My Brain Works Differently: Autism And Addiction | Dylan Dailor | TEDxNorthAdams

you know I was I was like trying to come up with the title for the talk and I was like how can I do this so that everything I say is a surprise and I realized I couldn't so I have a very a title that gives you a lot about me and you're going to end up hearing a lot more by the end of it so I I chose some quotes and you'll see those and I'll not gonna read him to you but I just want to I'm gonna address this one specifically I like that how far back must you go to discover the beginning of the trouble because I can kind of go back to a time when I was not so nervous as an individual and anxious and I mean and I think that time my parents will tell you was October 27 1999 the day of my birth that was the last moment I wasn't anxious so that was also the first moment that I was on the spectrum something I like to point out I wasn't on the spectrum when I was diagnosed when I was 8 I was on the spectrum when I was born on October 27 1999 so I I was a relatively happy child you know as happy as I could be and I started school when I was I started school a little bit younger because I'm born in October so a little bit younger but I was kind of a little bit ahead of my classmates which everyone noticed and my parents took notice too but the school didn't want to take notice too and I finished that school I finished my first school in kindergarten and had to switch schools because my classmates didn't like me and it kind of became this pattern where I went the maximum time I ever spent at a school was 5 years and that was 1st through 5th grade and I switched again in sixth grade I switched to 7th I switched after ninth I switched after eleventh and I'm in college and I'm trying not to switch again but I remember I finished up fifth grade and I was I was having a really hard time it was I was really discovering the depths of how anxious I could get and we went on a trip to Disney and I ended up I'm gluten free and I ended up eating gluten and I had a reaction and my parents said like well you know I used to have this rule that was like I can't use my computer you know whatever I bring up my trip I can't use my screen more than a half an hour a day and or something apparently I set up for myself that wasn't my parents I loved the rules and so I was using it and I was feeling better and that was great and then I got home and I was starting in a new school and I was really nervous because there were all these kids I didn't know and they had all known each other since kindergarten and so I kept using my computer when I got home and it made me feel better and I didn't really think of it that much in a way like it was like it seemed very normal like everyone was just using a computer or you know using their D s and so I was like okay you know I'm you know I'm doing good and I got anxiety medication in me and then I I finished up in sixth grade I switched schools again and I went to an all-boys male school which with my personality did not mesh well so I'm at this all-boys school I get to ninth grade and I actually got to the second day of 10th grade I say 9th grade because it's last I'm sorry got to the second day of 10th grade and this the counselor that was assigned to me through the state or through the the county said you're you you're not going back to classes you're not going back to the school you're leaving now and you're not going back and then I went to my therapist and she said Dylan I'm not you know you cannot go back into that school your mental health has just deteriorated I was like okay you know I'm you know I'm very happy you know it's time to start something new so I went to online school which was really cool for a while but then I found that you know I was on my computer every single day and it was I woke up at 7 in the morning to start class work at 8 and I was putting away my work at 9 and every single day I was in front of my screen doing work all the time and I still thought it was fine like that's normal like people want to do school work and I didn't realize that that wasn't normal because people don't want to do school work but I wanted to do school work then I get to 11th grade and I was tired I mean two years I was online schooled and I was really tired of sitting alone in my bedroom every single day so I was switching to a new school was actually I'd done my tax talk they invited me to go I was really excited and then I as a child has to do at some point I got my wisdom teeth out so I was very anxious I went into the doctor's office they explained everything to me seven times I you know they brought me in they numbed my arms they put the needle in me I remember my vision splitting in two and then I woke up and I was happy and I sucked for three hours and then I did you know twelve English assignments and got a hundred on all of them in a day and then at the end of a day and a half I was still pretty happy and I fell asleep and then the next day I woke up I did not feel well I was very nauseous I was sweaty clammy shaking and I was like why it was like it's all it's all gone away I was so happy what happened what happened and so you know we took a look at the the sheet stuff and when they put you under with IV anesthetic they give you the cocktail the cocktail of the different drugs one of the drugs that they happen to give me was fentanyl and I reacted very well to it reacted very well to it and then I didn't react so well to it and then there was a month of me going well the doctor put a prescription for vicodin and at the pharmacy and that'll make me feel happy and I just wanted to feel happy and I was switching schools again and I was actually sitting the other day and I was like I was switching schools and I was never kind of dealing with my problem and so every single time that I was switching these schools every single time that I would get anxious I would find something new to just distract myself it was all about functioning it was moving forward it was how do I move forward and complete my next task because that's all that matters that's all that mattered to me and so when I got to twelfth grade I was you know I was recovered it had been you know I had a month before I had to go back into school I hadn't you know I had a tough time I don't always get along with my classmates so you know I every once in a while it was like I you know maybe like something would be nice to just kind of comment and I was like yeah you know I can take my anti-anxiety medication you know that works okay works pretty well and I can use my tools and I got off to college and college is a different situation College is a place where all of these kids come and for the first time they're free and they can go and do what they want and I kind of realized that I couldn't very early on because I like the rules and so I wasn't going and doing whatever I wanted but I started to meet people and I realized that they were going out and doing all these things that they wanted to do and I was like okay and I was like classes are stressing me out you know be really nice if I could do that too and it just so happened that on my birthday I I was completely sober and I would you wanna make that clear because I was with two of my friends for my birthday or watching a movie I have a cough so I used my inhaler I spit out the water because that's what you do afterwards and I lifted my head into a door and sliced my head open a little bit so Hospital emergency room visit later and you know they're like how Bad's the pain and the first thought my head was well the pain is I mean it's bad I mean I can handle it but yeah I'm really stressed like I tell him a little bit higher maybe they give me something and I was like I said to the I said to the doctor I went they said what are you allergic to and I said I'm allergic to codeine I'm allergic to gluten I have my seasonal allergies you can't give me a narcotics it was like the last substantive thought that I had in my head before I just kind of went through the rest of the process and I realized I'm kind of I'm an addict like I need something I constantly need something to calm myself down and so I like I you know I called my parents I was like mom dad I think you know you know I know that we kind of discussed this I think that there's something bigger like there might be something worse so it was the first time I kind of admitted it myself and it was really scary like that is a scary idea that's a scary thing to say but it was also really freeing because I was able to say you know to a couple people nine people twelve people was what it was at now it's probably at like 150 and once the video comes out everyone can just look it up so lots of people now know that about me so it's really exciting and it's really scary and in some way like I wanted to go and tell people about it and I know now I am but I kind of I knew a while ago and I can't I'm you know I was I was ashamed like that's that's what came up for me like anytime that I would have the thought my hat I was like I can't tell people cuz this is bad this is not me like this not who I am this is a different Dylan this Dylan is bad and so I have I you know I I kind of was like well where do I go and I can't go like I can't go to a group I can't sit in front of people I'm on the spectrum I one I'm anxious and two I don't really know how to communicate really well in this group of people who are very different with than me I don't really know their names I don't know them the first rule I gave everyone when I when they told me I had anxiety was I will never do a group and I still follow it today so you know all I can do is go to a therapist which is good but it doesn't solve everything because you know you have to find you know it's about specialization it's about what they know and it's about all of that and so you know it's it's frustrating I can't necessarily go and tell people about it because of that and I'm up here and I'm telling you about it so for me you know being at college it's just a lot of people go out on the weekends and drink like that's the thing like I ran people say to me like this is how I relaxed on this is how I feel better about my day and I like them when I go I really wish I could feel my day too and I don't tell them and so I you know it's this fear that's in the back of my head at all times it's like when does it happen when do when do when does someone offer me something and I don't have that I've had it twice in my life where I said no and I had twice in my life where I keep doing it because I can tell you I'm still constantly working and I'm still constantly on my computer so you know when when is the time I don't say no and how do I stop it again so it's really scary yeah I just I don't I don't know it's it's a totally unknown to me and that's the problem life is really long and I'm 18 guessing most of you in this room are going wow he's young he he he is a whippersnapper which is actually something I would say so you know it seems like my life hasn't been super long but I mean I I was born and when you're diagnosed at seven on the spectrum like you're you're in the middle late range of diagnosis so they're like we want to get you to where you need to be right now like you you have to learn the social skills right now and then people will understand you they will like you you will be able to do this your life will be great and it's not because I the day before you know a week before I'm off to college I said to my therapist I was like I don't I don't it I've gone to six schools how do I know seven is going to work and she's like don't I don't really think that this like the training is doing that much for you like you can't you can't learn you can't learn more when everyone else around you can't give you the rest of you know when you're offering 75% there are only offering 25% of course it's going to be really stressful the problem is if they don't know how to offer fifty percent and you do then you're always going to have this disconnect and so you know I really I really do have this disconnect with people I I don't quite understand it and I got all this training and I walked through one fire I really did I learned I got beaten up I got multiple concussions that's what happens when you play football without helmets at an all-boys school you know I I did I walked through one fire and I walked through a second one when I realized that I was coping through these very unhealthy means and then I realized that I have to walk through another one in the way that I all of these skills and I have to unlearn them I have to unlearn all these skills because they're not these these are the things that in between the schools that's what they were teaching me they were saying Dylan if you did this they'll like you more and it doesn't matter because they won't like me more because I learned some skill instead it just makes me really dislike myself more and so you know when I go back to school there'll be a lot of kids who say to me Dylan it's so amazing you you did another TED talk and I have people say you know Dylan it's amazing you did it you wrote a book Dylan that's amazing you did a TED talk before or Dylan you know you do all this stuff it's amazing you must be so happy I'm not I'm really not I'm not a happy person because it's not it's not helping it's not you know there's nothing there's nothing about that that really works there's no amount of achievement that makes people like you and there's no amount of achievement for me in the way that I'm not achieving because I want like I want to help people but I'm not that's not my main reason and it's not always clear to me so you know I get up here and I talk to you guys and like yes I want to help people on the spectrum who are suffering through similar things but in all reality and I realize this probably about a week ago I'm doing this because I want people to stop being mean to me but it's not the people right now we're being mean to me I want the people from five years ago to be nice to me five years ago but that's not how it works I can't do that I can't make them like me five years ago because I'm in now and I'm not back then but it's really hard because I can't like Dylan up here talking to you guys is a lot different than Dylan in a situation talking to people where someone says something and I just look in the back of the room and I start remembering something and then I need to go and achieve something so that everyone will look up to me but it's not working because that's not what I want I just want everyone to I want everyone to stop I want I want everyone from five ten any number of years ago to just stop hitting me and it doesn't work and so being on my computer all the time doesn't work being on doing work all the time doesn't work using fentanyl works in a way but it's not healthy like that's not the way to go with life that is not what I want that's not who I wanted to be it's not what I imagined for myself I had talked I had said something about normal in my last talk like we have this idea of normal and we do and I don't I think that the problem is is that normal isn't good normal is very bad normal is a very bad concept because you'll never be normal no one in this room will be normal I don't care if you're on the spectrum I don't care if you're a neurotypical which is what we call you if you didn't know that so you know I can't I can't be normal you can't be normal everyone trying to get to normal isn't making things better so I mean I like to leave people with one thought and my one thought for you is normal as bad just be weird just be weird your brain all of our brains work differently just be weird [Applause]


  1. Doubt that you will even see this, but man no matter how dark your world may get just know you aren’t alone, I struggle with addiction myself. Im 25 Iv been in a war of addiction since I was 14 Maby 15 and now as I’ve gotten older my mental well-being is deteriorating, I don’t function well around people or in social situations, Iv recently lost my job because I called out due to having this repetitive thought for days… I won’t go into it but I was unable to sleep for almost a week paranoia ,voices, delusions, and sever sever depression I felt I needed to commit myself and ended up loosing my job, back to my point sorry, u gotta keep pushing and fighting through life , try and come to peace with the rough times you faced 5 years ago and do what ever u can to make sure the next 5 years are everything you want them to be. You have a friend here if you need one.

  2. I have Aspergers and really relate to your story.

    I have so much respect for you. You realised what I also realised. Achieving does not fix how we were treated in the past. We have to stop trying to be something.

    We naturally learn fast but we should stop doing this to be someone or be liked.

    Eventually you lose who you are wearing masks for others.

  3. I would happily be Dylan Dailo'rs friend giving 100t% of my friendship to him like I've done with all my other friendships/relationships. Great talk he has given. I wish him the very best!

  4. I'm autistic with 140 IQ and I got lost in the rambling 3 or 4 times. Unable to follow what he's trying to say. Maybe he's trying to say a lot less than he's saying.

  5. Just be weird… It might work for others but this never worked for me. I wanted to belong, to have connections, but when I was myself it just turned out wrong. I had to learn and modify my reactions, kinda train them. This self-modified learnt behavior brought better results than being myself. I think weirdness just brought chain of events such as loneliness, depression and substance abuse problems.

  6. Having autism being autistic I don't know if his conversation is about being in a depressed unhappy individual or lack of control and having anxiety all those things could be different categories could all be related nervously I couldn't stand in front of a thousand people a hundred people 10 people like no I have an open conversation like this so mentally I believe he's in better shape than me

  7. I would love to hear the stories of the "normal" people who went out of their way to persecute him. It sounds like gang mentality?

  8. What I ultimately found was that… The way I am, it's almost like being from another culture. And the people who I click with, are other spectrum people, who find rude the same things I do, who find polite the same things I do… I think autistic people need to band together. I think we need to be helping each other, because we can, and if we're together we can make people see us. And you're helping do that. And it makes a difference.

  9. I wish people had laughed at some of his jokes. It seemed like he was trying to be funny every so often.

  10. People will naturally draw their own personal conclusions from this talk. Personally, I think a clear message is that autism can't always be adequately addressed by modern treatments. An individual can give it their very best, and achieve metrics that society regards to be 'success', but that isn't always enough. Sometimes the condition brings about unabating suffering with no clear answers in sight.

    This reality applies to mental illness in general. It's a reality that society lamentably rejects with romanticism and anecdotes, because no one wants to confront the pain of hopeless suffering. The problem is, when you're the victim of such pain, you don't get the luxury of telling yourself a pleasant story. You're forced to confront it. Yet when you try to talk about it, many are keen to reject it. Just mention the term 'treatment-resistant depression', a firmly established medical designation, and you'll see what I mean.

    The survivor bias holds that those who survive, or 'succeed', are generally noticed more often than those who struggle, because the successful tend to have more visibility, while the less successful dwell in obscurity. This leads to delusionally optimistic beliefs. The survivor bias is – ironically – readily apparent even in Dylan's talk. The only reason he's able to tell the world about his struggles, is because of his perceived successes. No one wants to hear about an autistic, or mentally ill nobody, living in misery and squalor while subsisting off meager disability checks. Everyone loves to hear a good success story, despite the fact that they represent a small minority.

  11. Born October 1, 1982 and understand your words with intense clarity. Keep doing what you're doing. If some day we meet face to face, it's my hope that you don't feel anxious. If so, I get it.

  12. I know it's an old video. But Sweetheart. You have lived a life of a child I was a nanny for at that time. And she was not on the "spectrum" where she will ever have a functional life like you. She will never have the option of choice, that's how far she was/is on the spectrum. I pray you are flourishing now. Choice is key.

  13. This is super interesting. My partner is on the spectrum and I'm neurotypical and it was a constant battle of "why do you need so much time to yourself,", "why do you need 'x-y-z'," "I have needs too," etc. The issue for me was my needs were closely related to "I need you to be present with me" and for him, he could only be there so much, he wanted to spend time with me, but he also very much needs to be on his own. In his therapist's words, "if you want to take away the autism just remove all the other people." Since him being diagnosed, learning about the disorder and recognizing where I can pick my battles, we are really good. We have moments, but we're both learning how to be conscious of the other as best we can and respect each others' differences/needs. He's actually a fantastic communicator when I give him the chance to process and interpret his own thoughts without interruption, but as a neurotypical, I had to learn that we simply communicate differently. Anyway, powerful stuff, Dylan. Best of luck to you in finding yourself and what makes you content. Thanks for sharing your insight. And I wholeheartedly agree, LET'S ALL JUST BE WEIRD! 😀

  14. I think I'm on the spectrum but I've never been diagnosed, I've always had problems socially. How did you know you had autism?

  15. Awesome, another October 27th autistic baby like me! Although I was born a bit earlier. At the end I could feel you so strongly. I was always told someday I would find "my people" and would be accepted and truly belong…still waiting. Glad I did find some of them online at least.

  16. „Just be weird!” Thank you for sharing, Dylan. All the best. May you find peace where you are and on your path. 🌷✨

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