Please give a very warm TLC welcome to Jason Insalaco from Instinctive Bird. Thank you for sharing your story and creating a community where people can feel safe and supported.
Hi, my name is Jay Insalaco. I’ve been living with bipolar disorder type 1 and addiction to drugs and alcohol for the last twenty years. Throughout the years I struggled with fear and acceptance. I had accepted my life of recovery from addiction but not with my mental illness. For me, I could accept not taking drugs and alcohol because I could physically “control” not taking a drug or a drink. For my mental illness, I couldn’t accept it; I had no “control” over my mind.
My recovery started in 1995. I was experimenting with drugs in a club in NYC right before I was introduced to mental illness. I was dual diagnosed after a drug induced manic episode. Five days after that last night in the club I was hospitalized in a psychiatric hospital/rehab.
During that first stay at the hospital/rehab, I don’t think I realized how my life was going to change. It was until I was released and had to go to a day program and a 12-step meeting that I started to know fear and acceptance.
Was this my life for the rest of my life? A life filled with psychiatrists, psychologists, and 12-step meetings? Was I really going to have to change people, places, and things? My whole world was going to change. The first step is acceptance. I couldn’t do this. I just couldn’t. Acceptance was only the first step and I was lost. I had to come to terms with living life on life’s terms. How? I was told, One day at a time.
I had to look at living life, moment to moment. No more no less. It made it easier to accept my sobriety because I had the choice and the will not to use. It didn’t make it easier for my bipolar disorder. I had to be open and willing to take my medication as prescribed and to be proactive with my doctors. This would mean I would have to accept that I didn’t have “control” of my mind. I couldn’t accept that.
I lived in fear. I fueled stigma in my life. It was the stigma of mental illness. I was afraid of what people would say if they knew my story. Would people accept me? Stigma existed in my mind. It was an illusion for me just like control.
What I have learned in the last 20 years is that there is no such thing as control it’s an illusion. Life is what you make out of it. My fear was my personal stigma. It was all within me. I wanted to be free. There’s no freedom living in fear.
What happened to me that caused a change? The day I was accepted by someone very special to me. No labels. Just me. This sparked the change.
Why was acceptance so important to my mental health? Because, simply put, I was vulnerable and open to disappointment. I needed strength. I learned that I’m NOT my illness and this gave me strength. I needed to move away from fear. It was and is a process that’s will always be there. It will always be lurking, but I choose not to give it power. I choose to be free.
Now, I’m not saying that you have to scream from the mountains that you have mental illness, just know that you’re NOT your illness. Everyone has choices in life. My choice is to open the door to communication about mental health and addiction. I started a forum and social networking on my website: instinctivebird.com. Become a member. You can be as public or discreet as you want. Join today.