My name is not Bella. My full first name is Isabella. Up until about junior year of high school I went by Bella. However, I no longer consider that my name. When I was 16, tough experiences and mental illness left me feeling broken. I struggled heavily with depression, anxiety, and dissociation. As a result my sense of identity suffered. I ended up having to switch high schools to a therapeutic setting half way through my junior year and even spent some time in the hospital when I was 17. I experimented with a bunch of different coping mechanisms including meditation, art, and different forms of mindfulness. Changing my name from Bella to Bee ended up being the answer.
The name Bee for me means empowerment. It means turning a new leaf and doing something purely for myself. It meant taking an experience that up until that point had been purely negative and turning it into a sense of strength. I was struggling trying to define myself among all of the changes and struggles that I was going through, but changing my name to Bee ended up helping me more than anything else. I ended up picking the name Bee pretty much randomly. It was not as common a name as Bella and to me the name Bee just sounded more happy.
The name change started with me only telling a few close friend and, eventually, my school. I realized that family and family friends would be the hardest to tell to make a change so I saved them for last.
The hardest part is validating the change to people. How do you tell people who want a short answer why you changed your name or why you can’t stand hearing the old name? One of my closest friends had a similar journey in changing her name, but the change has been met with even more denial. The school we were at refused to call her by that name and her family still does not use it. Now, I understand a piece of what transgender people go through if they change their name or approach people with a new identity. Denial of that identity feels like a denial of who you are. Constantly hearing the old name is admittedly painful. On the other hand, I don’t mind being called Isabella despite the fact that people will associate the full name with the undesirable nickname. This has allowed my full name to become a stepping stone for people not used to calling me Bee.
If you knew me before the name change, I understand the confusion. It’s strange to suddenly do a 180 and call someone a completely different name after knowing them for years. Just remember that people change, and there might be more to a name than you realize.