Whenever I get anxious or triggered, the best way to quiet the disquiet is to write it out of me.
It works every time, and today is one of those days.
On May 26, 2013, I received a Facebook message from someone I used to love, ordering me to remove my maiden name from Facebook. I felt outraged. I felt sadness.
And I also felt shame.
The hurtful demand may have been sent to me over ten years ago, but I still feel the sting of it. And the shame.
I angrily responded that I earned that stupid name, although I failed to elaborate on the gory details. I wish I would have.
Instead, I gave this cold-hearted faux family member a crushing piece of my mind — so word-crushing that I haven’t heard one peep since. Let’s just say Bridgeport “Terry” was unleashed.
It took years for the emotional anguish of that Facebook message to fade, but the shame never really went away. It hid just below the Teri surface.
Then, in December of 2022, one of my closest friends suggested that maybe I shouldn’t share so much about my life. That, perhaps, my oversharing makes people uncomfortable, or worse — makes people feel sorrow for me.
And just like that, the shame seeped out of all my tenuously glued-together surface cracks.
I disagree that what I do is overshare. What I do is uninhibited truth-telling. And my truth-telling takes courage, my friends.
My truth through words helps to quell the mental chaos. Isn’t that a good thing?
Every word I write comes from the introspection of self: rejection, failure, loneliness, depression, divorce, death, betrayal, sexual assault, despair, alienation, trauma, poverty, bullying, fear, not having, and then having.
I’ve tried to write about the giddy, lighthearted, silly things, but there is no written urgency in blissful contentment.
It’s the struggle, the regret, the doubt, the unspeakable — that’s where the heart of the written matter lies. That’s what compels me to write it all out.
Maybe one day I’ll write about the happy, peaceful events in my life. Maybe one day I will. But not today.
I have said this countless times and will say it again: I don’t write the words; the words write themselves.
To be clear, I don’t need or want anyone’s sorrow, and I could write so much more — but all in good time.
If my revealing and divulging words make some people uncomfortable, then so be it.
How about the thousands of people who have sent me the kindest of messages lauding me for having the guts to speak out about the life stuff most find uncomfortably unspeakable?
What about those who bless me for helping them to heal?
What about the endless numbers of women who thank me because they are terrified, unable, or unwilling to speak up for themselves for fear of being unbelieved or shamed? Or worse, punished?
Don’t they count for anything?
So, whatever — some will say I overshare. I really don’t care.
It’s the shame I care about — those flashes of shame get to me every damn time.
Sadly, on July 21, 2023, someone I would take an actual bullet for — came for me and my blog with a word-riddled bullet and told me my writings were a stain on their family and suggested that if I wanted to continue to write, I should change my last name.
My first tearful thought was, “Change my last name? Again, with that?” Then I wiped away the tears, and my reply was swift, deadly, and meaner than mean.
Shame be damned.
Ordering me to change my last name is a sore point for me. It has now happened three shameful times in my life, and I am fed up.
And how else can I cope with my exasperated, shameful self but to write it out, aka overshare?
So, here you go.
In 1967, at fourteen, I was forced to change the last name on my birth certificate. To be clear, I did NOT want to change my last name.
I put “Terry” in quotations in paragraph seven of this blog post because the spelling of my first name was also changed when I was fourteen — also against my wishes.
In so many words, it was explained to me that “Teri” was way more Westporty chic than Bridgeporty hood “Terry,” so the spelling of my first name was eradicated.
Additionally, as if changing my first name wasn’t shameful enough, it was further explained to me that I was being legally adopted, which is why I needed to change my last name.
I was matter-of-factly informed that my father gave me up, so I couldn’t use his last name any longer — it would be illegal for me to do so.
Seemingly effortlessly — to everyone but me — my first and last names were changed.
I felt despondent. I felt heartbreak. I felt abandoned by a father I didn’t even know.
And I felt knife-like pangs of unrelenting shame.
Unbeknownst to me, and something I didn’t find out until six shameful years later — my last name was changed ILLEGALLY without my father’s permission, which resulted in me being unable to get a passport for over ten years.
I honestly don’t even know how I was able to get a driver’s license since the first and last name on my birth certificate and social security card was different from the last name on my high school records, with no legal adoption documentation to back it up. I guess I got lucky for a change.
As a Flight Attendant in 1973, during the thick of my dealing with an illegal last name, Delta Airlines made an unusual exception and provided me with a written passport exemption letter, which I used for all the years I flew for them — a shameful and daily workplace reminder of my illegality.
In 1983, I happily got rid of that illegal last name — when I married the father of my children. I thought by finally ridding myself of my illegal maiden name, I could also get rid of the shame.
Getting rid of the name was easy, but the shame, well…
And then, when Facebook came along, what choice did I have but to bring back that illegal maiden name so people from my past would know how to find me? So, I unhappily, reluctantly, and shamefully brought my illegal maiden name back into my life.
Now, let’s move on to my legal and current last name.
And I don’t need to explain myself to anyone, but I will anyway because that’s what I do.
Professionally speaking, I made a name for myself under the auspices of my married moniker. Like it or not, I’m stuck with it.
So, NO. I’m not getting rid of my last name(s) — the legal one or the illegal one.
You can try to shame me all you want — those names will be written on my grave. (Oh wait, I’m getting cremated, so make that my proverbial grave.)
But to be honest, the hateful July 2023 name-change request spewed out so vitriolically from someone I loved more than life itself slammed me hard.
The stinging, callous request shamed me so grievously that I decided to take a break from writing and rethink the whole blog thing. And I literally and agonizingly thought through the logistics of what it would take to change my last name.
FOR LIKE ONE TEARFUL DAY.
Then, I picked my shameful self up and convinced myself to stop letting others shame me.
I am who I am.
I expose my heart and soul through my words despite the criticism. And as far as I’m concerned, nothing is more courageous than that.
It took me until today to realize that they may have been able to take “Terry” out of Bridgeport, but they can never take Bridgeport out of “Teri.”
Yours shamelessly and always, Teri Gatti Schure