Welcome to this episode of the Intersections on the Spectrum Podcast. The intersections on the Spectrum podcast is the brainchild and passion project of Doug Blecher and Kelly Bron Johnson created to discuss intersectional issues within the autistic community and give visibility to commonly marginalized, repressed, underrepresented, or erased identities and issues. We aim to introduce you to the people and stories you didn't know about but needed to hear and hope that by seeing yourself represented in the community allows you to feel seen.
Doug Blecher (00:45):
Chris, I wanna, our, our wonderful guest today is Chris. Thanks so much for joining us.
Thank you for having me. I was so excited when I saw this email, <laugh>.
Doug Blecher (00:59):
We wanted to, we always like to start off by learning about the identities of our guests. What would you say are the identities that you connect with?
So, I'm a first gen born in the US Haitian American kid, so third culture kid in that sense, and I relate to both sides, is obviously being born in the US but then having like the Haitian identity and having like a culture to go back to in a culture to feel a part of is something that I honestly took for granted for a long time. Like, I didn't realize how it affects you in a good way and sometimes not so good ways. But like, I, I didn't realize how having an identity outside of the country I lived in was such an integral part of myself until I was honestly like 19,20. And then when I moved to Spain, I felt it a lot more like how I was distinctly two cultures at once. But I would say I am both just leaning more toward Haitian as in the sense of culturally those were like the morals and values and like background of how I was taught things.
But American also in the sense of, you know, being raised in the American school system, for example, like some of those values and some of those like, how do I say this? Well, like the things you pick up that you have to learn to survive in the American school system in America as a concept. And they're not all bad. There's a bunch of really good things that come from like being in the us, living in the us, getting like that sense of work ethic and stuff as well. So I would say I am equally both, but at the same time, I connect more with being Haitian just because, especially as an immigrant kid, like, you know, what your ancestors did and how you ended up in a new country, and like, you hold that story really close to your heart.
Kelly Bron Johnson (02:50):
I actually took a brief, a very like brief one hour Haitian Creole class.
Kelly Bron Johnson (02:56):
It's very close to French, so I find like when I hear it spoken, I can, I can kind of pick up what's going on. So if Haitians are trying to hide things for me, <laugh> around me, I can, I still like, hmm, <laugh>. But I absolutely love that it's distinct, you know, it's distinct enough though that, you know, it is so language and so I, I, I don't know everything, but when I see it written, it's easier to understand. There's a huge Haitian population in Montreal where I live, so.
Yep, yep. My, a lot of my family members live up there, so Oh yeah. Oh, okay.
Kelly Bron Johnson (03:27):
Yeah. Cool. Well, <laugh>, I said the world is so small. Yeah, I wanted to talk to you a bit more about that. Like, how about, you know, being a third culture kid and, and you know, how you feel that shaped your, you know, being American at the same time. Like, you, you spoke a bit about it, about how you, you're kind of reconciling those identities, but how do you feel that it shaped you growing up?
I think the easiest way to describe it is, especially the way I was raised, like the way my parents raised me, because I see the best parts of both sides. I did my best to emulate the best parts of those sides because as is everything there is a good and a bad side, nothing is perfect. I wanna preface it with that. But I picked up more positives than negatives because that's what I focused on. Since I had so much material all the time, instead of being like, Oh, well this is the problem over here and this is the problem over here. I really kind of honed on, like, I really love this about Haitian Creole, for example, the way Haitian Creole is spoken, like when I need to be dramatic Haitian Creole, that when I need to be, like, when we need to be expressive about something for no reason, like I'm telling a story like just for no reason and just to add some spice it Haitian Creole, right?
But then English, like, especially American English and like the vernacular and how changes, especially coming from like a like genuinely African American vernacular English, and being able to understand all of that too, being raised in the US and like the jokes and the nuances of those things, you know, it's, it is really cool to like put all of that together. So I would say it definitely shapes the way I speak. So I have this joke with my friends. Every single one of my friends understands at least three or four phrases in Haitian Creole because I have this thing where I refuse to translate, I just will not translate. So I'll just say it in Creole and I'll point to the thing and you'll figure it out. And so far, this has not, this has not led me a stray yet. It has not led me a stray yet.
Do they appreciate being spoken in a language that they don't understand? Is that my problem? No, but I know that everybody around me is gonna get some Creole at some point in their lives, and I think it's best for everyone.
Kelly Bron Johnson (05:43):
So I agree. Why not? It's, it's so funny because I swear in like three languages. So my mom is cemequas, so there's the French, and then, I swear in English, and then I went German. So like, I, I'll swear in like three different languages and it's interesting to be the context of when each language comes out. Like, I find like driving, there's a bit more French that comes out when I'm swearing, when I'm pissed off.
For whatever reason, my driving has converted to Spanish.
Kelly Bron Johnson (06:16):
Wow, okay. Yeah, <laugh>.
So I just was a shock to me too, but I was like driving the other day.
Well, I just came back to Spain literally a week ago today. And, when I was driving in the US I would find myself like immediately going to Spanish when somebody would cut me off and I was like, Huh, did not know that. Interesting. This is, I I totally get that. Like, you don't really know when it's gonna come out. When it does you find out too, you know?
Kelly Bron Johnson (06:42):
Right, right. There's like, there's a certain, like, I don't know, it's anger in different, in different languages. Right? You, so like this, my, my mom, my mom being qua, like she spoke to us in English and broken English growing up, but when she was angry then it was French, right? So like, I'm, I associate being like, somebody being angry at me and French pretty much. And when I think, I think it's when I have like accidents kind of thing, it's then it's German.
Kelly Bron Johnson (07:07):
I don't know why. So it's like, it's really interesting.
Oh, that's so fascinating. Wait, how long did, when did you learn German? Did you live in Germany?
Kelly Bron Johnson (07:14):
I did not. My, um, my father was in the British Army, but when he was in the British Army, he got stationed in Germany at some point. And he, he picked up German. He learned some German. And as a child growing up, he would occasionally remember some phrases here and there, like totally random phrases like and it's like what <laugh>, he was say, giving directions, right? You could do that. But he would say, he used to say good and knock mine. He used to say good night, my love. And I've always, so I always associated the German language with like, love and care and my father's warmth kind of thing.
That's so cute.
Kelly Bron Johnson (07:49):
But then like I went, when I got to um, college, I started learning it more. But yeah, for whatever reason, like if I stuck my toe was German, like it's,
if I know one sentence in German and that's cuz uh, when I lived in Spain the first time when I first moved to Barcelona, um, I just happened to enter a huge group of German speaking people. And so I decided to learn X square kind doch. I don't speak German.
Kelly Bron Johnson (08:13):
Just, just cause just as a joke. And it stuck <laugh>.
Doug Blecher (08:24):
Chris, just speaking to you for these few minutes and following you on social media, I feel the the joy come that comes from you. So, and you talk about, a lot about autistic joy on some of your social media. So what would you say that artistic joy means to you?
I like to say that it's a very simple concept, but I find, a lot of people complicate it. And so it's become like this like huge thing of like, and there's nothing wrong with this, let me be clear, But you notice on, on social media how, like right now, autistic joy is becoming like this really big thing and I love that. But like, people really are over complicating the whole concept. And to me, autistic joy is literally autistics experiencing joy <laugh>. And that seems really simple and I know that. But I have learned through some really heartfelt comments and dms and interacting with people in the community that autistics just being allowed to experience joy as they do is extremely rare. And that was very painful for me to find out. Like, it, there are like four videos in particular that I've watched that like, like seared, like in my brain I can like tell you the at names of the person.
Like they were like, to me it was traumatizing. And I get into the comments and I see, yeah, me too. And I was like, Me too? Wait, what? And I'm, I'm reading just comments after comments after comments. I wasn't allowed to play the way I wanted to. I wasn't allowed to sit around and just read a book the way I wanted to. I wasn't allowed. And I'm like, like, like I've, like, I'm on the verge of tears thinking about it like as children. Like, like it isn't even adults. It doesn't even like teenagers and you're trying to like conform them to being adults. Like these are like 5, 6, 7 year old people. Memories are talking, people are talking about their memories in elementary school. Is it elementary or elementary? This is <inaudible>. Anyways, the point is you find people are talking about like these like formative years and they're like, Yeah, I wasn't really allowed to like just sit by myself and play with my dolls.
I wasn't really allowed to play airplane with my arms because they said it was weird. I wasn't really allowed. Like I'm, these are real comments. I'm just like running through that. I just, they just don't leave my brain. And like, I cannot imagine like I, I do this thing, it's like a big joke now as an adult. Like I'm not allowed to go to the bathroom with anything in my hands cause I'll stay in the bathroom. Like I'll just stay and do whatever I was doing, whether I'm on the phone, whether I'm reading a book, don't let me take my Kindle into the bathroom. It's over. You won't see me for six hours. But like as a kid, my parents knew that, right? And so what my parents did was, it was like just no, you don't bring the book into the bathroom. We gonna eat without you.
And then it was like, Ooh, but food, but food. Right? So that's how they would kinda like get me out of my own head. But it wasn't that I was punished for reading. It was, this is not the appropriate time to read cuz we are waiting on you to eat food, so let's not do that. Yeah. And I find the amount of like easily accommodating things that could have been done for these kids. Like for example, a really big one is like the stimming, right? Oh, but they're so loud, they're stimming so loud, they're moving their arms, they're making these huge movements. Like we can't have that. Or we could take them to the park outside for an hour. Like what's their excuse? And I understand when you have single parent working X amount of hours, like there are actual situations in which your parents couldn't take you to the park for an hour.
Like, I, I get that. But then if you, if you as a parent are watching your kids suffer because you can't provide X, Y, Z, why didn't you try to be like, okay, we're gonna do like a fort in the, we're gonna put your underwear blanket, we're gonna make it fun, We're gonna try to have fun quietly. What? Like I see all of these things that could have been easily accommodated easily. And it blows my mind that as a community, you're seeing hundreds of thousands of adult people talk about, I wasn't just allowed to be happy. It's like, it gets me so heated. I understand that there are circumstances, people have jobs, people work, a lot of people went back to school and they have kids. I understand that it is not as simple as like, Oh, I can just play with my kid all afternoon. I'm not saying that, but to rob them of a single hour, a single hour, you're telling me that wasn't possible.
I'm gonna need, I'm gonna need a better excuse. I grew up in the immigrant community. I saw how hard people worked. I'm telling you, everybody has it out. You didn't even have to do anything. That's the beauty of children. You sit there and you say, I'm watching you play. And the kid is so happy. <laugh> the amount of times my father tricked me. I realized that a few years ago. I was like, this man is a genius. He was like, Yeah, Chris, I'm playing with you. I'm playing with you. He's not moving. But because he said he was playing with me, my intelligent five year old self was like, but he's playing with me. It works. We're not the brightest at five to 12, the amount of times that my father was like, We're play by combining your hair. I fell for it. I I thought it was a game.
I fell for it. Like I look back now and it's like you, it's not the Xbox 360, it's not the entire collection of Lord of the Rings in a Broadway show. It's a box and an hour, 30 minutes, 15. Like what so many autistics were robbed of. I realize now is just joy and in its purest form. And if you really wanna cry, just go into any social media outlet and put in healing inner child work. Done. Like y'all really were not allowed to just sit down and play with some dolls like that. My brain is not capable of understanding it. It so autistic joy to me to go full circle after that rant is just reminding people that especially as non neurotypical people, non allistic people, our brain work differently. Joy is not just like something that makes you happy, but it's something that is integral to your like, sense of self and you need to practice it.
It is very, very important I think. I think, I think I've, I think I, I covered all the, the things that I wanted to say there.
Kelly Bron Johnson (15:52):
I think if you've listened to some with the other of our other podcast, there's times when my son is like just outside my door. So we have a, there's my door, there's a small hallway and then there's the living room and we have a trampoline pretty much right at the door of the living room. And my son's room is actually right behind <laugh> my office, like behind that wall. So I hear him mostly it's my eldest who's autistic and, and he hums very loudly now he's almost 13. So it's getting louder as he, as he gets older and bigger and there's been many times when like he's, he jumping on the trampoline and humming and, and stimming and, and I'm like, oh, I said this can't be like a more autistic podcast because I've got like, not only just us like, and the guests and I've got, I've got my son in the background like jumping up and down and, and humming.
Kelly Bron Johnson (16:37):
Apparently nobody hears it, but I, I hear it and I'm not gonna lie, it can be tough. It can be absolutely tough when there's times when, he doesn't, you know, I'm trying to work and that's all I hear, Right? It's like I said, it's quite loud. I'm sure our neighbors hate us cuz he'll go outside and we'll do it out there. And I don't care. I don't care. Yeah. Like too bad move if you don't like it. Cause <laugh> what are you gonna do?
No, no. But like i I, the kids upstairs for example, like we have kids in our, in our building and the one time, one time that I went and were like, Hey, the kids are too loud, it's exam season. That's it. Yeah. And the rest of the year we're gonna tough it out. Why? Their children, Their their children. Yeah. The only time I'm gonna be like, hey, can you give me like, I need like two days, three days it's before an exam. After that, what am I gonna say? Their kids. What am I gonna say?
Doug Blecher (17:42):
Exactly? It's not midnight, you know, and you know, I would think usually what this is happening
Kelly Bron Johnson (17:48):
Doug Blecher (17:49):
<laugh>, it's not two I am when this is happening
And like I do, like I as a parent, I can only imagine like how, like what is like how much y'all have to do. I really and truly, so this is not to say like parents are not trying their best, but this trauma is not from oh, one day out of the week the kid was told to see in time this is trauma. Yeah. This is CPTSD that we're seeing online right now. This isn't, you asked your kid to sit down twice a week, that's not that. Right? This isn't, I'm asking you to be quiet for the weekend. Uh, this is chronic. You are not allowed to have a voice. You are not allowed to play. You are not allowed to show any sign of affection or happiness. I am not saying eight hours a day every single day. The kids should be left through whatever they want.
That is not what I'm saying. I am saying three hours a week, we can't, we can't find three hours a week where a child can be, god forbid a child. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. I just feel like there's a lot of excuses getting made and nobody's looking after reality, which is you made a kid. And I'm not even talking about autistic kids. I'm talking about a normal tried with no neurotypical issues, with no mental differences. Like average kid, they need to go outside and run. They need a book to sit around by themselves to finish the book in, in one sitting. They need a toy to play with. They need a box to be create an imaginary world in. You can't be mad at them for that. Now let's add autistic on top of it, let's add a special interest. Mine is the color pink. Everything I own is pink.
Imagine if my father was like, Well I think it's dumb. I think you're dumb. I think it's stupid. That's, you know how many dms I've gotten like that? Like you having the color pink has healed me. My parents made me feel shamed for liking a color. You shamed your kid for liking. What color do you even hear yourself that this isn't a kid screaming in a grocery store. Like, you know, when the sting get harmful then it's like, I understand. I don't know how you deal with that. And I am sorry. Well, you're talking about a kid that likes everything blue. Thats the conversation we're having right now. That you shamed a child into not liking the color yellow. And you're, and you're looking at that and you're think, how are we having the same conversation? How are we having the same conversation?
It's ridiculous to me. And that's how things go from small. Like, I like this one small thing to these huge stims, these huge like encompassing ways of being because you had to repress it for long, its a domino effect. It's gonna get worse. It's gonna snowball until it becomes now I have to have this whole huge thing in order to be happy because I wasn't even allowed the little things to be happy that,
Kelly Bron Johnson (21:05):
that's exactly how I was raised. I mean, and also like I wanted to wear boys clothes. My mom, she still bought them for me, but it was still a battle, right? It was things that she didn't like. And my, I wanted my room to be blue. They refused to paint my room. Tthings like that, you know, like, and I grew up like that. That's exactly how I grew up. And so with my home, I wanted my home to be the sanctuary where kids are gonna have all the pressures from outside and all the judgment from outside all the time.
Kelly Bron Johnson (21:30):
But I wanted to make sure that my home was the place where there's aite from that, you know? So it's loud now that my son has gone back to school. You know, I'm sure at school he's holding it in like cuz I, I can see I've, I've seen him, I've seen him like kind of repressed his stims and things like that. As he's walking into school, it's like they get smaller and smaller. He has like his, and they kind of get smaller and smaller as he gets to the door. And which is also like kind of sad to me. Like it's not, it's not definitely not something I've ever told him to do or anything like that. It just must be something that he feels.
But, I was gonna say, it's it, you can be as unmasked as you want at your house.
Your parents can be as supportive as you want. I've picked up habits. Yeah. There are just some things. It just, it's, it's easier. I don't sing out loud anymore. When I was a kid, I, I would sing out loud in public, like, but you learn it. People don't really like that. So I sing out loud in my house. Yeah. You know, like, it's not, I promise you you're doing amazing. I promise its not you, but you still go out into the world and you notice there is weird things you do. So like acceptable stims. I can do this in class all day and nobody thinks it's weird like twirling my hair, that's not weird. But if I start doing this with my nails and clackety clacking and I'm doing that while the teacher is talking, somebody's gonna get annoyed. And I know that it's kind of just part of living in a society that's not made for us.
Kelly Bron Johnson (22:55):
Yeah. So yeah, he comes home after school and, and he has to let it all out. So least like a period of, of uh, debriefing time. So yeah. I want to talk a bit, a bit a bit about you being in medical school. And you know, the question that we have for you is actually about, you know, we, we said what what is it about medicine that made you decide this? But I'm kind of wondering, is there, what is it ulterior motive in a sense? Like, I'm wondering if you feel that your perspective, on being autistic and the way that you care so much for how autistic children should be kind of raised in this more accepting environment. I'm wondering if maybe you would be using your medical degree to kind of help the movement forward in that sense?
So I myself personally know what I wanna do. I have like a blueprint plan situation. I can't do it without peers though. So I can do as much as I want what I need to find not only autistic doctors that maybe have been undiagnosed or gone their whole lives not really realized it. I need to kind of go and find my peers out in the world before I start doing this particular work. Which is basically, long-term I want to round up all the neuro divergence that want to be in STEM, that want to be in academia, that want to be in places that normally don't accommodate to us. And before anybody says no, but like, aren't there like a lot of like people in STEM that are neurodivergent? Well, yes, but that doesn't mean they're accepted as they are. It's just they happen to have a special interest in something and gung ho.
So they're very good at it. Another thing I just wanna debunk right now, special interest, we're not the savant syndrome thing. If your special interest is technology, you're gonna seem like a savant because you've been doing technology since you were three. So before you come at us and say we're geniuses, remember the 10,000 hours rule. Most of us when we realize a special interest, we've been doing it for literally a decade by the time you've met us, it's not savant syndrome, it's just repetition. Back to the main point, I do want to round up basically peers in STEM that can help and create an organization, a mentorship to help kids that may not be able to pursue traditional STEM routes because of their neurodivergencies, because of how they present, because of what they've gone through, because of how their brain works and help them get to the end.
Because you find a lot of adhd, a lot of autistic people, a lot of anxiety people, generalized anxiety disorder to be specific. They start off in like really, really high level STEM stuff. And then because they didn't know how to get accommodations or there were no accommodations or they came out with something and they were demonized for being different and they dropped it. And I think that we don't have a very good retention rate with like neuro divergence, like peer to the bone doing things our own way, getting to the end of academia, especially in stem because there is very little support, very little support. One of my favorite things about TikTok is the amount of, psychiatrists and psychologists that have come out as autistic with ADHD or as ADHD or as autistic because they started diagnosing it. They didn't even know they had it.
And for me, that's what I wanna find when I get to a professional level is I wanna round up all these people that can create an organization to help children who want to go into the thing that I love, right? Medicine or into engineering or into any type of science, astrophysics, whatever, but not like mask all their way to the end, to the point where they get burnt out at some point and drop it. You got enough comments in DMS that I've gotten about people that got really far in school and dropped it. They never finished because there were no accommodations or they didn't know about accommodations or they didn't have the community to help them through school. How I get through school is with a community. And I know that that is something I did for myself. I created my own community because I could, because I had the energy, because I didn't have the trauma, because I had the time because I had the space.
That is a huge luxury, a huge privilege. So I want to kind of extend these skills that I've learned to create that for other people. But specifically on a career path that is a lot of the times off limits to us as neurodivergence because it's very rare to find an unmastered neurodivergent like me who has a community that can pursue these things at a hundred percent and not have to worry about what if I burn out. If I burn out, I have people to catch me. If I have executive dysfunction, I have people to catch me. I'm going through some stuff right now that I have my friends are helping me through. Like I'm, I'm not alone. And that's huge, but many people are. So you can't expect them to finish medical school and deal with all these things alone. You, you just can't. That doesn't, it's not realistic. And so I want to create a actual professional mentorship organization, resources right database where this school has this, If you need this accommodation, this school has that. Like that's the end to end to end goal at this point. But I do need to finish this medical degree and I do need to find like-minded peers together. So,
Doug Blecher (29:03):
Chris hearing you, uh, talk about that, I don't know if you're familiar with this organization, I know they're over in Europe is Autistic doctors International, which, has over 500 different autistic doctors connected to their organization. So if you're not familiar with them, I definitely suggest checking them them out at some point. So as I feel like you're doing that right now, <laugh>
I just Googled it, I'll send them an email.
Doug Blecher (29:36):
Yeah, yeah, definitely, definitely send them an email for sure. So you're not only in medical school, which to me is overwhelming, would be overwhelming, but, you're in medical school you moved, I think to a different country to go to medical school. I believe you're in medical school in Spain. So what's been your experience in kind of moving to a new country and being in medical school with maybe a different culture, different language, all that stuff?
So first off, I do want to be like, full disclaimer, all honesty since I came from the Haitian culture, the Spanish culture was just another language and a little bit later times right? Dinner at 10. So I didn't really have culture shock as a concept. I had culture shock in very specific moments. So like one really good example is you call teachers by their first name. Still not used to it, but you get, you get used to it. Like when you ask a teacher profession, you're like, Maria, eh, they won't have with that. Like, it's not like you don't say like, doctor da da da. Even though some of these people, like one of my professors last semester is like double board certified and like you just like say her name and it's like, this feels a little disrespectful, but it's the culture.
Like it's normal. So like, like I've had moments of like, oh, this is a different filter, but I've never experienced culture shock because it, the Spanish culture's really close to my own. Learning a language was hard that now there's no sugar coating that when people, I always get kind of annoyed when people are like, How did you learn it so quick? Two years is quick? Hmm, two years plus a seven months All intensive program that I stayed five days a week, seven hours a day was quick? Okay, thanks. Like thanks for dismissing that. Appreciate it. Learning Spanish made me realize how much of a perfectionist I really was. Cause it really annoyed me that I couldn't understand like every single tiny nuance. Like, which is so ridiculous cause I don't understand every single tiny nuance in English, but here we are. And so, I will never lie and be like, I had so much fun learning Spanish.
I didn't, I did not enjoy feeling dumb. However, we got our coping mechanisms together. We got our, you know, pros and cons lists, you know, we got our support systems and we did it. We, we did the thing, we learned the language. And I don't regret it at all. Obviously I'm very happy. But like in the sense of like, I think some people after making a decision, it's like, oh, but I could have, or maybe no, I don't have any like what ifs. I don't have not a single, what if I have never stopped and thought of myself, thought to myself, what if I got into med school in America? Like I don't even, that thought never crosses my mind because it is what it is. This was my path and it, it was definitely the right path for me. That being said, I feel like my experience as a medical student that is autistic with ADHD is greatly enhanced by being in Spain because the way the culture is set up here is different period.
Now, I am not formally diagnosed at my university in the sense of like, I don't have like, like it's not like on paper to say like I get in combinations or anything. I'm treated like every other student. But I have done several PowerPoint presentations on it, like literally in psychology. I've talked about it openly with my professors when I need help. All of my professors know I'm adhd, autistic and they're cool with it, very understanding. I really have not encountered a single problem in two years on, honestly. I, this one time I showed up to class 30 minutes late because I was literally sitting on my couch with executive dysfunction and I just couldn't. And I was like, No, no, no, no, no, we're gonna go, we're gonna go to class. We got this. And afterward it was one of my favorite professors and I was like, Hey, I'm really sorry I didn't mean to be that late, I just couldn't today.
But like, you're one of my favorite professors and I wanted to show you that I'm trying, but like, I just want you to know, like, I came to this class, like this was like a hail Mary pass. Okay, this a hail Mary pass and I'm glad it worked. But like, he was like, Oh my gosh, no, don't worry. Like I appreciate I I see you in 90% of the classes. Like I assumed something was wrong anyways in the sense of like, I just figured you just having a bad, don't worry. Like I've never really encountered, not even never really, because that would imply that at least once something bad has happened, but nothing has happened. Like I've been really open about it. My professors, my fellow students, everybody's like, ah, yeah, that's Chris, that's how she does things and that, that's it. <laugh>. So I will say I got very lucky, not only in the program I'm in and the professors, I have the students around me, but I do think a part of that is cultural.
I'm in a very international environment. Everybody kind of goes in with the mindset of like, you don't know what I'm going through and vice versa. My class has people from literally all over the world. Like it's one of those things where I think just going into everything, the mindset is different. So me being different on top of the fact that like we all know that like we're coming from different places is just like, ah, that one's really different. And like, that's it. You know. So I will say, I really think my experience was enhanced by not going to school in the us. Currently there's a big thing going on, like, I guess I should say trigger warning for anybody listening, but like talking about how residents in the US and elder medical students in the US there's a very big suicide problem and, um, right now, like recently and yet another resident doctor just took her life and it's going viral right now. But what makes me sad is like I'm in a weird way, like this is horrible to say. Like I'm glad it's being like awareness is being raised for it because I know people, my friends have friends like going through the US education system as a doctor and not so well for a lot of people, even though they worked really hard, even though they seem like they were doing great.
I'm just really glad that I've not experiencing that sense of burnout injury to the point where I am having suicidal ideation because that's just not my experience. And I'm very aware of how privileged and how lucky I am to have that. But like, it's just an underbelly of the medical system in the US that a lot of people don't know about. And right now it's like going viral, it's a thing. And it's very, very scary. But a lot like the suicide rate in in medical students and medical residents in the US is honestly abysmal. And so I do believe that leaving the country changed my experience. I I do believe that a hundred percent because it's not that it's any easier, it's just different. It's a different culture, it's a different mindset. It's a different approach to things. American medical school is very, very good at what it does.
It does create very knowledgeable doctors that have a broad range of subjects and spectrums and na na that they know about. But it's only four years. That's a lot of knowledge in four years. On top of that, the residency system is terrifying. Like I'm scared of it and I might be joining it. The hours, the amount that you're expected to do, the amount that you're expected to be ready for, the hours, the hours, that's what people don't know about. The hours as a resident are borderline illegal for me. I am fully taking advantage of the fact that I am happy where I am and I am enjoying my medical experience and I am not going to regret it. I'm not gonna look back and be like, wow, that was tough because I'm gonna look back and be like, that was hard. But like I had a great time.
Like and I know that. I know that. And so for me, I didn't make the decision alone. I had help, I had help, but I'm very grateful that my dad and my support system got me here because I can't have, I I could not have planned it better if I tried. So yeah.
Kelly Bron Johnson (38:51):
I saw something recently about, um, you know, the, the way that the residency system is set up, at least in, in North America, it's, it's, it, it takes away the capacity for empathy for patients, right? Because they're, well, you know, I had to stay up for three days for 36 hours straight and living off coffee and whatever and you know, your pain isn't, you know, isn't real, you know and it sets up that kind of ableism. It's, yeah, it's um, and and lack of empathy for the, for the patient. You knows.
So if you're not, if you haven't slept, how are you gonna listen to a little old lady have a headache? Yeah. And, and understand where she's coming from. You haven't slept in three days. How are you gonna hear a kid come in and be like, My arm hurts. What hurts ?my arm.
You really, you really think that your mentality is gonna be, you're gonna be like son of em are some para animal. Like, it, it's, it's exactly that. What you just said is perfect. It's how are you gonna empathize with your patients when you yourself are suffering?
Kelly Bron Johnson (40:02):
Or at least it's, it's set up in a way that it, it it kills the empathy that you have. Cause I think a lot of people get into the medical practice because they want to help and it's like, and it kills that natural Yeah. Instinct, right? Yeah. and makes people feel hardened. I think it kind of hardens you too to what other people are going through. That's that process. Like it's kind of, I think haven't been told it's not,
it's not overnight. Yeah, it's not overnight. But if after years of dealing with bureaucracy and administration and Oh they don't have insurance, you can't help them, then it gets to you.
Yeah. Honestly, the show scrubs is probably one of the most accurate, like what's going on behind the scenes shows. And yes, it's humorous, but it's not wrong. It's not, it's not, it is not yet. Like there are parts of scrubs that you think to yourself like, this can't be real. It is.
Kelly Bron Johnson (41:00):
So, we know, like you mentioned you talking about, you know, exam period and having to do a lot of studying. But do you have any other tips I guess, for any other autistic medical students for, for either for studying or for going through this process? Like you said you have a lot of support. But what kind of tips would you give to somebody who's listening right now and is thinking about going into it?
Do not try to study like your peers. Do not try to live like your peers.
Do not try to emulate your peers they are not you. And lemme tell you, you will burn out so quick. Looking at what your peers are doing, there's this thing called anki flashcards. It's a way of studying. 90% of medical students are gonna tell you that anki saved my life. I can't stand anki what this double writing notes thing. I already wrote the notes and I gotta write 'em again. It's not giving what you think it's giving, it's not Anki is, is is my nemesis. Honestly, everybody uses Anki, everybody. So if you are neuro divergent going into medicine, going into any of these more stem heavy fields, please note your process is not gonna look like anybody else's. And that's not just step, A neuro diversion artist does not create art the way a a a neurotypical one does. Right? But I can only speak on what I know, right?
I'm in medical school, I can't speak on art because let me tell you, I can barely draw a circle. However, I know for a fact that when I end up randomly with no reasoning at all, choreographing a dance, it is not gonna come out of my brain the way it is. Somebody who was trained in dance that is neurotypical, that learn dance that has the composition down and blah, blah blah. So I can, I can see how these, this concept is relatable as a neurodivergent in anything, but especially in Stem fields and especially in medicine where like there's kind of like a monopoly of like how things should be done. Read your notes three times, do your notes three times. Rewrite the note, re-listen to the lectures. That's how you learn. Re re-listen to the lectures? Oh my gosh, that's a nap time and that is a lullaby. They're time to go to sleep. Now I barely listen to, it's the first time it was coming around again. Absolutely not. This is not an arctic monkey cd. I don't wanna hear it twice.
So you're telling me everybody's doing it every, forget what everybody's doing, forget it. It's not gonna work for you. There are parts of it that will work for you. For example, the repetition thing. That's true. You learn anything you repeat, but you will not be able to repeat things the way your peers repeat things. Cuz your brain won't let you. It just won't let you. Right? So for example, how I study is I write down the most important things that they say in class. I put it in the margins of my little one note love, one note, great little program. Then I make a quizlet with only the most important things that I learned. Why? Because I do this thing where I make these mind maps. So if I know this one concept, I now have to use this one thing and then branch it all out.
And I only create mind maps if it's something that I don't know, if it's something I already know. Uh, no this, no it's not worth my time. Now why is it not worth my time? Like, don't you wanna make sure you solidify it? No, cuz then I'm gonna get bored and then I'm gonna stop study it. The fastest way for me to keep studying is by keep learning new things. And I know that that's how my brain works. Now if that's going to discourage you, if you need to repeat things that help you feel confident and then learn new things through that. But understand that this system that everybody else has of you repeated three times. You read it down three times. Never gonna work for me. Now put it in a Quizlet game. What? Oh, I'm ready, I'm ready, I'm ready. I had like 50 chapters on an exam.
I just went through every single Quizlet. I was like, this is so much fun. Right? Everybody's different. Everybody's different. Did I write down a single thing? No I did not. I did not write down a single note in last exam season. Not a single thing. Why? Cause it was in a Quizlet. Do not look at how other people are studying and do not look at how other people are learning information and think, ah, this is gonna work for me. Look at it and say this is steady inspo. Make it a game. Make it like a Tumblr page. Make it a Pinterest like steady inspo keyword being inspo. You are not to copy these people. These people are not your idols. This is not a K-pop group that you are buying merch from. Okay. Just stick to what you know makes you happy. Stick to what you know is gonna help you remember your information.
Take pieces of what they do. Absolutely. But if you're just gonna copy and paste what they're doing, it's not gonna work for you. And it's just going to leave you burnt out and feeling bad about yourself. My three things for studying are make sure it's making you happy. Make sure it's in a format that you retain information quickly. Because we all have a format that we retain information quickly in. And make sure that while you're doing it, you're not burning out. Because studying is inherently something that will make you burn out. It's inherent at the end of studying, you burn out it's right mess. But do the thing that is going to give you the most time before you burn out. Cuz it's coming. Might as well prepare for it.
Kelly Bron Johnson (46:29):
I think that's advice for any, any time, any the way that we work or study. Right? And it took me till I was almost 40 before I discovered that I did not need to work the way that other people do. And that if you force me to try and work the way other people do, it makes me absolutely lose my mind. Um, <laugh>. So it will completely demotivate me and you're not gonna get me as a productive person. So, yes, I love this advice. I love this. And, and I'm trying to teach that with my son too. And like he has to learn. He's still young so he's got to learn different methods before he can figure out exactly what's gonna work for him. But I told him like this, you know, I even asked the teachers at some point cuz the teachers had that repetition kind of thing with math.
Kelly Bron Johnson (47:13):
And for him, he sees the concepts in his head 3d, right? He doesn't, he hates writing. I think he probably has some dysgraphia, but him sitting down and doing exercises over and over again doesn't do anything for him. And, and what is even worse is that if you make him do things like that, he starts to doubt himself. Cuz he's like, well this is too easy. He'll be like, well the rest of the class is taking like in an hour to do these three pages. I've done them. I must have something wrong. I must not understand because why am I, how did I do it so fast? And teachers perpetuate this too. Oh yeah. Teachers perpetuate it too.
I super early and I got the impression that the teacher thought I was reading wrong. Yeah. My favorite book is To Kill a Mockingbird.
And in, it's not, it's one of my like, I like my 15, but for intensive purposes of the story, my favorite book is To Kill a Mockingbird. And there's this line where Scout tells, Atticus that she wasn't allowed to read in school. She got in trouble for reading. It's her fault. It's his fault in Calpurnia's fault that she can read And scout was like, and there's a point in like her internal monologue, you know, as the book is written from Scout's point of view. And she goes, one does not love breathing until I feared I would lose it. I did not love reading. One does not, one does not love breathing. It's just a part of who you are. And that quote, even though I read it in eighth grade, was like the, like it stuck with me for so long. And that's what I mean.
Like, like that's why I'm like saying like, I relate to your son being like, well if everybody else can do it. So why is it taking them so long? And I'm, and I'm doing it quickly. Is it me? Yes. Am I the drama? You know, like, am I the weird one? Yeah. Because I remember being in first grade looking around people, like struggling with like the picture books and I'm like, I'm reading Judy B. Jones. And Judy B. Jones is honestly just like fun. Like, this is just, I'm just having a good time. Like this is not, this is not hard. Like what do you mean you don't know how to read that word? Like, that's weird, but, and like, I literally made it to talk about this the other day where I was like, it doesn't matter how accepted and loved you are, you know when you're different and you feel it, you know that you're loved, you know that it's okay, you know, there's something wrong with you, you've been conditioned.
But when you're in that environment, when you're the only one, sometimes you take a second and you're like, Oh, I really am sitting here alone. And it's, I don't think it's great for the mental to sit in that for too long. I really don't. It doesn't matter how confident you are. We are human. We still want to have connection with other people. So I totally get that where it's like being in class and everybody's taking a long time and you're like, did I mess something up? Did I read it wrong? Was it harder? I don't know.
You were talking a little bit earlier about, um, autistic joy and over the last probably a year and a half, something that's given me that joy is watching, K dramas. So I saw your social media account, that you were talking about your favorite K dramas, which I was really excited to see because I've been wanting to talk to someone else who loves K dramas. So I'm just wondering, what is it for about K dramas? I know they've become more popular due to Netflix and stuff like that. What is that you love about them?
First of all, what K dramas are you watching? Cause like, I didn't know, I'm just nosy. Wanna
Doug Blecher (50:50):
Know. Well, well probably my favorite one was Startup. I don't know if you've seen Oh
Yeah, I haven't seen it. It's on my list though.
Doug Blecher (50:58):
Yeah, it's, it's a kind of a bad entrepreneurship which kind of connects with me a lot. Right now I am watching just because at first I was hesitant to it just because I'm always hesitant when there's autistic characters. Like, is this gonna be an ableist thing? But I've been watching The Extraordinary Attorney, Woo.
I'm on episode 10, No spoilers.
Doug Blecher (51:22):
Finished it. Well that is hysterical because I believe I am on either episode nine or 10.
Speaker 1 (51:30):
I am doing episode like breakdowns of each episode on my TikTok because I was like, I want to like do this, right? Like, I don't wanna just watch the binge the whole show and then like see, you know, like try to talk about it after. So I'm doing like episode episode breakdowns of the show. And honestly, before I answer your question, sorry. I think especially for Korean media, they did a very good job with Extraordinary Attorney Woo. I haven't seen it end yet, so I don't know if they're gonna throw us some nonsense, but as of right now, I feel they have done a good job with extraordinary attorney woo. It is not perfect. She does not. No, no autistic has every single stim on this planet. That's not possible. However, I appreciate the shout out to showing what stims look like in reality. I appreciate that her father completely accepts her.
I appreciate her being completely unmasked. I really like that. Like they, there are things I appreciate that she has a love interest and he loves her the way she is. That is very important. Like I feel it's not perfect, but we are getting into the right direction of where we wanna be with autistic representation. Savant syndrome we all know how to feel about that already. But beside that, I will say really and truly, I am enjoying watching the show. And I do like the representation and I do like how they are, you know, going about the show and like what the show represents. That being said, what I like about k dramas the most honestly is the dramatic plot part. Now I, for a lot of people it's too much or it's too cheesy or it's too corny. But I'm, I'm a fan. I'm a fan. And what I think is really funny is the same people that we're saying it's too cheesy, it's two pointing. Ask them if they've watched Squid Games. That's all I'm saying. That's all. I'm, I rest my case.
K dramas are genuinely just fun. Like, they're just fun. I don't know. They, and they do that thing and I don't know, like if there's like a science behind it, like movie making people probably know, or filmmaking make people probably know this, but like, they like get you, like they don't even, it's not even that they end every episode on a cliff hanger cause sometimes they do that too. But there's something about K dramas that it just, like, you have to watch three episodes in a second. Like you're like, I don't know. I have to, I have to, I have to watch the next video. I just, I have to, I don't know what it is, but I'm compelled to find out what happens to this one character in this one character arc. And it has to be right now, amount of times that I've been late to something.
Cause I had to finish an episode. I had to, I, it's not my fault, it's whatever they put in the show, whatever little magic fairy pixie dust, it's not me, but like, they're just, sorry. You know, like that autistic thing where you notice everything, there's like a bug outside my window and I can like, see the reflection like in my curtains and it's like, like please fly away cause I can see you in my peripheral view. And it's very annoying me. Anyways, the point is, K dramas just have this, this like fabulous. Like they just get you, they just get you in the plot. And I, I dunno, I'm such a fan. I'm also really a fan of like the no gratuitous sexual scenes. Like, we literally watched a scene in class today from Limitless and there was a sex scene in it. Like we didn't, we didn't need all of that.
We didn't, we didn't need all of that. We really didn like, you couldn't just, you didn't need it. I, I didn't realize how much like gratuitous intimacy scenes were in American television until I started watching other television. And then I was like, Oh, well this is nice. Like I could just think about something else and not like the relationships that the characters are having every episode. That's so annoying. So yeah, I still watch American television. Don't get me wrong, I'm a hypocrite. Like I'm talking like I don't watch American television anymore. I do, but I just appreciate like focusing on things that are not like random relationships for no reason. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So yeah.
Doug Blecher (55:53):
I definitely would agree with that. I feel the connection in the, in a lot of these K dramas. And I just think it's just good storytelling and I don't need English language to, to be a part of that. Like, I mean, there, there are some great American shows, but I feel like, I don't know, they, it seems for whatever reason they have a formula down in these K dramas that I just kinda connect with.
I Know. It's like by episode six, if you're still in it by episode six, you're finishing the season. Yeah. You, you just, you're finishing it. It is what it's, yeah.
Doug Blecher (56:29):
Well, I'm sure we could talk about this all day, but, uh, I think it's probably time, uh, to <laugh> add this episode. So, Chris, thanks so much for joining us for the wonderful conversation.
Thank you for inviting me. Uh, I'm gonna go ahead and say thanks for listening to the ramble. There's no way any of this was in a coherent thought process, but I'm glad I got it.
Kelly Bron Johnson (56:54):
See, I hope this is a healing for everybody. But yeah, thank you so much.