My name is Jay Insalaco. I am a husband, father of two beautiful children, and a public worker. Life wasn't always like this, here’s my story.
In 1995 when I was 19, I started going to a rave club in New York City called "the tunnel". At this club I was introduced to the drug "ecstasy". Up until this point in my life I was smoking cigarettes, marijuana, and drinking alcohol. I went to "the tunnel" for three weeks straight. These three weeks would change my life forever. I can remember the first Friday taking ecstasy and feeling free. I felt like I could finally be myself, I felt a oneness with myself, everyone at the club, and with the world. Freed control was my insanity. By the third Friday I had taken so many drugs that I literally saw a flash of light that was blinding before my eyes. After that moment, everything was connected. Thoughts were coming into my mind faster and faster. There was no time for sleep. I went five days without sleep and insanity was running wild. I felt like I knew what it was like when Jesus walked the earth. I felt like I knew all the answers to the mysteries of the world. I felt like I was sent here to save the world. This is when my boss stepped in and took me to the hospital to be evaluated. He saved my life.
After my evaluation, this is where my journey begins. I was dual diagnosed with bipolar disorder type 1 and addiction to drugs/alcohol. I was taken to a room, my belt and my shoelaces were taken. I was told to go into the room and sit down. I might have been in that room for a couple of hours when my mom and my sister came in crying. My mom had no idea that I was doing all these drugs and was heartbroken. I can remember moments later a few men came into the room and strapped me down to a gurney and was given an injection, then I was put into an ambulance to be transported to a different hospital with a rehabilitation center. Freed control was my insanity.
In April 1995 I was introduced to mental illness and twelve-step programs. I was told that recovery was going to be a way of life for the rest of my life. One day at a time. Sounds easy, but believe me, it's not. When I went through the first hospitalization and rehab, I felt like I was in purgatory. Lost between heaven and hell, a lost soul. I was defeated. How was I supposed to live with this sentence? I had to change people, places, and things associated with everything I was doing at 19 years old. I felt alone. A castaway.
For the next seven years I had accepted my addictions and was successful in staying drug and alcohol free. I did it by working the steps in a 12 step program. I followed all the suggestions, I found a sponsor, and went to meetings. As for my mental illness, I couldn't accept it. I spent from 1995-2002 going in and out of hospitals, and day programs. I was miserable because of having to take medication and having to be compliant in a treatment plan. I couldn't face the fact that this was my life. I felt like I was wearing a scarlet letter that screamed mental illness. I was afraid of the stigma and being judged. How was I ever going to get acceptance of my mental illness? It took a special person to accept me for me.
It was in April of 2002 when I met Tracy. The eerie part is that it was seven years to the day that I saw the big flash in "the tunnel" which changed my life forever. I met Tracy in a club where we both went separately with friends to see a band called Subcommittee. One of Tracy's friends worked with one of my friends, and we met. We danced all night. At the end of the night we exchanged phone numbers. Two days later we had our first date. Two weeks went by and I had to let her into my world. I had to tell her about my dual diagnosis. I was on the phone with her and I said, "Tracy, I have something to tell you", "I'm a recovering addict and I have bipolar disorder". There was a silence, she said, "I wish I was there right now, "I want to give you a big hug". This is when the self acceptance of my mental illness started. It stemmed from this wonderful woman accepting me for me. From this point of my life, I wanted to be better.
In 2005, I got a job in the town I was living in. I started working for the Department of Public Works. At this point, me and Tracy have been dating for three years and were talking about getting married. In 2006, we got married. In 2007, my daughter Grace was born. In 2008, we bought a house. In 2010, my son Jameson was born. My life finally knew peace.
In November 2011, I created Instinctive Bird. It started as a project to eradicate my own personal stigma on mental illness and addiction. I gave the stigma power and control. It was time to accept myself and take away the fear. I started by making videos. Then I self published my book "No More Crutch". Soon after I joined the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Through NAMI, I was trained as an In Our Own Voice (IOOV) speaker to educate and eradicate stigma.