I would wake up screaming and making animal noises in my sleep

When Florin (not his real name – n.r.) was hospitalized and received the diagnosis of bipolar disorder, he says that he was “almost” ashamed of his symptoms, that it was a classic case, simple to solve for psychiatry, although his conditions were far from to have been balanced.

Cunoaște foarte bine felul în care funcționează – ca o mașină care turează accelerația la maximum și, în depresie, frânează brusc – și, cu ajutorul terapiei a dezvoltat metode pentru a-și aduce emoțiile la suprafață și a le procesa așa cum se cuvine. Although doctors advised him to take pills for the rest of his life, Florin finally decided, with the help of his therapist, to go off the medication a year ago.

The first nuances that gave him thought about his behaviour came from childhood, when he realized that he had an unusual level of energy, creativity and inventiveness, but he did not think, at least not then, that there would have been some exception.

“It seemed to me that this is the norm, that everyone is like that, that everyone has these creative inner worlds. I think through adolescence I started to notice with difficulty, somehow, that my emotions were a bit stronger than most people’s, but I didn’t know about affective disorders or the fact that there was such a disease, I hadn’t heard of depression or other things, I just noticed that my emotions are more intense.”, says Florin.

Like any child, he had sensitivities and reacted to bullying. The difference, he believes, has always been that, unlike his peers, it didn’t take long for him to break out. “I jumped on the bandwagon instantly,” he says.

“It was a cause, but something that takes you on a scale from 1 to 10, it took me to 80, very quickly. You didn’t have to insist much on me. I thought I was impulsive. I also realized that I am more emotionally sensitive, than before my teenage years. The problem is that the anxiety was very strong.”

One of the manifestations of his strong emotionality was felt especially in relations with the female sex. Florin fell in love for the first time in the seventh grade and, when he was rejected, he reacted brutally, at least for a short time, after which he decided that he “doesn’t want to know anything more” about the girl he thought he had fallen in love with.

In high school, he says he began studying seduction techniques to ease his anxiety around girls. It partially worked, but some fears were heightened.

“The other side that survived is the one that simply encourages personal development, a point where you become naturally attractive. Of course there are many good ideas in this community, it helped me a lot to form, there are many good habits that they encourage, but there are also some things… not necessarily bad, but very easy to interpret.

Mie mi-a amplificat foarte mult anxietatea. Pe de o parte, a scăzut-o, pentru că am ieșit să vorbesc cu multe fete, dar m-a făcut să fiu foarte conștient de infidelitatea generală care e asociată cu relațiile și să fiu foarte suspicios în legătură cu femeile.”

“I thought that. if I show any kind of weakness, somehow, I will be instantly abandoned. Or if I show a lot,” he explains.

In addition to the strong emotions he felt in connection with the girls, Florin also began to have problems at school – an equally strong anxiety that prevented him from achieving the desired results. Își amintește cum o profesoară l-a criticat pe motiv că ar fi fost lazy.

“I didn’t say at that moment that she was crazy, I thought that there was something wrong with me, that I wasn’t good enough, and that was the first time I started being late for school, 10-20 minutes, I had the impression that I was disorganized, but it was very strong anxiety that we were not aware of. Then it just grew. In the seventh grade, I was an hour or two late, although I didn’t have any more problems at school and, being more relaxed, I managed, but in high school, I had really big problems with anxiety. (…)”.

His life was divided between friends, study and “obsession”, as he says, with relationships with the opposite sex. Într-o astfel de stare, a cunoscut o fată care era, după cum zice, “reală”.

“He loved me and wanted to be with me”, he adds.

The relationship lasted for a while, but then there were quarrels and an emotional shock, and Florin found that his emotions were getting out of control.

“If until then it was felt that I was bipolar, I had strong emotions, I was anxious, well, at that moment, I was hospitalized. It didn’t manifest itself immediately, because I was in a state of shock, but I felt that something was wrong, that the storm was coming. Then the psychotic episodes started. I couldn’t sleep anymore, I would shake in my sleep, I would scream, I would wake up screaming and making animal noises in my sleep.”

An actor by profession, he thought he had multiple personalities the moment he saw that his mind was constructing, without his will, characters that he occupied based on irrational scenarios.

“Every time the emotion was very strong, that character took over. That’s where psychosis comes in. I had one too input conscious, but I was in a kind of trance when this was happening. It took about a month or two, I didn’t go to a psychologist, but then I said I needed it.

I went to a therapist for three sessions to diagnose me and refer me, but she was my best friend’s therapist, and I couldn’t continue long-term. I called a therapist and saw him, it was love at first sight and I’m still with him. For the first two or three days, I was a bundle of nerves – who the hell is this, let’s see if he can do something. But the relationship with him went well.”.

The therapy did not bear fruit at first – first, the therapist needed to know what there was to know about Florin so, for six months, the sessions had mainly the role of calming the patient. In addition, the therapist recommended, he thinks, rather veiledly, to see a psychiatrist, which he eventually did.

Arriving at the hospital, the doctor who saw him announced that he was admitted. Although Florin did not want to, he ended up being hospitalized for about a week.

In the end I stayed there for a week. The girl there tried to convince me that it would be good to go to the hospital, while I was trying to show that I was normal, only that my leg was visibly shaking from nerves. He told me that, ok, he’s letting me go, only that he would like it if I came on Thursday – it was Monday then – if I came on Thursday to do a proper check-up. He gave me some pills. He told me to take them by Thursday and see you on Thursday to discuss.

I didn’t come on Thursday.

But I had the pills.

I didn’t take them, I said I didn’t need pills, I continued the therapy.”

Non-drug therapy did not work, however, and he began to have even stronger emotions and increasingly intrusive thoughts. He finally took the pills, which worked for about half an hour. He had enough medicine for four days, and when it ran out, he decided to go back to the hospital for more, already on the verge of pill-induced withdrawal.

“My girlfriend and I went to the hospital – after that argument, we didn’t break up, we just argued a lot. At the hospital, I queued nicely – there were about ten people, it was a lot of people. I said: eh, it’s ok, we’re waiting. But as I waited, the withdrawal got stronger. I had really bad migraines, I had a bad headache, my muscles were tense and I couldn’t stand the pain anymore. The guard came to me, like: What the hell is going on? He asked me what was wrong with me, and if I was ok, I said yes, I just have a headache. He asked me why I told him it was because of nerves. He looked at me again to see if I was dangerous, and he realized that I was in pain and he nicely took my hand to pass. I told him I could wait, but he said: No, you can’t wait any longer. Let’s go. I went there, I told them and said that I came to take more pills. The doctor looked at me: Boy, it doesn’t work like that. You will remain hospitalized here.

  • What do you mean? I have a job, I just want a prescription, I’m going to get the pills.
  • Please sign that you remain hospitalized.
  • I already explained to you that I am not going to be hospitalized.
  • Me, child, you have two choices. The first – you sign there and leave when you want. Second – we check you in with four bodyguards and you leave when we want.”

Florin was taking, among other things, antipsychotic drugs, especially for bipolar disorder, but he stopped them after a month of starting the treatment because he was a “zombie, a plant”.

He also changed doctors in the meantime and was told that he should take the pills for life, but he gave them up and decided not to listen to the doctor’s advice, but to take them only when needed. It helped that his therapist seemed to understand him and was there for him as he went through the new withdrawal.

“After that, I had a few more moments when I wanted to take it, but I didn’t, when I had a nasty crisis. Then there were more intense moments where I thought about taking it, but I didn’t. Since then, I haven’t taken it at all until now, about a year, a year and a bit ago. Everything was ok, things started to be ok with the girlfriend… until recently until we broke up with everything. (…) Now, man, we are at the point where I give him space to solve the problems and then we will see”.

When he told his friends he was bipolar, some said he was exaggerating and that he could control himself if he wanted to. This pained him and he thought that they could not accept reality because of their own emotions.

“It hurt a lot. (…)Firstly, that they didn’t understand me and secondly, I felt accused of not being genuine, of exaggerating just to get attention. I thought it was very nasty. I’ve always tried to be authentic, I don’t like charlatans. It hurt quite a bit, coming from someone close to me who knows how I feel about this kind of behaviour, to accuse me of it. Please, it wasn’t easy for them either. Only one friend said this, and somehow I felt that he was not reacting as he usually does, and he said to me with quite a lot of reluctance: Well, I’m telling you this because we’re friends and I’m being honest, but I think you’re exaggerating. He didn’t say it to hurt me and only because I pressured him, he didn’t want to lie to me because he’s a good friend and he knows that if he tried to sweeten the truth, I could tell.”

Meanwhile, Florin developed a set of measures to protect himself from strong emotions. He says it’s all about acceptance and balance.

The thing I do is to alternate thinking about problems, introspection, with active distraction. How do I do this? Introspection is simple – you lie down nicely in bed, take a pillow, put a blanket over you and think or not think, you just let the emotions come to the surface. You just sit there for the emotions to come and accept them. That’s it. Because you accept them, you take them out of the subconscious and bring them into the conscious, and the impact is less. When there are too many, I take a piece of paper or my phone, because I have an application with notes and I start writing. I simply sat and allowed myself to feel those emotions.

After I feel them for a while and the intensity decreases, usually solutions come to mind or they don’t come, they are no longer needed, because you have already accepted the emotions. This is the first stage, introspection. The problem is when you stay in it for more than two hours. You can stay for half an hour, you can stay for two hours, but when you stay for more than two hours, it’s already depression or anxiety or you give it to something else. Plus, let’s say that your emotions don’t go that far, but imagine that you didn’t do anything concrete – something that will affect you a lot the next day, you didn’t use up the energy, and you might not be able to fall asleep when you stay for more than two hours, it’s already depression or anxiety or you attribute it to something else. So after two hours, even if I don’t feel like it, I force myself to stop and the distraction part kicks in so I don’t sit and let myself be overwhelmed by those emotions, especially if they’re negative. The easiest is to call someone to go out – if I’m talking to someone, I’m very distracted. Poți să te joci ceva, să citești o carte. I have a bit more difficulty with reading because it is too much like thinking as an activity and it is very easy to fall back into it.

I get up, exercise, take a shower and find a way to distract myself. Then my mood gets a little better. I start doing something productive, I clean and it gives me a good mood – different things to lift my mood. I feel those emotions hovering in the background, but I’m fine – I thought today and I’ll think again tomorrow.

That’s ideal, but sometimes that kick is very strong. Sometimes I’m at work, I have work, I know I should fix this because if I don’t do it for one day, it’s ok, if I don’t do it for two days, it’s already not ok, if I don’t do it for three days, I’m crying once without having one trigger. There is so much emotional tension that I can’t hold it anymore and it has to come out somehow.

So I have to alternate between these things. There are many mechanisms to distract me, many helpful mechanisms, but these two are: to vary between introspection and distraction from strong emotions.”

When it comes to the future, Florin is optimistic: he believes that he will get better and better and will have control over the disease, even if, he says, he is aware that his emotions will always be stronger.

“I’m pretty sure I’m going to be better and I’m going to have more and more control. This thing doesn’t heal. Your emotions will always be stronger, only there are three other things you can change – how you perceive problems from the outside and stop turning a small problem into an elephant, you don’t turn a mosquito into a stallion, you can change your optics. Then, even if it’s just the elephant and it falls on you, you can increase your stamina and then regenerate faster. I told you the process earlier when I vary between introspection and distraction. There are other elements, but these can be greatly improved. The moment you have these things sorted out, even if your emotions are stronger, your stamina is up to par.”

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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