Reflections on #metoo

 

Many of you know who follow my blog, that I posted about my sexual assault at the hands of a female doctor this August.

As I watched Facebook this past week and saw a multitude of comments (both good and bad), I felt several emotions.  I felt sad, for myself, and for numerous women around the world.  I felt slightly triggered and needed to monitor how much time I spent on Facebook, because some comments got pretty ugly.  I felt thankful, that many women felt like they had a platform to speak honestly the harm done to them, and that they got to say #metoo in solidarity with other women.

I saw women try to sort out if they should say #metoo if they had just been harassed, but not actually assaulted.  I saw a few posts where women mentioned as a side bar that men and boys are assaulted too.  I saw men respond “I am listening.  I believe you. We need to do better.” Many emotions were stirred up in general.

Although my assault was committed by a woman, I know what it feels like to be a woman in this world, that often feels unsafe because of men’s actions.  I felt this strongest when I lived in Chicago for 4 years, and took public transportation and walked everywhere I went.  There wasn’t a day where I walked in Chicago that I didn’t experienced catcalling.  I knew certain areas of the city where I had to pay extra attention and walk extra confidently.  I knew that if I was walking alone at night, that I would be the one blamed if I was raped.

Slowly I started disconnecting, because that’s what feels safest.  I would make phone calls when I walked, because that felt safer than facing the fact of all the emotional energy it took to “armor up” just to transport myself to where I needed to go.  Maybe I could tune out catcalling or having unwanted stares by men, if I was focused on whoever I was talking to on the phone.

While that’s a simple example, it matters, because that was my way of numbing reality, of distancing myself from how much energy it took wondering if I would feel safe that day.  And not feeling physically safe matters.

I do believe the phenomenon of the “unbalanced masculine” is alive and well in our culture today.  Men are raised to be dominant, to be strong and not weak.  That emotions are weak.  They live in fear, because they are not culturally “allowed” to integrate their masculine and feminine sides.  Women, then react to this dominance, by putting up walls.  Not often enough letting their intuitive and tender sides come through.  To survive this world, you have to “make it with the guys.” Notice all the dualism here.

Instead of being both weak and strong.

Intuitive and logical.

Nurturing and Independent.

The beauty of #metoo is the solidarity amongst women that puts the response in the hands of men to be part of the solution of a safer, and more just world.

And yet, I also to write how the sexual assault landscape is much more nuanced than #metoo.  The stats are 1/4 women and 1/6 men.  Boys are assaulted by men.  Women are assaulted by women.  Women assault boys. Boys assault boys.  Girls assault girls.  Incest is prevalent.

As Brene Brown writes in her newest book, Braving the Wilderness, “Facebook is the catalyst.  Face-to-face is the connection.”  I wondered as I looked at #metoo’s all week, how all the talk and attention may have triggered many who have been sexually assaulted.  I hoped that these people had someone to talk to face-to-face.  Because Facebook may be a catalyst for awareness, but it’s not going to heal trauma.  And Facebook can be filled with such dehumanization, that some survivors may have felt like they had to defend themselves yet again.

To all survivors of sexual assault-you are so brave.

You are believed and heard and loved.

But I will be honest-not everyone has emotional capacity to hear your story.  To listen.  To grieve.  To take the steps of healing with you.  To understand that the affects of sexual assault last a lifetime, although tremendous healing can occur.  But you will always walk with a limp.

However, some people can.  I sincerely hope you find those people.

Because to me, from here, we raised awareness on Facebook, now we must have the courage to have face-to-face conversations.

Does every survivor need to tell their story?  Absolutely not.  They get to decide the time, place, details, who will be listening, basically every detail.  They must feel physically, emotionally, and spiritually safe.

But maybe we all should ask this question, “Am I a safe enough person for someone to tell their sexual assault experience to, if he/she/they were ready?”

Maybe another question, “How would I make sure this person felt exceptionally loved and brave and believed after he/she/they told me?”

Sure, part of the solution to the rampant sexual harassment and assault in this country is political.  And yet, maybe the first step is being a safe person.  Being available and willing to listen without judgment.

And believe me, as a sexual assault survivor, there always could be more and more safe people in the world.

 

 

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Theological Musings on “Body”

What if Christ came to earth in a body, so that we actually could let our bodies lead us spiritually?

What if Christ healed on the Sabbath, so that those who were sick or blind or paralyzed could actually experience rest for the first time in their lives?

What if we knew “I and the Father are One” because we tuned into our bodies to let us know if we were disconnected or in harmony?

What if Christ spoke the Sermon on the Mount in nature because those in the temple would not hear what he had to say?

What if Christ rose “still wounded”, so that those with chronic illness, mental illness, and lifelong disability could still find hope that woundedness is simply an invitation to transformation?

What if a weak body was celebrated in the church?

What if a disabled woman was a pastor?

What if we actually lived like we believed that “those who are weak are strong?”

What if the church actually listened to traumatized bodies: those marginalized by sexual orientation, race, gender identity, etc?

What if the church listened to people of color and have them reshape Christian spirituality–because most definitely that would lead to a more embodied faith?

What if the white church realized that striving for power and influence, (instead of turning to lament in solidarity with marginalized people), is not what Jesus is about at all?

What if the the church actually admitted that we don’t know much about the Holy Spirit (the breath of God) because we don’t pay attention to our own breathing?

What if we had spiritual practices in the church, which let us tap into our unconscious, so we can actually start to heal and change?

What if the church could be reborn so that it includes a feminine consciousness in balance with a masculine one?

A Return to Rest

I need days of solitude.  I took a complete day off in solitude and silence this past weekend for the first time in 7 months.  Note to self: 7 months is too long.

I could feel my off-centeredness.  My body was aching from all the transition of my job, of moving, of my body reacting badly to this Indiana summer.

I needed silence.  Silence to feel what I needed to feel in a safe space.  To discern the questions that I’m asking in this season of my life. To dream and laugh, but to do so from stillness.

I needed community.  I’m realizing that as I continue to practice contemplative spirituality, it is not just a desire, but an actual need that I experience sacred silence with other people.  My soul longs for this, and I would be unwise to block this cry.

I needed to listen more intentionally.  I needed to block out other voices to listen to the voice that truly matters.  I needed to see all the ways I yearn for control and external affirmation.

In living with a chronic illness, I feel more connected to the Divine in a community of silence and stillness.  Why?  I feel like my body is welcome to feel however it feels.  My entire life with God can come to the forefront; my interior life with God matters.

To be honest, in my experience thus far, my female body in its illness, has been left outside the church.  I come back to this reality often, as my old ways of doing faith have been stripped away.

Some questions I got to ask this weekend included:

  • When does the church celebrate and esteem the weak Christ, except at the crucifixion?
  • If a main call on my life is to live gratefully in a weak, vulnerable, limited body-how do I re-engage with the church calendar in a way that resonates with my experience?
  • How do I want to address my experience of patriarchy and the unbalanced masculine?
  • Right now, do I need more solitude or community?
  • What are my deepest raw emotions surrounding the fact that I must choose a worshipping community somewhat based on the building it is in because of my mold sensitivity?
  • What has come of all the things I’ve said no to?  How has this made my spirituality more robust?

Maybe I will write more about these questions in the future.  For now, I’m just grateful I had a full day of spacious time to ask these pressing questions.  And to those of you reading, may you find time, in your own unique way, to ask your questions, even as they differ from the groups you are in.

Autoimmune Disease-Result of Neglecting Feminine Consciousness?

These thoughts I’m writing in this post have been in me for awhile; I just didn’t have the words.  I needed to wander around for awhile before things started to make sense.

I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s 2 1/2 years ago.  I dove into my healing with tenacity-my anger had a healthy place to be channeled.  The first many months revolved around lifestyle changes, doctor appointments, food prep and food reintroductions, and finding a supportive health community.  The first 6 months after my diagnosis I took care of myself full time.  I had no idea yet of how these practices were forming me.

After the physical changes seemed manageable, I dove into emotional healing–through spiritual direction, writing, therapy, yoga and meditation.  Finding friends who could compassionately listen to the fact that chronic illness takes a heavy toll on my body.  And being sick in a world created for healthy people is a daily challenge even on a good day.

What has taken the longest to articulate are the drastic spiritual shifts that have occurred.  No doubt that all these aspects are interconnected.  The combination of going back to therapy, starting a meditation practice, re-entering the world of bodywork as a patient, and writing publicly about my assault have launched me into the question, “Where is my intuition and vulnerability leading me?”  I don’t really know the answer to this question, but at least for now, I’m writing this post.  And this post speaks of the beginning of my journey into the Sacred Feminine.

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75% of those affected by autoimmune disease are women.  Researchers now know that in order to get an autoimmune disease, a “perfect storm” must present itself.  25% can be “blamed” on genes, yet 75% comes from a variety of environmental triggers-be it diet, leaky gut, a parasite or gut infection, stress, environmental toxins or mold.  Someone could have the genes for an autoimmune disorder, but not have the disease “turned on” because the gut micro-biome is in good shape.  (That is, my belief is that all autoimmune disease starts in the gut.)

The next question that surfaces is: “Could our lifestyle help these genes to not be “turned on” and have a full-blown autoimmune disease surface?

Well, if this is true, we have a lot of culturally pressures, that we must learn to resist, even if it feels almost impossible.  But generally what do we as Americans give into?

Our over-structured, over-scheduled pace of life.  Productivity.  Efficiency.

Stress.  Fear of Missing Out.  Accumulating Stuff.  Hiding Our Emotions.

Our body wasn’t meant to be this busy.  And people intuitively know this if they would be honest with themselves.  And this isn’t just about sick people.

We don’t know how to rest anymore.  And most of us, feeling hopeless, just assume we have to succumb to the busyness and connectedness of the world that isn’t going to change.

But I want to step back and say that the subconscious of our nation is toxic.  We have valued to the extreme, masculine ideals and neglected the feminine to our demise.  Pushing harder and doing more and making money isn’t ultimately fulfilling.  And my generation knows this.  We long for authenticity, for stories, for ritual, for meaning.


What aspects of the feminine consciousness have we neglected?

(And when I say feminine consciousness, this exists in everyone!)

We have neglected the earth, our bodies, rest, emotions, intuition, and friendship.

When we neglect the earth, when we decimate forests, when we throw chemicals on crops, when we mistreat animals, we endanger ecosystems, create contaminated soil (rotating crops and not just making corn for high fructose corn syrup would be a good idea!) and contaminated food.

When we neglect the body, we live in a dull, numb, and painful state.  We push too hard to be productive, to “make it” in today’s world, but we become deaf to our bodies’ cries.

When we neglect rest, we can no longer live in the moment.  We lose the ability to cultivate gratitude and to unplug from external and internal demands the mind is constantly making.

When we neglect our emotions, we hold in or lash out in anger, bitterness, and resentment. Forgiveness of ourselves becomes impossible.  Forgiveness of our enemy unthinkable.

When we neglect our collective intuition, we graduate smart people who have no empathy.  We have doctors who believe that many women in this nation are hypochondriacs.  We create a nation where many people suffer alone, because we don’t have guides of people following their intuition, or we don’t know how to find those people.

When we neglect friendship, work or family takes over.  Neither work or family are bad–yet we have more needs and desires than these.  We need different experiences.  We need to laugh.  We need people to keep showing up because they want to.


How do we wake up?

I feel like that question can only be answered in honest community, not just by reading this post and giving it a minute’s thought.  I’m confident though that in honest community, through stories and fights and listening, through prioritizing women’s voices-you might just find your way to an answer.  Investment will be involved though.

On a personal level though, I will speak of the practices that have been part of my “awakening.”

  • A mindfulness practice.  There’s plenty to pick from.  Choose one.  Stick to it.  Pay attention to the subtle changes.  Warning: no instant gratification here.
  • Yoga, or another form of mindful exercise that brings you into your body and out of your head.
  • Friendships with people who are open to growth and change.
  • Deep soul searching of ways we are harming the earth.
  • Listening to the answers to these questions:
    • What do I want?
    • Where do I hurt?

Having Hashimoto’s has shifted my spirituality in that I no longer have a choice whether or not I want to neglect my body or not.  So I’m letting my body speak, and I’m listening.  I’m integrating the feminine into my culturally-conditioned, unbalanced masculine soul.  I’m more willing to let my personal journey lead me into the unknown.

75% of people with autoimmune conditions are women.  That’s  a hard fact to come back to.  For in fact, the unbalanced masculine,  wanting to dominate nature has in fact harmed women most.  For women intuitively know that the health of the earth and our bodies are interconnected.

Yet if our collective longing is healing and wholeness, maybe then we will have enough courage to say, “We are all sick.”  Not broken, but in need of healing.  Maybe then we would lean on each other in friendship and tell our stories.  Speak of the evil in our own hearts and how we want to dominate the “other.”  Maybe then our relationships would be mutual, separated from roles of “giver” and “receiver.” Maybe we could learn to be quiet in community again, not needing to fix, but simply being present.  Maybe we could risk being awkward and breaking social norms.

Maybe, just maybe the swarms of chronically ill women in this country, as they commit themselves to healing–will be the wise healers, one of the most sought after female archetypes.

Reflection on 2017 so far…

 

Last week I completed a 15 question health reflection given by a leading Hashimoto’s author.  It was easy to quickly realize the themes.  One question was about a word to describe 2017 so far.  My word is growth.

With a chronic illness, it’s so easy to feel like your life is putting out fires.  The setbacks can be overwhelming, because you know they aren’t going to end.  You never get a vacation from your illness (even if you go on vacation!)

But what this reflection invited me into was a reflection on my entire year.  This year I’ve committed to a yoga practice, and I’m still far from flexible, but I have a really strong practice.  There’s definition in my calf muscles again!  And I have really strong arm muscles–actually in proportion to my leg strength.  That’s a new thing for me.  In a massage session, my therapist asked me if I was a swimmer in my past life.  I laughed and said, “No a runner.  With big thighs and skinny arms.  Yoga has given me the arms and shoulders that I have now.”  It feels really good to have an athletic outlet again.

This year I visited Omaha, Nebraska and went on a weekend silent retreat that was pivotal in experiencing silence in community.  It was important to me to meet other 20 and 30 somethings that were cultivating a contemplative practice.  And since this weekend, my spiritual practices have grown and shifted.  They are more aligned with who I am, what I need, and how I go back into the world as a healing presence.  And I will be going back on retreat here next year.  Gravity Center facilitates hope and healing–the work they do is beautiful.

I read so much and I love that!  I read 2-3 books/week.  And people ask how I do it.  I don’t know.  I just have to rest a lot–and I prefer reading to watching TV just about any day, so a lot of reading gets done.

I’m moving again for a better environment for my health.  Better air quality.  New.  Less carpet.  No mold.  While this has been stressful, it will feel great once I’m moved in (which is this week!)

I quit two jobs that I needed to.  And I started my own tutoring business!  I haven’t written much about this on the blog yet.  But yes, Staying Power Resources launched this summer.  I continue tutoring students with learning differences, and have a more flexible schedule more myself.

I posted about the female healers in my life, and entering back into massage and acupuncture.  I posted publicly about my assault.

Through my circumstances, in being invited to change directions, I’ve been invited to grow.  By necessity, growth is awkward and clumsy, and in the process I’ve raised so many questions and seen so much doubt.  I was thinking that healing might mean that I enter back as a classroom teacher again.  And I’m learning that’s a dream that will not come to fruition as I saw it in my mind.

I’m learning about the severity of my mold toxicity, and the unpredictability of Indiana weather and which buildings I can go into and which ones I can’t.  I’m going to write much more about this in the future.

While I’ve made great gains, I’ve also been fatigued for a good part of this year.  In the winter, I felt great.  And once the late spring hit, I’ve really been quite exhausted ever since.

So many interesting questions surface when my health is deteriorating, and everything feels like its in transition.  Job. Home. Health.  Future.

Survival questions like:

  • Can I make it?
  • Do I have enough energy not to quit my business as soon as I started it?
  • If this doesn’t work, then what next?
  • To what extent can I heal?

The questions are real.  And yet so is my growth.  So is all the risk of this year, so is all the loss.  A very human adventure.  With many twists and turns, decisions I wasn’t ready to make and yet was thrust in a certain direction anyway.

Here’s to more risk.  More adventure.  More growth.

 

When a Smile Slips In

This last week has been a difficult one.  Getting ready for yet another move.  Having strong mold reactions to my apartment.  Finding another place to stay so I can keep working.  Missing people and weekly rituals.  Crying a lot, because my body is so tired, and that’s all I can seem to do sometimes.

However, I’ve found enough strength for each day.  And as I went to work every day, I was met by the smiles of kids, of their observations that brought me into a different world.  One student is a keen observer of animals.  During our lessons, he would tell me what bird was flying through the backyard.  He would watch for the hummingbird at the feeder.

Others gave me book recommendations!  (And these are students who don’t like to read very much! 🙂  Yet, one story almost brought me to tears.  One parent told me that as she told her son about some changes happening at school, including more time being pulled out of the classroom to work on reading, he responded, “But mom, I just want to move far away, and live on a farm and work the land.  You don’t need to read to be able to do that.”

He continued, “I don’t need a fancy house or fancy cars, but I just want to live with the animals and adopt some of them.”  While the mom thought the innocence of her son was touching, she went on to tell him, that while his life plan sounded nice that the world revolves around money.

My student, her son, reached out gently, touched his mom’s arm and said, “No mom, the world revolves around friendship.”

I almost cried, but then I smiled.  This student can be very difficult, yet he has a soft heart.   He’s empathetic and sees the world through the eyes of one who struggles.  The poor in heart, those who are often left out and forgotten, who are constantly vulnerable and live on the fringes–they really do see God.

Why I Wrote About My Assault

To be honest, one day I just starting writing different scenes down-and out they came.  None of those posts took a long time to write at all.

I’m learning to lean into my body and my intuition, and my intuition simply told me that it was time to write.  I had been quiet long enough.  And I was ready.

Quite honestly in being publicly quiet for two years, I felt the weight of patriarchy.  I felt that those in power wanted me quiet.  When a lawyer-and a female lawyer at that-wouldn’t take my case, I was faced with the powers that wouldn’t take a case unless they knew they could win.  I was faced with the politics and the money, and the question, “Who will speak for me?”  The answer that became real to me as I healed was that I must speak for myself.

I’ve been following the Larry Nassar case since last fall.  Too many details were the exact same.  And USA Gymnastics’ headquarters are in Indy.  Both of the details mattered to me.  I knew that I lived in a state where a lot of cover-up was happening.

As I engaged in yoga, meditation, and started going to a massage therapist, I was able to be more grounded in the present and let go.  I could write about the assault and not have it scare me so much.  It still was painful, but dealing with trauma and injustice always is.  However, I could separate from the past and present-which was absolutely necessary before I started writing.  I also learned to trust being in a healing space which was actually healing.  I learned to let my body speak and direct me again.

I wrote to heal  myself.  I also wrote for all those who have experienced sexual assault at the hands of a doctor.

Also, I believe that vulnerability encourages vulnerability.  I may never know the effects of sharing my story, but that part doesn’t really matter.  Showing up in our story makes all of us more human.  I wrote because it was time that I show up in my story more fully, to let my intuition guide me, rather than follow culture’s lead of living in my head.

Vignette #4

This is my fourth post about my sexual assault by a doctor.  The posts do not necessarily go in chronological order, but it’s helpful if you first read my post on healing ,  Vignette #1 , Vignette #2, and Vignette #3.

I went to talk with a female lawyer, based upon a referral.  I sat in a big conference room in her office building in downtown Indianapolis, and waited for her to enter.  With warmth and ease, she greeted me, and told me that I could take my time and she would be taking notes.

She noted every comment of sexual harassment, the assault itself, and any detail about the setting and the doctor’s demeanor that I could remember.  Then came the dreaded question, that I knew was going to be asked, although she pulled it off well.

“Did you tell her to stop?”

“No, I didn’t.  I told her I was in pain, but I didn’t tell her explicitly ‘No’ or ‘Stop.'”

“Why?”

“I knew that she wouldn’t.  Two sessions before, I told her that she was using too much pressure when she massaged my leg, but she ignored my comment and kept using the same amount of pressure. She didn’t seem to have too much consideration for the amount of pain I happened to be in.”

Before I was left, I was told that they would contact the clinic for my medical records, especially from that session, and that I would be getting a letter stating whether or not they would take my case.

I waited several weeks.  No letter.  I knew that the lawyer’s assistant, who was a nurse, had research to do about whether or not what was done to me was a “legitimate” medical procedure.  So I waited some more.

Finally, it came.  About a month later.  She would not take my case.

I remember just staring at the letter for about 5 minutes wondering,

What do I have to do to be believed?

How do you live and heal with a lack of justice?

I felt in my body extreme tension, especially in my jaw and shoulders.

The weight of being a victim.

The weight of feeling powerless.

The weight of knowing that choosing to tell my truth would be an uphill battle.

Vignette #3

This is my third post about my sexual assault by a doctor.  The posts do not necessarily go in chronological order, but it’s helpful if you first read my post on healing , Vignette #1, and Vignette #2

After I sent my letter into the clinic, the HR person reached out to me and told me that she, the head doctor, and the physical therapist would like to meet with me.  She told me that the physical therapist wanted to apologize for any harm she may have caused, and was sorry that I misconstrued what she was doing.

I took a few deep breaths and told her that I would only come into the clinic if the physical therapist was not in the meeting and that I wouldn’t see her at all in the building. I didn’t want to hear an apology from her.

I went in a few days later to the meeting with an advocate, who mainly just listened, as she could stay more objective than me.

I hated the huge feeling of pressure, that what I said could potentially be used in court, that notes were being taken.  That I was supposed to be objective, but I was still living in trauma.  It was hard to sit in the room I was diagnosed in, to just be back in the building in general.

Honestly, I don’t remember much of the conversation.  That’s also very true of trauma.  Some parts I remember every detail, some parts are hazy, and some parts I remember almost nothing at all.  This meeting fits into the hazy category.

The doctor asked me if there was anything else I wanted to say outside of what I said in the letter.

“I felt violated.  I believe that I was sexually assaulted under the title of medical treatment.”

Then I heard a detailed speech about how intravaginal techniques can be used to treat the pelvic floor and that it was a legitimate medical procedure both in physical therapy and osteopathic medicine.

“Why was she alone?”

No answer.

“Why didn’t she have clear consent? Why did she spring this on me mid-session and not explain what she was going to do? Why didn’t I fully understand how this treatment fit into why I was seeing her?”

I started to cry and I didn’t have any more stamina.  I wanted to try and get through the meeting without crying, but I couldn’t stand to hear her defended again and again.

Once I caught my breath I asked:

“If you don’t believe I was actually sexually assaulted, then do you believe there was sexual harassment occurring?

“I believe that she should have said some things differently. I will make sure I talk to her about the comments she made.”

I was done.  As I kept crying, the head doctor wanted to give me a referral to a therapist.  I said, “I already have one.”

And in my head I thought, “I will never take a referral from you ever again.”

I left knowing that I must leave this clinic and never come back.

Even if that meant I got more sick and had to wait a long time to see another doctor.

 

Vignette #2

This is my second post about my sexual assault by a doctor.  The posts do not necessarily go in chronological order, but it’s helpful if you first read my post on healing and then Vignette #1.  

The hard part about being a new patient at a chronic illness clinic is that many treatments are not well known. There is a steep learning curve to understand the treatment themselves and how they are meant to help you.

There’s also a lot of lifestyle changes involved as well. So I was changing my diet, I was making sure my deodorant, shampoo and other personal care items didn’t have any gluten or chemicals.

I made the drive up to the suburbs for an amino acid injection every 3 weeks, even though I couldn’t tell what difference it was making. I was just told it would take time and that this was stopping my autoimmune attack on my body. I had to believe them. I didn’t know where else to go for help. I mean this doctor had finally diagnosed me after 11 years of health struggles. What else was I supposed to do except “trust the process?”

You the reader can see where the vulnerability sets in. Here I am, a patient just diagnosed with Hashimoto’s. My health was so bad I had to quit my job. I was sleeping 2-3 hours per night. I felt like a shell of my former self. I was gaining weight, my hair was falling out, and my skin felt scaly. I was desperate. I would do anything to get better. I wanted my life back.

What a perfect place to work if you wanted to abuse patients?

They are chronically ill. Conventional medicine has failed them. Many times these patients have searched for years for a doctor who understood what was going on. They are dependent on your expertise.

These patients often come into the clinic very fatigued and with a low sense of self, a natural outflow of being sick for years. They are vulnerable and must trust the doctor for their wellbeing.

Culturally, doctors are held in high esteem and hold tremendous amounts of power. They are virtually unquestioned.

The head doctor of the clinic believes you are one of the best physical therapists in the state.

Your referrals are all “in house” and you have the backing of the medical board and the head doctor.

And when you work, you get to close the door.