Preferred name: Carlo
Age at Interview: 40
Age at first diagnosis: 35
Background: An inspirational speaker, teacher and Fellow Chartered Accountant, Carlo was previously a Chief Financial Officer and Senior Finance Executive. He was once married, which was annulled following his divorce. Carlo was born in Australia to parents born in Italy and Germany.
Carlo was diagnosed with type 1 bipolar affective disorder including psychosis when he was 35. After attending two private mental health units, he is now medication free, which he co-manages with his psychiatrist. Carlo actively practices self-care and wellness activities.
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More about Carlo
Carlo, a 'high achiever' at school and university, 'shot up very quickly' in the corporate world, mastering finance, accounting and management. At 33, the onset of symptoms of anxiety, depression, psychosis and bipolar disorder 'redirected' him onto 'another path' that he said took him from being a 'superstar of society' to the 'rubbish heap.' Carlo now volunteers as an ambassador and speaker for beyondblue and Suicide Prevention Australia.
Carlo first experienced acute anxiety when he developed difficulty sleeping and a 'racing heart.' Numerous physical scans revealed there was 'nothing wrong' with his heart, and investigations stopped. Months later, following an 'intense' panic attack, unable to continue working or functioning, Carlo revisited his GP who told him he had 'mild depression.' Even though he seemed to be 'ticking all the boxes' in terms of career, house, and marriage, he described feeling 'worthless,' which created internal 'turmoil' that he lacked the 'skills' to express. Carlo said this was partly due to self-imposed 'pressure' to excel and to his feeling of not being 'allowed to feel' depressed without being 'judged.' Carlo's GP prescribed a 'cocktail' of antidepressants, anti-anxiety medication and sleeping tablets which Carlo strongly resisted taking, being a self-described 'health nut.'
At 34, Carlo attempted suicide several times. He was admitted twice to private psychiatric units where he received treatment for psychosis, which he described as 'terrifying.' Carlo said signs he was experiencing psychosis prior to this were not 'picked up' by his GP and four psychologists. Whilst hospitalised he had a 'really allergic' reaction to one antipsychotic medication. Following his second hospitalisation at 35, Carlo started to exhibit 'manic' behaviour and was subsequently diagnosed with bipolar disorder, which he described as both 'frightening' and a 'relief.' He said some people close to him found this difficult to 'accept' and were sometimes unsupportive. Carlo felt his bipolar diagnosis challenged his ex-wife's 'idea of her future,' and contributed to their divorce. He said while the mood stabiliser prescribed following his diagnosis reduced his mania, it caused excess heat, sweating and did not relieve his depressed feelings.
Carlo described how the hospital outpatient day programs where he was surrounded by others with 'similar experiences' helped him cope with his diagnosis and subsequent 'marriage breakdown.' However, he thinks mental health units' admission processes can exacerbate feelings of paranoia. Carlo is currently not taking any medication and has ongoing discussions about this and alternative treatment and wellbeing plans with his psychiatrist. His decision to not take medication was influenced by his commitment to recovery, tapping into '[his] intuition,' and listening to the advice of many supportive professionals.
Carlo sees a GP, psychiatrist and psychologist, has participated in family counselling, and in many alternative recovery treatments. Key to his recovery has been 'busting out of [his] own perception of who [he] was' by overcoming both his own stigma and societal stigma. One of Carlo's 'passions' is prevention and education that aims to influence change by introducing 'life skills' programs - improving understanding of mental health and resilience - into education systems.