I was learning how to be a doctor. I was steeped in anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, clinical diagnosis, physical diagnosis, pediatrics, geriatrics, and plenty of “this factoid will likely show up on boards. Hint” moments. The blood (draws), sweat, and tears I was putting into this eight-year project held great promises of a brighter tomorrow. (Heh. Not quite.)
But there was one catch. (Isn’t there always?) I’ll tell you a little secret.
I had absolutely no clue how to interact with people in general, let alone while wearing a white clinic coat.
So, I’ll tell you another little secret.
Just as I had in childhood and all throughout my life thereafter, I postponed getting right out there and throwing myself into rooms with clinic patients during my internship. I took the first month or two, and I sat back and watched.
Unfortunately, the other people in the clinic provided poor examples. They were inept as role models, because they were irrelevant to me–they were nothing that I wanted to become. There is no point in wasting time observing that which you do not want to become, unless it is for that purpose–to acquire knowledge of a mental list of characteristics and habits to avoid.
I’ll let you in on a third secret.
I watched the then-popular, then-current TV show “House MD”. The male-to-female ratio on the team was 3-to-1, which meant that my role model options were limited. On a generally-four-person team, there is statistically only one person that qualifies as a potential example to emulate.
I studied the female doctor, knowing that in our society (even in 2017), I couldn’t get away with mimicking the males–what they said, did, or how they approached patients. Don’t get me wrong; I know that the stereotypical gender-role gap is overrated and overstated, and I also realize that gender is, in itself, a spectrum of sorts. However, society looks at superficial physicality and it recoils against anything that doesn’t fit the mould. Since rejection sucks, I knew I had limited parameters to work within, given my biological femaleness. I’m as straightforward and logical as the next human being, but society isn’t ready to accept that one from someone with girl parts yet. (Strangely enough, it’s the average female NT patients who demanded more “femaleness” from me than the male ones. Some of them tend to get a bit miffed when you hit them with a straightforward reality check. This is limited to a specific type of NT female, but it’s fairly widespread. You may know the type.)
Yes, this means that I was getting my ideas and taking my cues from a TV show.
I know. Sigh.
But I didn’t even know I was autistic/an Aspie. I simply knew that I was different from anyone else I encountered (aren’t we all? But then again, I sensed, through hours and hours of observation, that I was a little more different from–and a little less “acceptable” than–the rest). “House MD” was the best I could do. It’s all that I had.
To study someone and take mental notes requires regular exposure. In the early seasons of the show, Dr. Allison Cameron was the only doctor featured with any regularity, and thus, she was my only possible role model (besides Dr. Lisa Cuddy, but she was “the boss”, in an administrative role, and thus, although I liked her, I couldn’t relate. Our personalities and roles diverged too much, and therefore, her character wasn’t as relevant to my needs, either).
Dr. Allison Cameron was cool…but not cool. Her character was strong on the inside, but weak on the outside, the latter being that which counts in a superficial persona-preoccupied world. Still, I related to her and identified with her. Her outward “weakness” was also mine. She cared too much and let it show too obviously. She was smart, but also needy. Since I felt very much the same way, I figured she would be fit to mirror.
Those of you familiar with the show know that the original team bailed on Dr. House near the end of the third season, and the fourth season was spent trying to cull the new cohort of interns in search of a replacement team with fresh people.
Among those selected for the new team was the cool, complicated “13” (her number in Dr. House’s “game” of team-selection). As I graduated and gained my own sphere of experience in practice, I found that “13” was a perfect and positive role model to follow. She had everything that I probably was inside and wanted to convince the world I was: street-smart and level-headed. She had that earthy, take-no-shit vibe that I desperately wanted to adopt and call my own, and then cultivate and nurture within.
Full confession time: every so often, when I feel myself start to sway or my self-confidence weaken or my persona evaporate, I watch the series again. (It’s one of the few that I have on DVD–the full box set.) And I study some more. And I adopt and practice and perfect and reinforce. I don’t have nearly as many (verbal, out-loud) conversations with myself as I used to, nor do I physically go through the motions of persona-practicing very often anymore, but I guess this proves that, even at 40 with framed degrees and shit, my childhood/adolescent years are not quite as far behind me as I would like to think they are, and I haven’t changed as much as I might like to think I have.
Or maybe that’s the point. Maybe the fact that, even after/through all of these years and the events that have transpired therein, I’m still the same person with the same tendencies, is maybe a sign that there’s a nugget of me that has held true and constant after all. This means that maybe, just maybe, I don’t desert myself as much as I think I might.
I’ll need this weekend to think on that (lol). ❤
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(Image Credit: Cyril Rolando)