pillory. It’s like diabetes, you don’t have to be ashamed of it. We all cope in life with the hands we are deal’t.

        Mark Braun

        • Hi Mark,

          To be clear, I’m not ashamed, I just pick and choose who I tell. I don’t think not being ashamed means I have to wear a t-shirt saying “bipolar” on it.

          I also don’t wear a t-shirt that says “bisexual” but I’m not ashamed of that either.

          – Natasha Tracy

  15. I think I will need to be physically restrained so that I don’t keep reacting to what I read on here. Not really. My need to express myself and be understood is a love/hate relationship, if you know what I mean. Could be none other than my essential self. All of us deserve the right to be that. I have an animal-like sense that keeps me in tune with the truth, or not, coming from someone. I do have an uncanny knack for reading between the lines. Not paranoia, just perceptive to a fault at times. Sometimes a curse. That is why I did feel the what was insulting but have let it go and can easily move on. I really dislike conflict, it increases my adrenalin and not in a fun way. But I have learned the hard way to always speak up for myself. Tricky when you do actually care what people think about.

    Nathsha, no one could ever accuse you of not speaking from your heart and soul. Original and satisfying to read. You have issues with appropriateness? Me too. I think appropriateness is over-rated. I am a rebel at heart and treasure the ability and freedom to be so.

    You asked me if I think people on this site are accepted for all their parts. I would say it doesn’t really seem to be a priority. It does need to be considered more, by myelf at times too. Everyone is passionate about their experiences and beliefs and that can overshadow the need for acceptance of individuality. And some peoples intentions are questionable. I just love to write about what I believe in and experience the agony and the extasy that come with it.

    • Hi Laurie,

      Well thank-you, I appreciate that.

      If you feel like I’m not respecting individuals, I am sorry because I always try to do that. People are absolutely impassioned here, it comes with the subject matter.

      I appreciate your responses. Keep them coming :)

      – Natasha Tracy

  16. Natasha, well, I do believe you succeed at being very real, which I imagine is how you’ve built such a following.

    Laurie, I saw your comment that someone insinuated your choice to be open about who you are relates to your iQ. I went back to see who would make such an inappropriate comment and didn;t see one. I hope you weren’t thinking I was saying something about your IQ (by my comment I lock my doors at night, But not because I’m petrified, rather as a precaution that I think is smart to take. If by chance you were referring to my comment, first I am sorry if I offended you. I certainly didn’t mean to. And please know I was not insinuating this has anything to do with your IQ. I did not mean to be hurtful or condescending anymore than I assume you meant to be by thinking someone was trying to hide who they were by using a pen name.

  17. Also, I am writing a book about someone in my life and would never even consider using their real name. That is not my decesion to make.

  18. Natasha,
    Coming from your perspective I understand your need to use a pen name. Now if others could understand what I say comes from my perspective which I have every right to express. Negative feedback will not stop me. It is important to have the courage of your convictions and gives me self-respect. Didn’t mean to insult anyone, or think I would receive insults back. Just really admired the “keeping it real” aspect to this site because what is shared is so personal and bravely expressed. That is the point. I do that all the time in my personal life and not everyone appreciates it. I get it. I also get that I do not have experience with h strangers who think they know me intimately or could be a threat. I get that too.On the other hand, it is ignorant for someone reading my words on this subject should be insinuating my choice to be open about who I really am relates to my iQ. That should be obvious. In my opinion, which I will never hold back, hiding your illness from others so that you will not be judged only perpetuates the stigma of mental illness. My iilness does not define me and intelligent people get that. If other don’t, it only makes me more determined to educate them. I thought that was what the point,on here,, to be accepted for who we are, all parts of us, evientually by all people. The organization I volunteer for BringChange2Mind uses that in their mission statement.

    • Hi Laurie,

      I like the BringChange2Mind folks, it seems like a good organization.

      I’m glad to hear negative feedback doesn’t stop you – it doesn’t stop me either and I certainly get more than my fair share of it.

      Have you been insulted? I’m sorry if that’s the case.

      I try to be very real here, that’s the very heart of what I do. I rip my heart out and put it on the page, along with bit of information for colouring :)

      And while I’m not Super-Health-Activist-Girl (cape not included) in person, I am far more open and real than most and many don’t appreciate it. I have issues with appropriateness. I don’t agree to not say something just because society has made that call. No one asked me.

      And no, mental illness doesn’t relate to IQ and anyone who thinks that is letting their lack of IQ show. (OK, to be fair, they may just be ignorant. It happens.)

      I believe on here we are accepted for all part of us. Have you not been finding that the case?

      – Natasha Tracy

  19. Natasha,

    First, no problem on not posting yet. I have lots that’s been in the hopper for my site for a while I need to move on. Just checking in to see if I missed the story and or if you’re gonna use it if you hadn’t yet.

    And yeah, I agree, our families don’t need the grief from others when we share intimate details. You know, my mom refused to tell some friends of hers the name of my book and how to get it. That agitated me. Anyway, good luck with your books. Will look forward to seeing them if I know when they’re out.

    Also, sorry to you and everyone else who read two of my postings in this thread that seem almost identical. I thought the first one didn’t make it up, so I went back to the drawing board. )

  20. Using a pen name doesn’t mean you’re afraid. I lock my door at night. But not because I’m petrified someone is trying to break in. It’s to try and make sure it doesn’t happen. Just smart thing to do.

    Also, I don’t agree that a pen name hampers your personal expression; quite the opposite in some cases. Just that you write so openly, Natasha is living testimony of these things. That you volunteered you have a pen name and why is more testimony yet.

    Pen name just keeps you in charge of those who you can’t educate or change. It has been said if you can’t change others; change yourself if it’s the way to live as you want. Change, if it enables you to do this, is a good thing.

    • HI Rachel,

      Yes, I lock my doors too, I’m pretty paranoid about it too, which should explain why I take my online privacy and security seriously. I do believe it is the smart thing to do.

      And you’re quite right – using a pen name actually make is _more_ likely that someone will share personal experiences as there is less chance of blowback on the family and others. It’s one thing to say “My father was an alcoholic,” it’s another to say, “Joe Smith was an alcoholic.”

      Brilliant comment thanks.

      – Natasha Tracy

  21. I don’t agree that using a pen name alters who you are, the credibility, honesty, genuineness, or helpfulness of what you write. And it is in no way a reflection that you are not happy to be you. Way more writers use pen names than I think a lot of folks know. I too used a pen name for my book to protect my family. My daughter was so brave and strong to let me tell our story. And I feel it’s up to her to decide who she wants to know that the incredibly intense personal details I share are about her life. As you said, there are major stigmas attached to mental illness. I will not help those who do not understand to hurt the people I love or myself through actions spurred by their ignorance.

    BTW, I jokingly told someone I met online who has since become a good friend: “I have a confession, I’m a psychopathic liar. My real name isn’t Rachel, it’s XXX.” She laughed and said, I don’t use my real name on line either. “She reaches (or is reached out to) by many thousands of folks between those she’s communicated with online and those she helps through her nonprofit. She went on to ask me, “Mind if I just keep calling you Rachel? It’s programmed into my cell phone and I don’t want to get confused.” My pen name didn’t change who I was to her. She’s one of a few on-line friends who knows my birth name but chooses to call me by my pen name.

    Also, Natasha, I’ve written you a coupla times to ask if you posted my submission on my daughter and me and my mom and me. If you posted, would you mind sending me a link? If you didn’t post but are going to, could you let me know when? Thanks. Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

  22. I completely understand your need to use another name when writing. As you said, it has been done forever. I am not offended in any way. I’ve lost long time friends (17 years) after telling them about my bipolar and some family members still don’t understand. Please keep up the wonderful writing & I will be there reading everything you write.

  23. Natasha, As your other followers are also saying, I totally understand the nom de plume – something so many of us chose to do and for reasons that are our right and typically have purpose. Many many writters do ghost writing and don’t use their birth names. As do lots of folks on line. I was joking with someone I met on line who has since become a good friend: I said, laughing “I have a confession. I’m a psychopathic liar my real name is XXX. She laughed and told me she uses a pen name too. She’s out there reavealing very personal stuff to thousands of folks on-line, most of them strangers, and many who benefit from what she shares and offers to do for them through her nonprofit for cancer survivors.

    As i mentioned in a mail I sent you a coupla days aao, I use a pen name too, as my book is full of incredibly intense personal details and I want to protect my daughter because as we all know, there are huge stigmas attached to mental illness. She was brave and strong to let me tell her story and I am not going to chance anyone taking advantage of an opportunity to give her a hard time on account of their lack of understanding and prejudgements. She was brave and strong to let me tell her story, and it’s up to her to decide who she wants to share what details with.

    Using a pen name or any other name is a personal choice and right. It doesn’t change who you are; it doesn’t change the main messages you share with us; it doesn’t make them less true, less credible or less valuable.

    On another note, I’ve written you a few times to ask if you posted my submission about my daughter and me, my mother and me, and my book? Can you let me know if you posted, send me a link if you did? And if you haven’t, could you please let me know if you still plan to share it with your readers? Thanks
    Rachel – nom de plume :)

    • HI Rachel,

      First off, it’s totally my bad that you haven’t seen your piece yet on the site. I got carried away with other things and I admit it, it got misfile. HOWEVER, you are now on my to-do board sitting in front and me and you WILL be up Tuesday. I’m so sorry for the delay. Thanks for pinning me down on it.

      Yes, I have actually 2 books in the works and I think it’s quite reasonable to write under another name to protect, as you say, your family members. My mother is actually known in my home town because she owns a store and I’m pretty sure she doesn’t need every other client coming in tittering and asking about whether that is _her_ daughter. And whether those things really happened. She doesn’t need that grief.

      – Natasha Tracy

  24. As far as credibility where jobs are concerned, just in principal I wouldn’t care who knows I have an illness, it is a part of who I am and if judgement comes, than let it be. In this day and age everyone should take security measures anyway, to protect themselves which would ensure your name is secure on this site. Just won’t allow fear to dictate what I do and say anywhere. Personal expression and credibility are more important to me.

  25. Hadn’t really thought about not using a name other than mine when blogging or doing anything else. Think I have no reason to not expose my identity because I am not a big deal and want people to know who I am in every way. Naive maybe, but I feel that especially on sites like this where the eessence of what we express is so raw and real , not identifying yourself goes against the purpose of sharing truth and making significant connections. Maybe if I were a celebrity or something I would be more concerned about people accessing personal information. Glad to just be me.

    • HI Laurie,

      The trouble is when you’re read by 10’s of thousands of people you _become_ a celebrity. 8500 people follow me on Twitter and about 1100 on Facebook. I’m not famous, of course, but as my friend says, I’m a “C” list online celebrity. Which basically means I have people that really like me and people that are devoted to really hating me (see the hate site that was set up against me). So my real life is a real concern.

      And I’m trying to get a book published and that will raise my profile even more.

      And I knew it was going to be this way which is why I chose a nom de plume from the outset.

      – Natasha Tracy

  26. Personally you can call yourself whatever you like as far as I’m concerned – it’s still a great blog.

    I can understand people being upset though, at finding out that you weren’t using your real name. Perhaps you were a kind of ‘vigilante’ figure in the mental illness world, not afraid to speak the truth and a beacon of hope for all of us. The loss of that image is very upsetting.

    To me you seem to be a human being.

    It’s a sad reflection on our society that you have to hide your illness in order to get a job. Although computer geeks are not known for their empathy and sensitivity.

    • In the highly competitive corporate world, a successful image is a must. People start to believe that their success makes them a better person. They are too afraid that someone might find out their weaknesses – so they find weaknesses in others to exploit.

    • Hi Sarah,

      I am actually a human being and I think some people have forgotten that. I have a real life, friends, family and concerns outside of what I write online and what I write online and really affect those real things.

      I think some people have considered me a vigilante of sort, put me on a pedestal, and this just reminded them that I’m just a human and they don’t like the reminder.

      I guess had I have been calling myself “Natasha Loves Cats” or something it wouldn’t have mattered because it would have been obvious, I’m just surprised so many people didn’t assume it was a pen name anyway.

      – Natasha Tracy

  27. Hi Natasha, I agree with your reasons for using a nom de plume on this site. It is commonsense to do this. Not knowing your real name doesn’t negate the information and opinions that you provide in your blog. I’m amazed that some people have got their underwear in a knot because of this. I think it says a lot more about them than it does about you!!

    BTW I don’t use my name on my blogs and nor will I for all the reasons you mention. To do so, in my opinion, would also provide some people with more information for identity theft. Having recently had my online banking account and PayPal account compromised I’m not about to give away any info that I can avoid giving. Obviously the people complaining have never experienced the downside of giving out personal information on the internet.

    • Hi Zephyr,

      Identity theft is another good point that I hadn’t thought of and lord knows how difficult it is to get out from under someone stealing your identity.

      – Natasha Tracy

  28. I don’t think people really appreciate the Google problem when it comes to looking for a job. All those crazy “hey I’m wasted!” photos you post on Facebook will come back to haunt you. Then I think about what happens in 30-40 years when the kids who are posting their whole lives online without filters become middle-age and are the establishment. What will be considered extreme?

    I’m a manager and the company I work for was recently acquired by another company and their hiring policies are revolting. They require new hires to get a drug test, but they do not tell them what drugs they are testing for. Some of the drugs they are testing for: Prozac, Seroquel, Ambien, Ativan, and so forth. If you come back positive they will recommend to the hiring manager “No Hire”. We can then refuse that recommendation and then the applicant can have their dr verify that they have a valid prescription.

    I’ve worked for this company for 12 years and I have to say that I could not have asked for a better place to work while managing my bipolar/anxiety condition. I have been repeatedly promoted and it’s never been an issue when I’ve needed to be hospitalized or if I’ve had to work from home for a while because I couldn’t stand to be around people. My mental illness is just like any other medical issue for anyone else. I’m surprised how openly people I work with talk about their depression or anxiety, seeing a therapist, etc, because that is the kind of environment we have.

    Well…we did have. This new company has really opened my eyes to the fact that corporations profile people with psychiatric disorders. I’m glad I only post under an alias and rarely on mental health blogs. Now that I’m looking for a new job it matters.

    I wish I could be an advocate, but I’m not that brave.

    • Hi Sisyphusgal,

      Yeah, no one realizes how much of a problem Google is until they’re looking for a job and they can’t get hired and they can’t figure out why.

      That new company’s policy sure is revolting. I get looking for _illegal_ drugs, but _legal_ ones? that’s an invasion of privacy by any standard. (And then the insurance company gets to know I’m sure and can use it as a reason to deny coverage.)

      I think that most people who openly advocate do so because they’re not in the workforce. I have spoken to _many_ people and not one serious advocate is in the workforce. People are on disability or are retired or have other circumstances such that they have nothing to lose. And then they feel free to judge me, someone who has to worry about paying the rent every month.

      I don’t know that it’s about bravery, I think it’s about smarts and self-preservation. Unless you have options to step out of such a workforce, you will always be beholden to it. Which is the same as everyone else (and their drunken frat pictures).

      – Natasha Tracy

  29. I’ve worked for some huge corporations too, and I understand what you mean about the competitive and somewhat unfriendly culture. With the exception of Sprint, a company that went out of its way to accommodate me, I always tried to keep my disorder hidden (but sometimes it was obvious that something was wrong).

    Now I’m working for a small business and the atmosphere is so much different. My coworkers are like family. They know about my condition and they hope I stay well. I hope I never have to work in an unfriendly environment again. The culture of the workplace makes a huge difference. Just wanted to share a good experience about disclosing bipolar disorder to an employer. However, the only reason I disclosed it is that I had an obvious mania with strange and uncharacteristic behavior and ended up in the hospital for eight days. I felt so relieved and lucky when I discovered, after I came back to work, that my boss and coworkers were supportive. They know I had ECT and they call me “Sparky” every once in a while when I do something really good. I think it’s hilarious and I love it. We’re not very politically correct, but we’re kind. We just enjoy joking around with each other.

    • Hi Andrea,

      Yes, I did once work for a company that I suspect wouldn’t have cared if they had known, but they didn’t so it wasn’t an issue. All I can say is you might not be politically correct (Sparky; all the best places aren’t) but you sure are lucky.

      – Natasha Tracy

      • Regarding talking to employers/coworkers about having bipolar: When in doubt, leave it out. Just be really careful and consider what could happen if you do. It may or may not hurt you.

        Spark is fine. So is Electroboy or Electrogirl for that matter.

        Smart move on the pen name. I’d do the same.

        George Bush

    • Hi Mamatink,

      I’ve had a few leave recently due to controversial stands I have taken on things. It’s always the things I think aren’t controversial that get me into the hottest water.

      I find their reaction confusing. One point of view negates years of work? Odd.

      Thanks for your support.

      – Natasha Tracy

      • I like the controversial stuff. It makes me sit back and think about important things. Forget the ones who don’t get it. Keep up the good work.

        James Bond

  30. Bravo. Most mental health bloggers use pen names for exactly the reasons you cite. There’s nothing wrong with protecting your best interests, and I applaud you for it. It’s called “common sense” and there’s apparently not enough to go around.

    Best practice may be to disclose use of a pseudonym up front; I include that in my blog’s “About” page and interestingly, many of the comments on that page are supportive of the choice to blog anonymously. People mostly seem to get it. If they don’t, more’s the shame for them. Not for you.

    • Hi DeeDee,

      Indeed, I thought it was called common sense and that’s why I never thought anything of it. It’s so common in the world of writing not to mention in the world of blogging that I really wasn’t expecting a reaction.

      – Natasha Tracy