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The System Is Rigged

Updated: Nov 15, 2018


by Dr. Iris Crawford

I was born a nobody, into a poor family with drug-addicted parents and one day, when I was 4 years old, my dad didn’t come home. Then my mom got so sick she couldn’t take care of us so I was sent to a foster home. On the first day, I know I don’t belong because I sleep on a metal folding cot and my new “sister” sleeps in a princess bed and when I’m bad I’m sent away to the dark basement alone.

After a year, living in 3 different foster homes, I’m reunited with my mom and sister but I’m angry and don’t trust anyone and I don’t speak for a month. But at home, I feel nervous and stressed because mommy is having her regular emotional breakdown of screaming and crying and cursing because she can’t afford the electric bill. So I learn to become the caretaker and live in my imagination where we are happy and rich and safe. I dream of saving my family.

But school is hard and I’m shy and I don’t fit in because I know I don’t belong. I’m nobody. Kids and teachers make fun of me and it fills me with shame. To avoid the humiliation, I just hide in the corner and hope no one notices me. Then I fail 7th grade. All the kids around me are in school except me and I realize I’m not good enough, smart enough, or worthy. Because I don’t belong and now I’m a failure.

So what happens is, I become this achiever, right? Because I have something to prove; I’ll show you I’m not a nobody.

So here I am, 15 years old and I’m working 2 jobs and I have my own apartment. I’m thinking if I work hard enough maybe I could be somebody. I want to be somebody so I can help people. I might be able to save my family.

At 17 I get my GED and start college, at 21 I decide I’m going to be a doctor because I realize that poverty and poor health go hand-in-hand and that the way out is through better health.

8 years later I enter medical school and this is it! I’ve made it! I’ve achieved the impossible.

Then everything starts breaking down. My feelings of “I’m not good enough” and “I don’t belong”, along with the most stressful experience of my life, are like a black cloud over my head. I’m white-knuckling my way through the first 2 years, struggling to keep up. I get put on academic probation because my grades aren't good enough. I can’t perform under the pressure of the all this work and these deadlines and this constant feeling of failure.

It’s the end of fall quarter of my 3rd year, and I’ve come to meet with my pathology professor to see how I did on the final exam. You see, I’m worried because my probation status is riding on how well I did on this exam. I ask him if I passed the exam and he turns to me and says the words, “Uh, no, you failed.”

I just crumple into a heap on the floor as the panic wells up inside of me. Tears are pouring down my face and he’s trying to console me, telling me everything will be ok. But I know it won’t. “You don’t understand,” I cry, “it’s over!” More than 10 years of preparation and hard work, gone just like that.

So, it’s true. I’m not good enough. And I have the dismissal letter to prove it. It’s in writing. I’m not good enough, smart enough, or worthy and I don’t belong and I’m a failure.

For weeks I can’t get up off the couch because I’m so empty. I went from studying all hours of the day and night as if my life depended on it to just, nothing, overnight. I don’t know who I am anymore, I’m nobody. Nothing to do and nothing to work for. My dream is crushed and it feels like my life is over.

I’m thinking, now what am I going to do with my life? Then my husband tells me we’re going to look at another medical school. Since all of my fire had been completely put out, the thought of being able to get back up and try again was impossible.

But then I start to doubt my self-doubt. “What if I’m not a failure, but that it was just the circumstances? Could it be possible that I could make it in a different setting?” This little sliver of hope sets in and I start to wonder if there is another way to still become a doctor. I didn’t want to go to look at the new school, but I wasn’t the only one dragged through this horrendous experience, William was too, so I did it for him.

It started to dawn on me that this world is not perfect and I’m comparing myself to imperfect people and circumstances and letting that define me. If I was put on this planet to help people there had to be a better way. Why was I beating my head against a brick wall for so long? Nothing that had happened to me in life so far was my fault but my perspective was skewed. There is a difference between working hard and hard of the difficult situations I found myself in. But I was determined to a fault because of this idea that I had to work harder and harder to make it in order to escape the feeling of not being good enough.

Once I realized I didn’t have to accept the system that was set up for failure, it allowed me to find a better way.

The new school felt like a beam of light shining on me when I was in a very dark place. I ended up being admitted and welcomed with open arms into a community of fellow students, staff, and teachers who did everything in their power to make sure that, not only did I succeed, but that I would become the best physician I could be. I was nominated for vice president of my class and selected to be a presidential ambassador for the college. I was the chairperson of the graduation committee, staff writer of the student journal, and my thesis got me selected to be the lead author in a naturopathic textbook. And within three years, I became a doctor.

But after medical school, I was burned-out. I fought and clawed my way to get here and was exhausted, overweight, and having panic attacks. Years of stress caused me to feel tired all the time, unmotivated, and depressed, even though I had achieved so much.

Once I figured out what was at the root of all these feelings and what the block was, I was able to quickly turn things around with a simple, natural strategy. My energy and confidence came back. My panic attacks went completely away and I have never had another one again. I lost 20 pounds that wouldn’t come off, even with diet and exercise, and I felt like a new person.

I went on to become the lead physician for a national integrative pharmacy while I started my private practice. Now I’m the founder and CEO of Naturkur Wellness Center, leading a team of 11 practitioners and staff. I’m a successful businesswoman and mentor and an advisor on the board of a local non-profit organization. I’m the leader of the movement “the Empowered Women’s Health Project”. I’ve been happily married for 20 years and we’re able to travel and live in a nice home and my family are getting the help they need.

Stress affects women differently than it affects men on a biochemical level. Yet our medical system is set up to completely ignore the effects of stress on women and instead, makes us feel like it’s all in our heads, that our word is not worthy. We’re told nothing is wrong or given birth control pills or antidepressants for our “female problems”. That our specific health needs aren’t important. We are “hysterical”.

We get turned away and made to feel ashamed that we have needs beyond the male norm.

So we have learned to white-knuckle our way through the world. We go through life competing in a world of male-dominated workplaces, working harder and harder to be high-achieving bosses, and getting nowhere fast. Things like fatigue, anxiety, depression, PMS, weight and sleep issues, infertility and more, can all be traced back to how stress affects our bodies and it's holding us back.

We can’t get ahead but we are working harder than ever before which is simply a booby trap for failure. And failing over and over again sends us the message that we aren’t good enough. But the system is rigged.

Of the top 50 CEO’s in the world, only 6 are women. Imagine for just a moment what our world would be like if half of all leaders were women.

I believe that women aren’t getting the help we need with our health and I want to level the playing field for women leaders by supporting their health. We don’t have special or unique needs, we are half of humanity and getting our health needs taken care of is our birthright!

So over the past decade, I’ve been working on perfecting a system that helps women overcome the pattern of struggle and feelings of not being good enough by empowering them to take control of the health issues that are holding them back. As a result, they have more productivity and fulfillment in their careers, higher income, bigger impact, improved relationships, and more passion and joy in life. This is the new normal.

Dr Iris Crawford is a Naturopathic Doctor and CEO of Naturkur Wellness Center. Current projects include her new book, "Diabetes Free," available July of 2018, and the Empowered Women's Health Project: Leveling the playing field by supporting the health of women leaders.


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