Mihai Eminescu is Romania's greatest poet.
Mihai Eminescu was a poet, prose writer and journalist who, due to the great beauty and originality of his literary work, received the unofficial title of "national poet". He is Romania's greatest cultural personality and his birthday, January 15, is celebrated as the Romanian Culture Day. Eminescu is considered a genius by most people, but there is also a myth built around him, as historian Lucian Boia wrote in his book about the poet. Unfortunately, there was also Eminescu the patient, not just Eminescu the brilliant poet. In his short life, of only 39 years, the poet struggled with mental illness and was the patient of mental institutions.
Eminescu lived between 1850 and 1889. He was born in Botoșani, as the seventh of eleven children. He made his literary debut at the age of 16, while in high school. He became a law and philosophy student in Vienna and Berlin but did not finish his studies. Returning to the country in 1874, at the age of 24, he settled in Iași where he worked as a librarian, substitute teacher and journalist for "Timpul", a conservative newspaper. At the same time, he had a fervent literary activity interrupted, unfortunately, in 1883, at the age of 33, due to the disease. Among his many poems of great impact on Romanian culture, Eminescu wrote between 1873 and 1883 his masterpiece, "The Morning Star".
Literary historians have been trying to find the cause of the disease that Eminescu was suffering from and which, in the end, ended his life. Most of them agree that all information indicate a mental illness, but no clear diagnosis could be made at the time. Doctor Octavian Buda, a professor with the "Carol Davila" University of Medicine and Pharmacy and psychiatrist at the "Mina Minovici" Forensic Institute in Bucharest was part of a team of specialists who re-examined the case of patient Eminescu.
Octavian Buda: “Professor Irinel Popescu and academician Eugen Simion gathered together a number of doctors to discuss the case. This team included neurologists and psychiatrists. I made an introduction to what is called pathography, the idea of health biography and how a certain mental illness may or may not indisputably impact a personality's biography. Hence the question of whether we can make a connection between work and biography, taking this into account. "
In the summer of 1883, Eminescu was hospitalized with a diagnosis of "acute maniac episodes." It was his first hospitalization. He was also treated in the famous mental hospital "Mărcuța". According to Octavian Buda, the data available at the moment shows that Eminescu had a bipolar disorder: "There is a diagnosis that some made. Dr. Ion Nica wrote a book in the 70's, entitled "Eminescu - the psychosomatic structure". There is another pathologist, Ovidiu Vuia, who studied this case. Judging by the latest clinical and diagnosis updates, I think Eminescu suffered from bipolar disorder. So, in his case, it was an episode of completely unusual creativity, with elements of agitation, accompanied by depressive episodes. Biographic elements and information that we were able to collect about him, all suggest mental instability. The hospitalizations at the "Mărcuța" mental hospital and then at Dr. Suțu's private hospice, "Caritatea", located on Plantelor Street, where his death also occurred support this theory. "
Dr. Buda pointed out that there was a mismatch between Eminescu's mental illness and the treatment he received, but for which doctors cannot be blamed: “Do these change the extraordinary value of his work? Quite the contrary, I would say. There are people with overwhelming creativity, completely out of the ordinary. It is important that the connection between Eminescu, as a patient, and the doctors who treated him, in this case Suțu and the others, should be seen in the context of what was known and understood at that time in psychiatry. If in terms of diagnosis we can find some equivalents in today's language, the tragedy, in my opinion, is the treatment he received. I think Eminescu was actually treated with mercury, which was thought to be a kind of sedation. It was unknown, at the time, what its long-term effects were. It was not until much later that scientists established that the use of large amounts of mercury is more than toxic and causes neurological damage."
Mihai Eminescu is, without a doubt, an outstanding personality of the Romanian culture. Unfortunately, the circumstances of his untimely death are also found in other famous cases. (EE)