Autism and mirroring

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)

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64 Comments

  1. I have a confession: Because I could not get over things fast enough, the plot holes in TV shows and the relationship drama in shows like Castle and Major Crimes showed me how to do it, even with some awkwardness. It’s how I learned to pretend everything was okay after a fight or some perceived social error I made.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’d use TV shows to sound more articulate, but actually at my core I either sound like a rock musician or someone who grew up in an urban area.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. Ah, yes, definitely relate. I have often found myself emulating from TV shows and movies, particularly when I needed/need an air of confidence. My high school drama background was and is very helpful in this way. 🙂 I rather enjoy House, too, by the way. I think if I could, I would want to emulate House himself, but I believe that comes from my fantasy of being as blunt as I long to be. Unfortunately, I need a certain amount of tact to survive around here. ☺

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s too cool!! Lol yes, I totally understand about House and bluntness! He says everything I want to say to *some* people 😀 (not everyone, of course! lol) ❤ But yeah, the tact is a necessity for me, too. Mostly I keep my comments in my head or I let them out only in friendly, understanding company lol ;)) Do you recall which TV shows you've used? ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hey, just saw your reply or I’d have answered sooner. Well, where I have a few newer shows I enjoy, I have always had that tendency for older shows.I usually get a little self-conscious sharing because few relate, honestly. But, since it’s you, where I am not sure if any will be familiar to you, I will mention a few. ☺ I have adopted a lot of the goofy, self-deprecating humor of Carol Burnett, a dash Lucille Ball for when I need outrageous boldness. Andy Griffith for sly, folksy storytelling. lol. And they’re movies, but I can’t leave out Scarlett O’Hara ( GWTW) and Holly Golightly ( Breakfast at Tiffany’s). The former for her stubborn determination to survive and the latter for her daring. Oh, and George Bailey from It’s a Wonderful Life. I find myself wanting to stand up and make speeches to the meanies in this world like he does. lol. How’s that for making me sound like an old lady before my time? 😂

        Liked by 1 person

        1. That’s too cool! 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼💗. Nothing wrong with the classics! Carol Burnett is awesome! Lucille Ball is pretty hilarious, too. All in all, I’d say you selected superb peeps 😉. Excellent taste! 👍🏼🌺

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Greg House is one of my favourite TV doctors. So complicated and so brilliant. While his character is renal and infectious diseases trained, I love how the character doesn’t allow subspecialisation get in the way of being a complete medical doctor.
    When I started my clinical years, I used to wait too, see what others would do, and try to do something similar. For me, there was a combination of racism and having been to an all boys school with almost no contact with women made interacting with patients difficult.
    I found my comfort zone in pathology, pathologists and medical laboratory scientists spoke my language.
    After so many years since those days, I find myself speaking with patients more and more but it’s mainly now over the telephone and it’s not doctor-patient, but it’s me as a senior executive in a department of state interacting with patients concerned about a particular health matter.
    Thank you for sharing some insight into your training and into how you feel.
    I’ll always love Alison, not only for her character on House, MD; but, even though it was in an alternate dimension of Star Trek, the actor who played Alison was Kirk’s Mum 😃

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Amen! I think we’re a whole lot alike, what with our comfort zones and tastes and all. 🙂 My comfort zone is probably somewhere in a lab or at least behind-the-scenes in some way. Pathology is incredibly fascinating!! Many of my patients live in different areas of the country, so we conduct our appointments by phone. Looking into Skype as we speak, although it’s not HIPAA-compliant 🙂 Ooooh, I definitely need to get into Star Trek! That is one element of my life that I think is lacking. So many of the “right” people (in my opinion 😉 ) are fans!! Thank you so much for sharing *your* insight! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I never really tried to use tv or any media source myself to get ideas but I can relate in wanting to become and study something that you really weren;t cut out for. I babysat one or two kids or sometimes more kids at parties for my parents but would have help. Because of my struggles in school my grades were not the best and I was so anxious about everything that I even rushed my choices in college with the school counselor and took his advice not really knowing what I was getting myself into other than I could apply and probably be accepted and my parents would be proud as my brother and I were really the first few children on both sides of the family to not only graduate high school but to be accepted and go onto college. So since babysitting wasn’t too difficult and I enjoyed children I went into Early Childhood Education. Day care educators or any child educators are also super needed in the western world so I knew I wouldn;t have a hard time getting a job if I completed my college course. However after going to college for it I didn;t struggle with the courses so much, I actually quite enjoyed them (especially psychology) it was when I started observing child care centers and did my practicum in a family day care that I found out I was terrible at multi-tasking like I knew I was but I didnt realize it would effect me I guess (probably one of the most important things you need when dealing with 3 children or more at a time) and that seven plus screaming needy kids was actually not my idea of fun and made me really anxious and it got to a point I didn;t trust myself by myself around many kids at a time. I love children, but it was clearly the wrong career path for myself and I shouldn’t have rushed my decision on college. I also can really relate when you don’t know you have asperegers or what the problem is. It definitely would have helped me knowing growing up, but oh well. 🙂 Thanks for sharing your experience and how you emulate with tv characters. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh wow! 💜. Thank You for sharing your experience, too 😊. I know the feeling of rushing into a college decision; my mom suggested her alma mater, which was a good school for her degree program, but not a great school overall, and I only applied there, even though I was interested in a different degree program. They accepted me and I didn’t apply anywhere else. I regret that decision, because I might have been able to do something more but didn’t have the self-esteem to risk rejection somewhere else, like at a better school for my intended program. Luckily enough, I didn’t finish at that school; I kept taking classes but changing my degree major until finally I said screw it and took a couple-year break. 💗

      I totally hear you, too, on the child care aspect. I feel the same way about that. I do love kids a lot, but can’t handle being around too many of them (read: 2 or more) for very long. I never knew why, since we had no way to know that I was on the spectrum, but meh 💚💙.

      Thank you so much for sharing your story and your experiences! They’re really helpful, and I really admire your openness 👏🏼👏🏼🌹🌹

      Liked by 1 person

      1. No problem, thank you for sharing your experience as well. Yes I completely understand what it is like to be afraid to be rejected somewhere else. Glad you were able to keep taking classes though. Haha Sometimes we all need a break. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  5. For better or for worse, my role models growing up (and maybe/probably still now) are Sherlock Holmes (who was definitely neurodivergent) and the Doctor from Doctor Who (who was just alien and weird… I guess someone with a different neuro-physiognomy would count as neurodivergent). They probably weren’t the best role models I could have looked for in terms of passing myself off as normal…

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi Laina, I’m sure you are doing just fine now. Two things that helped me to be confident around other people are 1. I did lots of theater training when i was in my 20’s, we were lucky at one point to have a tutor who did everything with us from plays and mime to street theater and stilt walking 2. I did martial arts for just over 2 years and stopped about 4 years ago. I guess traveling has helped also. If you ever consider doing martial arts let me know what is in your area and I can recommend one for you. Hugs from me ooo.

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  7. I’m in Midwifery. I’ve had to write my own scripts for the most part. I still have conversations with myself. The clinical area does help channel my anxiety though

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      1. Yes. Although sometimes you have to be furtive. I sing them sometimes. Autism really helps me at work. When I say it’s the ability to detach, people often get the wrong impression. But it is about being able to remove myself, stick to the script, but still understand the variety of emotions a woman might experience during pregnancy and childbirth. Also, my memory and ability to see details as well as the “big picture” (something I learnt) helps me to see deviations from normal relatively faster than others.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Yeah!! That is too neat. I think it’s quite necessary, especially in lines of work like yours (and probably mine too lol), to maintain what they call a “clinical empathy”, or “detached concern” – basically, keeping a cool head while retaining a good bedside manner 😉💜. It’s so funny how people get the wrong impression! I like your approach, and if I was getting ready to have a baby, you’re the *first* person I’d call 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼💖💖

          Liked by 1 person

  8. Yeah, I’ve done that, of course: pick a role model (when I grew up from books, not television, that came later), and try to emulate them. Funny thing is, any considerations of gender never entered into it. I’ve had mostly (not exclusively) male role models for as long as I can remember, and not out of desperation (as in lack of female role models makes me fall back onto male ersatz) or out of a secret desire to actually be a man. It just didn’t enter into the equation when I picked someone to be like. Still doesn’t. I can remember wanting to be like Sherlock Holmes very well, that started when I was about 11. And out of “House” I’d pick House, definitely, except I’d never dare be so deliciously rude…

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    1. Yeah!! 😁😁. Books can be a great source for examples to emulate. I did that, too, because my younger years consisted of much more reading than TV watching 😊.

      Oh man, I love male role models!! House and Sherlock Holmes are definitely at the top of the list! 💞🌷. (The only issue is our society – they’re just not quite ready to see that from a doc who looks like a girl lol) 😂😉. Like you, it wasn’t from depression or whatever, it was just that I didn’t identify much with the average female character from back then; I didn’t find them to be relevant to where I was going 😁💜. “Deliciously rude” – omg I love it!! 😂😂👍🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼🌷💖

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Great Read! I had some tv shows growing up that shaped me so much. It’s like they spoke to who I was inside and a life I hoped to emulate. I didn’t realize what a profound effect those shows had on my life until I was older. I also now see how shows I did not like affected those around me who were watching them. Its interesting to see the range.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Wow, I didn’t know there was a term for this! I do it too, but I just figured I’m weird. Do you ever have conversations in quotations from movies and TV you’ve studied? Just curious as it’s one of my favorite things to do, but there are so few people to do it with. Thanks for the words, (again!)

    p.s. I’m so glad to know this about you. Mwah! 💜💜💜

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This, so much! 👏👏👏. Yeah I have a few words for it – acting and masking, mirroring, imitating, mimicking, etc lol 😉😂. Nope you’re not alone, Wiser Sister 😘. I did it all the time in school, watching movies or TV shows, even book characters or band members! Hell, I even mirror vocally (people say that when I sing, I sound like a combo of Stevie Nicks, Natalie Merchant, and Shirley Manson (the lead singer of Garbage, alternative rock band from the ’90s) lol). I do it even without realizing it (!) 😂. I pick up accents easily, too; I lived in MN for a long time and although I didn’t ever sound like a Minnesotan, I picked up the Canadian accent within a week of being in Canada, and when I came back to Texas after 20+ years, I had the dialect back in under 2 months. I guess I’m a social chameleon lol 😂😂.

      Oh yeah, my partner and I have conversations–*entire* conversations–stringing together different lines from different movies or TV shows LOLOL – Simpsons, Family Guy, Breaking Bad, House, X-Files, Silence of the Lambs, Ghostbusters, PCU, Revenge of the Nerds, just to scratch the surface lol 😉😂😁🌺

      I’m so glad to know this about you, too! Thank you so much for sharing your story, Sista! ❤️. Mwah!! 😘😘💚💙💜

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Hi, Laina: What a great post. I could relate – because I had to do a year of clinical training in the hospital setting. What a learning curve – for en nee one. 🙂 It helped not only to understand others better, but revealed much about my own inner workings. Your post was again so interesting and so informative. Thank you for taking the time to share all that you articulate so well.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I’ve had so many health issues that I started watching the show JUST to diagnose them in the beginning to see if I was right and give myself a high five if I was correct. I just finished the series. I loved 13. Loved her.
    Can’t watch any cop shows though as husband is a cop and he RUINS all of the good parts with THAT”S NOT REAL. I’m like UGHHH it is tv I am ok with that now shhhhh. So now I watch all cop shows with headphones by my lonesome.
    Must admit I watch blue bloods because of my secret/not so secret crush on Tom Seleck and anything with Denzel Washington because of my secret/not secret crush on him. My husband and daughter wonder why or how I chose to marry a blonde hair blue eyed man when my hollywood crushes are a bit darker in color.
    This is a perfect example of way off topic and YET i JUST KEEP WRITING!!!!

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  13. House MD was an incredible show. You shouldn’t have been afraid to mirror house he was out of control and fun. However I understand what you stated about Society and what they expect out of females. Great read! It’s real life stuff. we all picked those shows and relate to those people that are on those shows.. And mimmic some of their mannerisms.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! So happy you liked it 😁. House MD was probably one of the best shows ever made 💗. I know I shouldn’t have been afraid to mirror him 😊. He says everything that I’ve wanted to say to some lol. Yeah, Society is a bitch lol So happy to know I’m not alone 😘💚💙

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Omg this is so well written. I also aspire to spread awareness of neurological diseases. Do also check out my first post and follow me as well. Appreciate it ❤️

    Like

  15. My God, it is so good to know that I am not the only one doing this! When I moved to London a few years back, my problems with social skills were even more obvious to me. So I started observing people at work to find out who can actually conduct a decent (in my opinion) small talk and started taking mental notes how they start conversations. My default option is “How was your weekend?” 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Thanks for the post. While studying to be a therapist a fellow student got angry because I don’t look clients in the eye for “long enough”, especially if they start crying. I work as an expressive arts therapist and my solution is sitting beside the client while we discuss the art. I watched youTube videos of Virginia Satir conducting therapy to watch how she interacts with clients.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh wow! What an interesting field ❤️. I’m sorry you’ve experienced negative responses from unenlightened people 💐. I think it’s really useful to observe others; I get a lot of important clues about how to interact that way. Thank you so much for adding your voice! 👏🏼💜💙

      Liked by 1 person

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