We all know medicine is in crisis, and so are those of us who serve the sick and injured. Astronomical numbers of health care providers, especially physicians, suffer from abusive medical training, neglect of self care, unmet physical and emotional needs, compassion fatigue, burnout, chronic illness, addiction, depression, anxiety, broken relationships, loneliness, and PTSD from the traumas we experience without proper emotional and spiritual integration.
For some reason, I am someone who attracts people who need to tell their most painful, gut-wrenching stories, who need to have their story lovingly heard and witnessed and honored without shaming or judging or fixing. People tell me stories that break my heart, stories that move me to tears, stories that evoke compassion and fill me with outrage, the ones that elicit an impassioned upwelling in my heart to make the world a safer place for tender, sensitive, deeply-feeling souls. I hear stories that wreck me about doctors who unwittingly abuse their power and harm the very people they’re here to serve. I hear people’s #MeToo stories about bosses who harassed or raped them and then threatened to fire them if they didn’t stay silent. I hear stories about police and lawyers who not only failed to protect an innocent person who had been violated; they abused or even wrongfully killed someone in that vulnerable state. I hear stories of priests who abuse their power and molest young children in the name of God. I hear countless stories of people whose parents and siblings molested them, violating the ultimate trust any child should be able to have for safety in one’s own family. I hear stories of people who have been traumatized by gurus and spiritual teachers and self-help authors who abuse their power and commit the most atrocious crimes against Love in the name of “I’m just helping you get rid of your ego.” I hear stories of people who are getting the crap beat out of them from spouses who say, “I love you.” [Lest you ever question this, THIS is not love. Don’t ever believe an abuser who gaslights you with “I love you” right after abusing you. This kind of psychological manipulation is as abusive and confusing as the emotional or physical violence. Love does not abuse power like this.]
This morning, a friend was telling me about how someone she loves treats her. Her stories sounded painful and brutalizing, even abusive. I wondered why she tolerated such apparent disrespect. She was describing someone who obviously doesn’t appreciate the gift of this friend of mine, who is such a love bomb. When I asked her why she didn’t give herself the gift of distancing herself from this person and make space in her life for someone who treated her with more affection, appreciation, and care, she said, “But he loves me.”
A teenage Icelandic woman is raped by her Australian boyfriend after she’s had too much to drink. In his own immature, conditioned teenage mind, he doesn’t call it rape. Because the media and pornography and the way fathers raise sons and bro’s egg on bro’s, he convinces himself that he was justified in taking what was rightfully his—her body, her vulnerability, her sexuality, maybe even her physical and mental health. She is traumatized by the experience, and in his own way, he is too. Her life unravels, and so does his.
Right now, I am at Esalen, in recovery in the wake of the death of my mother. Although grief can be consuming and the deathbed vigil with my mother was intense, I couldn’t ignore the #MeToo stories that were erupting in the news during this journey with my mother. So let me take a moment to add my two cents to the swell of outcries rising from women who are finding their voice. I know my mother would be proud of me for saying, “#MeToo.”