I am experiencing something of a dilemma and, it being a dilemma, I'm not sure what to do. So I'm asking you some questions.
The story is thus:
Last week I was contacted by a magazine belonging to a U.S. cancer organisation who asked if I would be willing to have one of my blogposts highlighted along with a little interview in their publication. I was flattered and possibly a little excited - it was quite a boost to the confidence to have other people consider that my writing is worthy of this; plus I write this not just for me but for other people with cancer or treating people with cancer.
So, I checked out their site to see if I thought they were something that I would be willing to be connected to and decided they seemed OK. I replied with a tentative 'yes' and asked which post they were interested in.
The person replied pointing to the post Truce - 'huh' I thought; I don't consider that one of my best - it's OK, not bad; but not the best. But I thought that would be OK. I was also asked if I would have a problem with them publishing my real name.
I had to think about that one - people I've corresponded with by email will know that 'Sepha' is not my 'given' name; but if I write to you, I will always sign that 'given' name. I'm not trying to fool you, or lie to you - Sepha *is* me, the things I say here are truer because I use that name. If frees me to be *more* honest with you. Sepha dates from when I very first started using the internet and I didn't know how 'safe' it was to tell people who I was; how much information I wanted the world outside of my control or knowledge to know about me - so Sepha was my alter-ego if you like. Years later when cancer struck and I needed an outlet, Sepha was resurrected to be my blogging alter-ego - again, I didn't know how 'safe' or 'sensible' it was to put my whole self out on display and I was aware that not everything I say on this blog is for everyone's knowledge. Some might say, then why are you posting it on the internet? Why not just keep a diary? The answer, I suppose, is that blogging is more than just recording events; it's reaching out to other people, it's searching for common ground and acceptance and in my case, it was searching for empathy.
I *hurt*, I still do, and somehow that hurt was so great that I needed outside acknowledgement of it, affirmation that I was heard. Somehow, trying to make you, out there, understand what was happening to me helped me, still helps me, to bear it; to keep breathing. Knowing that sometimes I don't cry alone is a comfort. I don't do it because I get some delight out of upsetting other people - does that make any sense?
Where am I going with this, you're thinking. I'm going on to explain to you that not everyone in my world knows about my blog. I have never specifically mentioned it to my family (although I have my suspicions that some at least may know about it, may possibly read it); my partner knows I blog but I have never given him the URL; a small number of my in-person friends know about it, most do not; my work colleagues do not know about it; my guides and the majority of my guiding world do not know about it. And in some of those cases, that is absolutely right. For example, I do not think it would be appropriate for girls for whom I am in a mentoring-type position to be aware of my emotional state. I do not think it would be appropriate for my work colleagues to read about how I feel about working; to know my dilemmas about my job.
Why have I not shared it with friends and family? I'm not sure, to be honest. All my life I've tended to be fairly reticent about my feelings, even with close family and friends. In some cases I equate feelings with weakness (of myself, not others). I have a tendency to feel (rightly or wrongly) that when people know how I truly feel then they have me at a disadvantage; they can hurt me, they will think less of me; they will think I am weak and incapable. Logically, when I look at this, I see that in the case of family and friends, this is ludicrous. My family and my friends would *never* think these things about me and these are the people who are important to me.
The other reason that I use to justify this lack of advertisement is that I don't want to make the people I care about, unhappy. I don't want them to be sad. And I feel that the things I write, are sad. Isn't it enough that *I* am miserable without making others around me feel bad too?
Going back to the dilemma - I thought about all of this and I responded saying that I would be OK with them publishing my first name; but I would prefer they didn't publish my surname. In my head I was thinking that I didn't want people I've met or known 'googling' my name and being led to my blog but that I didn't want to hide completely - because that would feel wrong too. I was looking to exercise a little control over the information available about me on the internet. I thought this was reasonable and I felt like I had been asked what I would like; which was good.
My bad .
The response I had in return was that it was the magazine's policy to always publish the full names of their contributors. I was a bit taken aback - as I had read the previous message as one asking how I would like to be represented.
I replied, explaining that I wasn't looking for anonymity, as such; I was looking to control who my blog was read by and how it was found - especially given how honest and raw I am in some of my posts; and that I hoped we could find a compromise.
Well, no, not really was the reply. Apparently not using the full name of a source or using a pseudonym would "imply that cancer is something that is shameful and to be kept hidden".
For the record, I don't think those things and I tell most people I have cancer and am not known for pulling my punches in talking about it. I've spoken at a medical conference to doctors about the emotional impact of cancer treatment; I've spoken to various groups of people for one of the UK's cancer charities - and yes, they did know my name. They knew my name because I always say it when I begin speaking. I guess I'm trying to say, I don't see myself as hiding; I see myself as suiting the information about myself for the audience I'm dealing with - from my perspective and theirs. That information is sacred - because it isn't just facts and figures; it's me - it.is.me. It's about *my* body and *my* feelings and what am I if I am not those?
And I felt really sad when I got their response, and a bit angry - because I didn't go looking for this opportunity; they came to me, but apparently I'm only acceptable under certain circumstances. And I would truly debate with anyone who tried to say that what I write means less because of the name attached to it. No-one knows my name anyway; I could say I was Minnie Mouse - it's not like my name is world-renowned and carries some particular authority. My *name* doesn't write these words; it can't type or hold a pen; my name can't even *think* these words; it's the me inside the name that does those things. And you know what? I have many names; my dad calls me one version of my name, my brother another, my partner something *completely* different and in part of my head, and out there with you, my name is Sepha. So, which is the 'real' one? Which one's the authority?
So now I am in dilemma - part of me wants to do this; feels obliged to do this; feels I *should* do this - because maybe this sharing could help someone else get through a cancer experience. Perhaps part of my having cancer is about my learning to share; is about me being the sacrificial lamb, if you like but equally, perhaps that's just a load of codswallop.
So, what do you think? Am I hiding but trying to pretend I'm not? Am I trying to be too controlling? How much do you share about yourself on the internet? Would you be prepared to have your full name out there attached to a link to your blog? I'm not asking what you think I should do specifically - I'm genuinely interested to find out how much about yourself you're prepared to put on the internet. For example, do you have different email addresses for different purposes - like commenting on blogs for instance? Do you put your full name on comments? Do you put any part of your 'given' name on comments?
In the past I've been very nice and asked for your comments; now I'm demanding - if you have visited this blog on more than one occasion deliberately then I want you to tell me what you think - no judging on my part (although I do like being able to respond to your comments by email; so when you don't include that I do feel a bit sad - because often I really want to say 'thanks' or to say more to you) That said; on this occasion I don't mind because I want you to say what you think and if you need to do that anonymously then *I'm* happy for you to do that; if you'd like to use a pseudonym then *I'm* happy for you to do that. Let's talk, to each other about this - I think it's important.
p.s. the person I've been corresponding with on this matter has never been *anything* other than nice in the messages I've had - I simply haven't liked the stance that this publication has chosen to take; so no personal-style attacks please - I won't publish them.