I have to learn to walk again

I met Ana (not her real name – n.r.) on a rainy winter day. A beautiful, gentle girl with spontaneous fits of gaiety, that’s how I first saw her.

The second time, when we “met” on Skype, for the interview, it was changed. He wasn’t feeling well, he confessed. The gap between the two meetings had been several weeks.

Ana says about her that she has always been “introverted” – she preferred to let others talk, and when it was her turn, she became anxious. What made her feel good was the drawing. As a teenager, he spent hours drawing, generally portraits. He used to give some to his friends as gifts for their birthdays.

“In high school, I was drawing and I was so caught up that I didn’t eat, I sat for hours without a break and I even felt fulfilled, although I could see that it wasn’t a super correct portrait from a technical point of view, I didn’t have that problem, that it didn’t come out perfect, I felt fulfilled just drawing and I loved the process.”

Her mother, she says, was also diagnosed with bipolar disorder, but she “doesn’t want to believe it.” Their relationship also suffered because of this.

“In high school, around the tenth grade, insomnia started, I went to the psychiatrist, but my mother was also in the office and my mother answered all the doctor’s questions.”

The psychiatrist prescribed Ana an anti-anxiety medication that she believes helped her.

“I noticed that I was even better, happier, I felt better mentally. But, having that experience at the consultation where I didn’t speak, I didn’t feel the connection with the doctor and it seemed to me that he gave me pills and that’s it, I didn’t go back to another consultation, as was the case. I took it for a week or so, then stopped. At the psychologist, I think I realized it was depression, not what I thought before, that I have a good year and a bad year.”

Ana finished high school, entered college. But the dark thoughts persisted, and she didn’t know how to deal with them.

“I had thoughts that I would like to be run over by a car so that I would no longer have responsibilities at college and images in which I was already hurting myself, but somehow they were not images that I was thinking about, but they came to me, without me thinking about them. I didn’t want them there, they just appeared. Before that, in November-December, it was quite a hectic time. I was active, agitated, depressed and sad.”

The anniversary of her recently completed 23 years caught her in the hospital. Today, she realizes that in addition to her periods of agitation and depression, she also had paranoid thoughts. He wondered if his phone was being tapped, for example.

He was hoping to find someone in the hospital with whom he could talk about the causes of all these conditions, about the traumas he had suffered which he preferred, during our discussion, to keep quiet.

During the days in which she was admitted, she did not meet even once with a therapist of the hospital to which she went willingly.

Because she was so depressed, the doctors also prescribed an anti-depressant, although Ana says that from the questions they were asking her, they probably didn’t realize it was bipolar, not just depression.

“I expected them to talk to me more, to tell me why I’m depressed, I even thought there would be a psychologist in the middle, I expected more communication, to find out more information from them, to ask questions to find out why I was there. I mean, the fact that they didn’t communicate with me much… I can’t give a very good rating. They seemed a little disinterested to me.”

He left the hospital feeling better, then “too well”. She would sleep five or six hours a night and wake up feeling rested and energized, seeing lights and colors, and all the time her mind was producing ideas upon ideas, which she thought were extraordinary, revelations. Many of the hidden messages he thought he identified in the songs of his favourite bands or in these bursts of inspiration had to do with spirituality, with the Divine.

“I realized that something was wrong, but it seemed to me that there were some changes for the better. Normally, sleeping two hours a night is not a change for the better and having such thoughts that made me feel liberated – that there is a God…”

In less than two weeks, he was back in the hospital, in the midst of a psychotic episode.

The day she arrived back at the hospital, her psychosis was in full swing.

“It seemed to me that every song was telling me something, that the drivers were looking at me and I thought I was being followed, but not in a negative way – it was like a positive paranoia, I thought they were taking care of me, that every car was sent by someone. We were taking everything metaphorically, we were making a lot of analogies and the analogies had started since December”.

When she arrived in front of the block where she lived, Ana expected her boyfriend, with whom she communicated quite little at that time, to propose to her.

A neighbor, noticing the condition she was in, decided to call the police.

“Salvarea also came, my friend also came down. He seemed very surprised, he didn’t understand what was happening, I thought he was part of the game (n.r. – the game that Ana thought that, by completing it, she would be asked to marry him) and that’s how we ended up at Obregia.”

She arrived at the hospital ward at four in the morning and was admitted involuntarily, that is, without her consent, under the responsibility of her boyfriend.

“They gave me something to drink, I drank, I fell asleep, I didn’t realize when I fell asleep, I woke up in another room, with a colleague. They took me in a small car from the guard room to the ward where I stayed, that’s what I remembered. I was admitted to a small reserve.”

The interactions with the salon colleagues were, in turn, bizarre, because, as she tells, “everyone was there for something else”. And later, there were also rather violent attacks.

In the reserve of “prisoners”, he did not have access to watches, sometimes he did not know how much time had passed. She would sometimes knock on the door where her female colleagues were knocking to ask for cigarettes and ask if it was six in the afternoon or six in the morning. It was February.

“Until I left the hospital, shortly before, I was still paranoid, I still believed certain things, but I didn’t tell the doctors that. I was aware, maybe, sometimes, that I wasn’t receiving I don’t know what messages, I was asking myself questions, communicating with the doctors.”

După ce a fost externată din spital, starea ei de neliniște a persistat. In addition, he felt a soul emptiness.

“Am avut multe efecte adverse de la medicamente în spital și după, dar încă eram în psihoză când m-am dus la facultate. Credeam că ce se vorbește la curs îmi spune mie ceva, doar că eram de la medicamente destul de sedată, mă simțeam obosită, mă trezeam dimineața, dar după câteva ore, iar dormeam. Mă mișcam mai greu, aveam dureri musculare, nu mai vedeam clar, în spital mi-a fost greu să citesc, dar și apoi vedeam foarte blurat scrisul. Eu aveam probleme cu ochii, dar de la depărtare. Simțeam că nu simt nimic, mă simțeam goală, era clar că sentimentele și emoțiile îmi erau inhibate.”

After the psychotic episode, Ana went into depression. Depression is common among those who lose contact with reality and that appears when patients start to “wake up” from that state that somehow resembles a dream. A daydream.

The fact that her studies were affected by the mental problem was another impediment – she was ashamed that from a “full-time student”, as she describes herself, she had to repeat a year of college.

“I was always below the waterline”, she believes.

She was advised to keep the disease a secret – those close to her knew, but her colleagues did not. Her boyfriend at the time had told them he had a cold.

“Of course, I don’t think anyone understood me, just like I didn’t until recently. Not being in my shoes, it’s hard for you to tell. It took me a lot of therapy to accept that I did certain things.”

A primit ajutor de la familia prietenului ei. She even stayed alone at his house, with his parents.

“There was empathy, I can’t say that all the answers were misunderstandings.”

La un an după internare, prietenul ei s-a despărțit de ea, iar ea a intrat într-un nou episod despre care crede că era maniacal și care a durat în jur de o lună. Iar după el a urmat depresia pe care medicul ei a tratat-o cu antidepresiv. It was the spring of 2018, and the fall went into a manic episode again.

For several years, however, Ana has been doing therapy, in addition to drug treatment. She believes that her therapist has helped her a lot and that therapy is generally helpful if you find the right psychologist.

“What helps me with the new therapist is that she wants me to distinguish between pathological and external reasons. When I go into depression, but I have a serious underlying reason, which would also affect a normal person, we consider it normal depression and deal with it. Important e să nu apară o depresie care să nu știi de unde a venit. I used to get a sudden wave of sadness while shopping and by the time I got home, I felt like I was dying in the street.

I was not aware of this difference, between a depression that came out of nothing and one caused by a certain reason. I realize that the great depressions followed more superficial reasons or more subtle triggers such as repeating the year…”

Ana’s progress was not a straight line. Besides, it would be an illusion to think that, in a mental disorder, we can only go forward.

“Overall, it progressed, even if we were still taking two or three steps behind. I think it was always an extra brick – from what I was learning at the psychologist to the fact that this time I realized I had a problem, I started to realize by myself when I’m not ok when I don’t sleep when I’m agitated and over the phone, he tells me which medicine to take out, which medicine to take more. When something specific happened, we tried to solve it both through medication and therapy.”

Today, Ana struggles to find her passion for drawing, extinguished after these episodes, and to discover how to live when, in her words, “many variables have changed”:

“To get to a good drawing you have to spend more time. After the episode, I had no more patience, I stopped drawing for hours, and I barely drew for a few tens of minutes, it always seemed to me that it wasn’t good enough and probably… I didn’t feel it as a passion anymore, I no longer felt the peace and passion to draw. M-am forțat să desenez ca să nu simt că am pierdut hobby-ul preferat, dar nu a mai fost la fel. (…) I have to learn to walk again. (…)”

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.

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