Healing from Dis-Integration
Linda Pevac is an adoptee who was born and adopted in the 1960s to a family that, like so many adoptive families, were less-than-able-and-willing to talk about adoption and adoptedness in ways adoptees innately need to. In fact, Linda had guest posted in this space twice, but under a different name, one she chose for herself.
Why did she need an alter ego? Where did the alternative name come from? And why, in 2023, can Linda begin to reconcile her two identities?
Here’s Linda to tell her story, which also highlights the harm adoptive parents can inflict on those we raise when we’re not committed to doing our own inner work around adoption.
What's In a Name?
Does a name define who we truly are? In Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare suggests it does not. “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”
My name at birth was Baby Girl Lockridge. This was a fictitious name. It was given to me by my first mom who had also given herself a fabricated name during her stay at the home for unwed mothers while pregnant with me.
In March of 1962, I was purchased by my adoptive parents to fulfill the role of a dutiful, compliant daughter who would take care of my adoptive parents’ infertility issues, as well as all their other emotional needs. I had spent the first three months since my relinquishment at birth in January, in a foster “house.” A foster house was a home where many infants were housed while awaiting being legally adopted. I was known as Baby Girl Lockridge only until I was transferred to my adoptive parents who renamed me Linda Sue Campbell.
My adoptive mom went by her middle name, Sue. I didn’t identify with the name Linda Sue because it was her name, and she wasn’t very kind to me. I wanted to distance myself from anything that made me feel absorbed by her. Especially when she went as far as to say we “looked just alike.” My mom was an attractive woman, but this was one more way she messed with my reality by claiming something as truth that just wasn’t.
Even as young as a toddler, I felt her need to make me into her image. It was at that age I was told I was adopted. My first reaction to being told was to weep for my first mom. I showed concern and wanted to be assured she was OK. I asked if she missed me. And like in Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, where the Evil Queen demands: “Magic mirror, on the wall–who is the fairest one of all,” I quickly learned the depth of my adoptive mom’s envy towards anything not revolving around or glorifying her. My care and concern for another mom was deeply resented and caused an ugly deep red anger within. And just like the Evil Queen, who would order death to anyone or anything that dared suggest that someone might be “more fair than thee,” my survival depended on keeping my needs and true self under tight wraps.
Shortly after learning it was taboo for me to speak of my adoption or dare ask of my adoption story, I began to fantasize about my first mother. Who was she? Did I look like her? Did she think about me, maybe miss me? I was a child of the 1960s and 1970s watching The Brady Bunch, Gilligan’s Island, and I Dream of Jeannie. The show I fixated on was Bewitched, with Samantha, Tabitha, and Darrin (Dick York, the actor who played the first Darrin!). I fantasized about beautiful, magical Samantha being my first mom, and that I was adorable little Tabitha Stephens. I would daydream of how Samantha could easily fix the hole in my motherless soul with a twitch of her nose. Just like magic.
And with that, my fantasy life began. My attention went to all things shiny, things that were fantastical. There were too many times I needed to keep myself out of harm’s way due to my parents’ emotional outbursts that often became violent. Living in fantasy, or dissociating, became a pattern for me, and I began to desire people, places, and things that looked full of promise initially, but after closer examination, were clearly not healthy for me.
My chosen profession after college was what I’d fantasized to be the exciting world of advertising. After all, it was good enough for Darrin Stephens from Bewitched, wasn’t it? It sounded creative, fast-paced, and glamorous, including going to photoshoots. However, it turned out to be anything but. In this career I met the creative director of the agency who became my husband, and incurring yet another name change by taking his last name. When going to the social security office to make my married last name official, I took the opportunity to eliminate my middle name Sue and replace it with my maiden name. I became Linda Campbell Pevac.
Both my husband and my profession shattered any illusions I had of them possessing creativity or beauty. What I found instead was deception. The reality was that I’d bought into the facade and ignored the pearl of wisdom that says “when something seems too good to be true, it probably is.” Damn my fantasy tendencies.
Much later, I found myself on a healing path. I began to toss out, relearn, and reconstruct everything I’d ever thought to be true, including redefining myself on my terms. And while I was ready to finally have a voice of how I’d learned the wisdom to love what’s solid and true, instead of needing to make things deceptively shiny, I ironically chose to write under a fictitious name. A pseudonym. And I did this for the compassionate reason of desiring to protect my family.
Enter Emma Stevens
I wrote two books under my pseudonym, and that has served me well. One advantage of using #EmmaStevensWriter for authoring The Gathering Place: An Adoptee’s Story, and A Fire is Coming, is that it’s been far easier to write such vulnerable material than it would have been as Linda. Using a pseudonym, or “false name,” gave me a buffer, or a shield providing a layer of protection. I do not regret using the pseudonym. Using the name Emma helped define one of my “parts” that’s within Linda. Being and getting to know my writer persona, Emma, actually helped me get to know myself on a deeper level. And it protected both me and my parents.
However, using the assumed name of Emma Stevens – I took creative license on the spelling of the last name of the Stephens family in Bewitched – messed with my psyche again by giving Emma credit for writing my books, my social media presence, and my guest episodes on numerous podcasts. Things often got very confusing not only for me, but for podcast hosts who I would ask to make sure to call me Emma when recording. I’ve had to maintain and keep straight all my postings on multiple social media accounts, make sure my picture hasn’t been posted as Emma, and watch out for being “tagged” in posts which may compromise my anonymity. Dis-integration is hard.
Using the pseudonym started to take on the feeling of secrecy and deception. Something I’ve learned through being an adoptee and being a human being in recovery from all things unhealthy is that “our secrets only make us sick.”
I found myself wanting to be more Emma, than who I truly was. The continuing use of fantasy in my life was a red flag to me. I began getting curious around what was morphing in my sense of identity.
Now that my last parent has recently passed away, I feel strongly led for Linda Campbell Pevac to absorb Emma Stevens as a vital, creative, beautiful part of myself. But, Linda is my core. I have many parts, just as we all do, and all are welcome. I’m now at the point where becoming whole and starting on the path of integration is imperative. And I’ve also discovered that I’m Linda, regardless of the name I choose to go by. So, my answer to the question, “do our names define us,” is both yes and no. But most of all, I think we define ourselves.
Emma Stevens will write again. And when I do, I’ll be choosing to use the name to continue supporting my “brand” recognition. However, my identity is Linda. The two will be inextricably linked in the healthiest, life-giving ways moving forward.
To those who have helped maintain and keep my mask on as Emma, please know how much I appreciate and thank you for the love and support you’ve shown me. I’m grateful and humbled by the grace and respect you’ve given. Neither Linda nor Emma will ever forget it.
Connect with Linda/Emma
Lori Holden, mom of a young adult daughter and a young adult son, writes from Denver. She was honored as an Angel in Adoption® by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute.
- Her first book, The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption, makes a thoughtful anytime gift for the adoptive families in your life.
- Her second book, Standing Room Only: How to Be THAT Yoga Teacher is now available in paperback.
- Her third book, Adoption Unfiltered, will be published in late 2023.