The Mighty Logo

How 'Scrubs' Helped Me Embrace My Weirdness as an Autistic Adult

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

With the arrival of Autism Acceptance Month, I’ve been reflecting on my journey of self-acceptance since I was diagnosed four years ago. Much of this journey revolves around how my comfort show, “Scrubs,” has helped me to embrace the weirdness I tried for so long to hide.

It’s not unusual for autistic folks to feel chronically out of place. Personally, I always felt like I had been born on the wrong planet and was doing my best (but less than stellar) human impression. This led to a lot of self-loathing. Growing up undiagnosed, I never knew why I felt this way.

Four years ago, I got my answer and it all made sense. I finally knew why I was weird — but what was I supposed to do with that weirdness? This is where “Scrubs” comes in.

As I immersed myself in the world of Sacred Heart, I noticed that everyone was weird in their own way. The more I got to know the characters, the more I got the impression that there was no way they were all neurotypical.

I was 99% sure J.D. had ADHD. For one, he was always getting lost in his thoughts. He was impulsive, clumsy, hypersensitive, and struggled with relationships. It felt like his internal monologue came straight from my brain sometimes.

I related to Elliot in particular; her anxiety, obsessive tendencies, and social awkwardness. I even wondered at times if she might be autistic herself.

Ted was a big ball of nerves, the embodiment of a “hot mess.” Naturally, I saw myself in him, too.

Even Dr. Cox and the Janitor could very well have been neurodivergent in some capacity. Turk might’ve also had a splash of ADHD. The Todd? Well, who knows what was up with him.

And don’t get me started on Lucy from Season 9/the spinoff! I won’t say the season as a whole was amazing, but I quite enjoyed Lucy’s character because she was the definition of an autistic headcanon. I mean, a college dorm room absolutely filled with horse-themed decor and stuffed animals? Come on, now.

I like to think she and J.D. connected right off the bat because of their mutual neurodivergence and their similar ways of coping with the challenges of a neurotypical world (that being through fantasy and idealism).

My point is, it felt as though if I was suddenly transported to the “Scrubs” universe, I wouldn’t be out of place at all. And as cheesy as it sounds, I found comfort in feeling like I could belong somewhere — even if that place was fictional.

I fell in love with every single character; not despite their weirdness but because of it. I knew that millions of other people had, too. Sure, some couldn’t stand the absurdity, but that didn’t diminish Scrubs’ greatness. This led me to an important realization.

Weirdness isn’t inherently negative. It’s all in how you perceive it. There are plenty of people out there who appreciate weirdness and even celebrate it. There are people who’ll embrace my weirdness, too. Starting with me.

All of this is to say, “Scrubs” has played and continues to play an instrumental role in my journey to self-acceptance as someone who has always longed for a “normalcy” that seemed so far out of reach. It helped me to realize that weirdness is wonderful. That it’s OK to be an awkward dreamer who gets tongue-tied and regularly falls up the stairs. It’s all part of the charm.

Still, self-acceptance doesn’t happen overnight. I still sometimes beat myself up for not fitting in. It’s a process. But, whenever I put “Scrubs” on, it feels like I’m spending time with old friends who are just as weird as I am.

I’ll forever be grateful for that.

P.S. I didn’t expect to be adding this when I began writing, but I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to speak with Zach Braff (J.D.) and Donald Faison (Turk) as a fan caller on their hit rewatch podcast Fake Doctors, Real Friends the other day! We talked about autism, self-acceptance, and “As We See It,” among other things.

Talk about autistic joy! I still can’t fathom how it actually happened, and how I managed to get words to come out of my mouth at all with how excitedly anxious I was (considering I’m essentially Ted under pressure).

If you’d like to have a listen to the episode, it will be available wherever you get your podcasts starting on Tuesday, April 12, 2022!

Originally published: April 12, 2022
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home