Andrei Nistor is 44 years old and is the president of the Equilibrium Association, founded in January 2016, an organization that supports people suffering from bipolar disorder and depression. Nistor dealt with psychosis himself ten years ago, and today he considers himself lucky.
Andrei Nistor is one of the patients with bipolar disorder who was initially misdiagnosed with schizophrenia. He suffered two psychotic episodes, the second shortly after he quit treatment, the latter having such a strong manifestation that he started running around Bucharest naked.
Now, Andrei has been stable for some time and believes that the “main factors” that mattered in his recovery were people: family, friends and colleagues.
The first episode started in 2011, while he was on the plane, on the way to Munich.He was hospitalized there and the German doctors diagnosed him with schizophrenia.
Al doilea s-a petrecut în București, iar medicul român care l-a diagnosticat cu tulburare bipolară lucrează acum cu el, la Asociația Equilibrium.
We now reproduce the interview with Andrei:
How old are you now and when did the first episode start?
I am 44 years old and the first episode started in 2011.
How has your life changed as a result of the episode?
After the first episode, I can’t say that my life changed a lot because I was in the denial phase, that is, it happened to me once, and who knows what it was… Overload, did I consume too much during that period? Who knows? The first episode, it was the peak of the psychotic episode on the plane (narrative: Andrei’s first manic episode started in 2011, while he was on his way to Munich, Germany, where he was initially hospitalized and misdiagnosed).
Then on the second one, he caught me around here, through Bucharest. I ran naked through Bucharest, on the streets, trying to jump over the cars coming in front.
How was the meeting with the medical system?
I was lucky to be treated very well, even in Bucharest, I can’t complain about the Romanian medical system, because I didn’t have a negative experience with this system, on the contrary. The doctor I went to in 2013, who treated me since I was hospitalized, by Rescue and the police, is now the doctor of the association (it’s about the Equilibrium Association – n.r.). Somehow, things have evolved from the moment we met until today when a good part of her patients are among those who come to us in the association.
Some of the people we spoke to told us that the admission was traumatic.
Yes, it matters a lot where you end up, and who you end up with when you’re hospitalized, that’s what this doctor of mine confirmed to me, that it’s a matter of luck – which ward, which doctor you end up with, how he behaves and so on. I don’t have a negative experience, thankfully, with the way I was treated in the hospital, but I know many have had negative experiences with the way they were treated in the hospital.
Did you notice, before the episodes, a kind of transition period towards the psychotic episode, some changes in the way you emotionally or cognitively processed certain situations? Can you describe us a little bit?
Yes, I felt some irritability, followed by the need to shop, a lot of energy and fatigue, I approached the world… I had my stories on Facebook, people followed me, the stories were captivating, I promised the next episode and so on. And I had… I had noticed that something was wrong, but the situation is good, somehow it’s a trap that you fall into easily. If you don’t sleep one night, it’s not a problem, we all skip one more night of sleep on the Holidays, but when you don’t sleep for four or five nights, days in a row, the brain already can’t stand it, it can’t function with this prolonged insomnia.
How long did this transition period last?
About two or three weeks before the psychotic episode the first signs appeared – restlessness, frequent interruption of sleep – about two weeks I think would be the most correct.
Did you get a bipolar diagnosis right away?
No, at the first initial psychotic episode, they diagnosed me with schizophrenia, but they didn’t know what was going on with me. So I just had… I don’t know if I was necessarily delusional, I don’t think I was delusional, but I was talking nonsense, I was… I was doing nonsense. They brought me some pills, I didn’t take them, I threw them in the toilet. They would turn off my light, turn on my light, they wouldn’t let me sleep to see if I got angry, I don’t know exactly.
They saw me on some cameras, somewhere, separately, and they saw exactly how I was reacting, too. But somehow the experience in Germany was an impressive one, because.. please, it was all about money. After all, I wasn’t insured, I didn’t have insurance at the time and I had to pay, but they treated me impeccably, so everything was incomparable with what happens here, but here too it is ok in many areas, on this side of psychiatry. I mean, they are dedicated doctors who know how to do their job, who don’t run their patients away, ten minutes – take the prescription and leave, go about your business and so on. A doctor must allocate time for patients, at least once a month, half an hour to an hour, to talk with the person in question, to find out if there are changes in behaviour, thinking, in behaviour.
Did you suffer from depression when you realized what happened?
No, in my case, no, I had depressive episodes before the bipolar set in, after losing a job and then because of a girl. I was in a relationship with a girl and I failed, twice, pretty badly, I mean…
I didn’t even realize I was depressed, I thought it was deep sadness, so I didn’t get out of bed for two or three weeks, I didn’t eat, I didn’t drink, I was on the edge of survival, I had lost a lot of weight. I’ve had major depressive episodes before.
After, I had periods when I was sadder, let’s say, or slightly depressed, but by no means severe, that is, I am in a happy situation because many of us at the association have experienced depression, especially after manic episodes, immediately after the manic episodes came to the major, severe depressive episodes.
Did you take antipsychotics?
Yes, since 2011, I have changed several pills and quite a few medications, at the moment I am taking an antipsychotic and a mood stabilizer. And I’ve been doing it for years.
And did you have side effects from the pills?
Yes, I did, I did. Look, an injectable anti-psychotic gave me a tremor in my legs, frequent foot tapping, and the moment I spoke, I would stick out my tongue. Somehow, man, it was… That’s what I remember, and the doctor told me that it could happen and it did – I was moistening my lips while I was talking and tapping my feet, shaking my feet.
And he changed them for you?
Yes, yes, immediately. Plus the lack of libido – I didn’t feel anything anymore, no more…
An erection, so to speak, was a dream and that’s it, by no means… But because of the drugs.
Another experience was with another pill that is antiepileptic, actually, and it also has an antidepressant side, an antidepressant component, and I had after the two episodes, an experience of going into another episode, but I controlled it in time with this pill. It was the beginning of a manic episode, only I controlled it, I went quickly, I was hospitalized for a week, without being psychotic, yes?
So, it was manageable, because, after the second episode, the second time it happened, I started to flirt with accepting the disease and taking care of what life hygiene means – we’re talking about sleep, eating, everything it means activities, hygiene that is required to be used in case of bipolar disorder.
Experience has taught me that acceptance is very important, and subsequently, self-care, in the ways I listed earlier, is just as important.
A durat mult recuperarea?
Maybe in the second episode, it was longer. On the first, I left the hospital and went to work. With the second one, it was something like months where I had to sit quietly to recover. I was lucky at the same time because, being in the hospital, I proposed to my wife in August 2013 and we got married in September, one month apart. I was lucky at the same time because, in the hospital, I proposed to my wife in August 2013 and we got married in September, a month apart. We have two twins of almost six and a half years, we are fine, we don’t have any kind of problem.
Did you have any more episodes after the two?
The one mentioned earlier, controlled, manifested itself in the flight of thoughts. I was calling my wife, asking her to keep me on the phone… I was in the car, in the city, and I didn’t feel well at all, I was going from one hospital to another, I had the impression that I was dying and no doctor would tell me what I had, they said that I have nothing – at Floreasca, the family doctor, I was everywhere she could go and it was the beginning of a manic episode.
How was your professional life?
When I had the second episode, the bank I was working at happened to close, and I got compensatory wages, I managed like that for a while, later I attempted to get a job, but I didn’t succeed, that’s why I managed from at home, with some youtube channels, I did work from home.
What do you think contributed to your recovery?
The environment, the right pills, the doctor, the psychotherapy did… The environment meaning entourage, family, and friends are the main factors of recovery. I still have relationships… with the friends that have remained, it’s a friendship in which they consider me normal and treat me as a person without any mental illness, even in interactions with new people, if I don’t tell them that I’m diagnosed with a disorder bipolar, I’m not giving away the fact that I’m sick in any way.
Have you ever felt stigmatized?
I didn’t expose myself and by not exposing yourself, no one stigmatizes you, because you are not known, but I have the experience of others who were stigmatized and when I made the association, in 2016, I started to enter into relationships with people with bipolar disorder and depression, there are about 1000 beneficiaries that I counted, I think more than 1000, which I don’t know if it is a little, a lot, but there are people who told me that thanks to me and the association they are still alive today. It seems like the ultimate statement, I don’t know – I mean, someone says you saved their life.
What would you say to those around people who are going through psychosis?
What would I say to people who are around those with psychosis? Not to leave them, not to disappear from them, to be with them, to empathize with them, to support them, to support them, because it is a disease like any other and none of us chose to have this disease. We are primarily the people who are without these diseases, we are not the diseases, they are diseases like any other disease that have stuck with us and people need to understand that it can happen to them and they should treat those with such problems how they would like to be treated.
Did you worry about the future?
Yes, yes, but I had close friends and family and they make it a lot easier, I don’t know, they make this thinking about the future easier somehow, they make my future brighter. But those who are single, for them the problems are different, they are related to the future because we are talking about an employer who, if they find out that you have bipolar disorder or do not hire you or marginalize you, you no longer have equal opportunities with others.
And for the driver’s license, you have to go to the evaluation commissions… It is possible to lose some rights, I know two people who lost their licenses due to psychotic episodes, and mania with psychosis, and it is possible to lose their licenses permanently. And to the employer, and with the card… We have to lie, to declare that we don’t have any mental illness and that we are not struck by fate to have equal chances, otherwise, society does not understand what is happening and does not react in favour of the respective persons, from unfortunately
That we are talking about marginalization, rights are not equal, categorically, isolation… and so on.
What did the establishment of the association bring you?
I talked with everyone who came, I know the experiences, they are hard experiences of those who searched for me, on the edge of survival for some of them, but they strengthened my sense of acceptance at this moment and hardened me from the point of view of the future, so to speak, of the following periods of my life, because I am always on guard, whether we are talking about manic episodes or whether we are talking about depressive episodes, I have learned from the experiences of others and I know how to protect myself, I learned how to stop having a manic episode. With depressives, it is more difficult, but manic ones show early signs, so somehow, if you realize that you are no longer sleeping well or at all, it is clear that you have a problem and you must urgently contact a doctor to intervene with treatment.
I would add that the need for an association like this is very great, people don’t dare to approach us, because you need a little courage to pick up the phone and say you have a problem when you are afraid not to be at work, not to know the entourage in some cases.
The world doesn’t have much courage. There are many people even in high public positions who suffer from bipolar disorder and it is not known about them precisely because everything is hidden and secreted so that they do not find out that the respective people do not have problems later.
What reactions did you get after exposing yourself?
I can’t say that I had anything to gain from the exposure, neither to gain nor to lose, not much has changed in my story, but I can say that it helps a lot. It helps those who don’t dare to see someone who talks openly about this disease, to follow their experience and so on. A lot of people who searched for me saw me in interviews, they already knew I was bipolar.
Cred că s-a întâmplat ceva bun, de fapt.
I’m a happy case, I admit – things in my life have settled in such a way that I have control over them, over my life, I can’t say that I don’t have a future ahead of me that could not be brightened because of illness, under no form.
An interview conducted by Iulia Marin as part of the Spring Tides project, an initiative of Alexandra Bălășoiu integrated into the program 4 Corpuri – collective for dance, a multi-year program coordinated by the Gabriela Tudor Foundation and co-financed by the Administration of the National Cultural Fund. The program does not necessarily represent the position of the National Cultural Fund Administration. AFCN is not responsible for the content of the program or how the results of the program may be used. These are entirely the responsibility of the beneficiary of the funding.