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On One Condition

I was watching my new favorite show today, Doc Martin, a British sitcom centered around a very rude, blunt, and anti-social doctor with a horrible bedside manner. A character on today’s episode mentions to the doc that he likely has Asperger’s Syndrome, which he bristles at. While I had heard of this condition, I decided to look it up (I do this often), and sure enough, Doc Martin is a textbook case: great difficulty with social interaction, flat facial expression, all work and no play, few friends, narrow and obsessive interests (the doc works on fixing clocks in his spare time), disdain for chitchat, attention to small detail, lack of imagination, love of routine.

What struck me was that I recognized many of these traits in myself, which could be why I like the show so much. We all would like to be as blunt as Doc Martin at times when someone is being annoying or stupid (especially when you work with the public), but for me it goes much deeper. I understand the character on a personal level in addition to finding his behavior amusing.

While looking up Asperger’s, which is basically a mild form of high-functioning autism, I found a reputable quiz that is used to diagnose the disorder. I took it, and came up as a textbook case myself: out of 50 questions, the way I answered 42 of them pointed strongly to Asperger’s.

While this didn’t come as a complete surprise (I have been told before that I may be mildly autistic), it does explain a lot of my behavior. It actually is a bit affirming in a way. It’s always comforting to find a reason for things, and I understand now why I react in certain ways and why I’ve made certain life choices – why I’ve always been a workaholic and can feel panicky when unstructured events arise, for instance.

Perhaps much of what I’ve been attributing to introversion is more a result of Asperger’s (named for the doctor who first observed it in 1944), but it seems many of the Asperger symptoms are also in line with introversion. However, one trait of Asperger’s can be excessive one-sided talking (boring your listener to death and not noticing), which I most certainly do not have. I talk very little, which is another extreme the condition can go in.

We all have most of these traits in us at times, but when they are pervasive is when the bells and whistles go off – and when they become a “syndrome,” which is simply a collection of traits that come as a set in some people. I will seek to learn more about the condition in an effort to understand myself better, and this will actually be a good thing. I have no desire to wear a label, but I may have missed my chance to star in a sitcom.

(P.S. On a side note, another characteristic of those with Asperger’s is a dislike of fiction and a strong preference for non-fiction. I changed my major in college last year from English literature (now my minor) to – you guessed it – non-fiction writing).

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