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Iron Bitch is an expression of grief.

Anger is always a cover for another emotion. Once you know this, it changes how you approach anger in yourself and in other people. I do well with the really grumpy angry patients because I don't really care and I want to know what's behind it. Lots of people are scared of anger or think that it's bad, but it mostly doesn't bother me. It does when someone uses it as a threat to control other people. "Don't make me angry or I will make your life miserable." As if the tiptoeing around the abuser was not miserable.

Iron Bitch is a way to grieve:

--for my sister, with recurrent breast cancer.

--for my job, where I was fired because I was the most vocal in disagreeing with the corporation and stuck to my ideals. I was the senior woman physician. The other 10 left; I was the first fired "for no cause". The attrition rate is one doctor a year out of 13. They are back to 13, but only two of the original 13 that were here in 2000 remain. Oh, and by the way, at one point I found out that the hospital was paying me by patient seen and paying a male partner double what I was making as a salary. When I confronted them, they said that he was "Clinic Director". Funny, I'd been in the clinic for 11 months and no one had ever once mentioned that he was "Clinic Director". He was seeing more patients, but not anywhere near twice as many. The hospital started standardizing doctor pay the next year; my partner's salary went down and mine went up.

--for my ex-partners. Not only did they not support me, but held a meeting where five people knew I was on the agenda. The sixth was me. The phrases I liked best were: "We are concerned about you." and "We want you to succeed?" I had a tight clamp on my temper, though they could probably see my gritted teeth, but my thought was: "Success by whose definition?" If you think that my definition of success matches that of the corporation, you have lost your minds. I did not say that and I did not lose me temper. I went for a ten minute walk and then saw the afternoon patients. The good part was when my son asked, "It was five against one, mom?" "Yes," I said. "Well," he said, "They didn't have enough people, did they?"

--for my career. I researched women doctors in medical school. Male doctors made more. One basic reason is that 95% of male doctors had a non-working spouse (housewife). 95% of male doctors were married and only 50% of female doctors. 95% of married female doctors were married to someone with a career and half to another doctor. Guess who did the second shift and guess who stayed home or worked part time if they had children? The authors said that the groups were so different that it was hard to sort out how much discrimination was present. We asked one of the two women doctor faculty to come talk to our Women in Medicine Group in medical school. The obstetrician said, entirely seriously, "If you want to have a serious career as a physician and you are female, you should not have children." She didn't. I didn't think to ask if male doctors should have children. I did ask whether one could have children if one had a househusband. She said that no male ego could stand up to that.

--for the evil that walks the world. Discrimination in all forms. I think that one of the most subtle evils is "good people". People who have decided that they are good don't admit to their shadow side. They have to put evil outside them. The United States thinks collectively that it is the "good guys" and therefore has to always have some "bad guys". We are casting a terrible shadow upon the world and acting it out in wars.

--making choices that I need to make and in the process losing family. What they don't tell you about changing is the resistance you will meet. I have found it terribly hard to change from the enabling I was raised with because the other enablers practically hunt me out of town with torches and I swear would tar and feather me if they could. And it's family. They had a discussion at one point where they decided I was bipolar because I was writing more emails. I WAS writing more emails, but mostly because I had influenza viral pneumonia and couldn't do much except write. I got short of breath halfway up one flight of stairs. I was off from work for two months. I was frightened that my lungs would not recover; luckily they did. It is frustrating to work towards more healthy relationships and boundaries with people and get a backlash from family. I grieve even about the loss of dysfunctional relationships and I have trouble letting them go. I am finding that having a circle of functional relationships helps: but I still grieve.

--girls should be nice. One response to Iron Bitch was that "I hope your children aren't reading what you write" and "you don't know how it makes you look". I thought I was trying to look bitchy. As the series evolved, the reasons for the bitchiness began to appear. But apparently even if I am discriminated against, harassed, sexually abused, etc, I'm still supposed to be nice and not think about torching the guy/culture responsible. Um, sorry, but I do think about it. It is a comforting thought. I just don't act on it. I am deeply suspicious of "nice" people; they can do you dirty and then insist that it was just a joke or that their intentions were good. I had a surreal conversation with a cousin once. I said, "I'm angry because you said -----." She said, "I didn't say that." I (duh) said, "Yes you did." She said, "I don't remember what I said." I said, "Well, I do. It's imprinted vividly on my brain." But she insisted that if she didn't remember saying it, it didn't exist. And she had good intentions, so whatever she actually said didn't really matter. Then I was the bad guy; if I was nice, I wouldn't object. Her idea was that because she had good intentions and was nice, anything nasty she said was just me taking it the wrong way. I have quit being nice. And by being aware of and taking responsibility for my Not-Nice thoughts, I avoid projecting them on you, Dear Reader.