Age at interview: 64
Background: Rich lives in an inner metropolitan suburb with his wife, and they have two adult children. A professional, Rich is in his 60s and identifies as Anglo-Saxon.
Rich has been the primary caregiver for his wife for the past 15 years. Rich's wife, who is in her 60s, was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder about 11 years ago. She received a diagnosis of Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder two years later.
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More about Rich
A professional in his 60s, Rich lives with his wife and they have two adult children. Rich and his wife got engaged in their early twenties, and he said they had been married about seven years when he first noticed his wife sometimes had 'outbursts' in reaction to things he said, and that her decision-making seemed 'inconsistent'. Rich's wife started on her own initiative to see a psychologist to 'try and understand some things about herself'. It was not until their children had left home about twenty years later, that some of the behaviours Rich observed in his wife in the early years of their marriage, 'started to come out again'.
Rich said their relocation fifteen years ago to a distant city where they both secured new jobs 'brought things to a head'. He described how his wife found the 'separation from her family very difficult', which contributed to the onset of her 'depression'. At that time, Rich's wife told him she felt he made decisions 'without consulting her', which he said led to 'disagreements' that sometimes escalated to a point where she became 'verbally abusive'. About four years later, a psychologist diagnosed Rich's wife with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). Two years after that, a different psychologist diagnosed her with Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Rich said his wife was 'more comfortable' with the second diagnosis because she felt there was 'stigma' attached to BPD, however, he thinks BPD aligns more closely with her behaviours and history. About six years ago, he began attending a support group for family members of people diagnosed with BPD, which he said he finds 'amazingly supportive'.
Rich said even though he is a private person, he has found the experience of having open discussions with people in support groups very beneficial. He said he thinks it is a 'strength to care', but that caring can also lead to caregivers experiencing a 'transfer of trauma'. Rich feels mental health practitioners should acknowledge this impact by involving caregivers more in treatment decisions.
Rich reflected on how his and his wife's generation were 'brought up to believe it was the male who was the responsible party in a marriage' and that a wife 'depended or relied' on her husband to make decisions, which Rich said he now thinks is wrong. In recent years Rich said he has deliberately made clear efforts to include his wife in decision-making and encourage her to 'develop separate autonomy'. He has learnt to become more understanding and to 'adapt his own behaviours' in order to support his wife, whilst at the same time pursuing his own separate interests, which he said has required him to develop 'two selves'. An important part of his own self-care over the past 15 years, Rich said, has been to pursue 'things that are important to him as an individual'.
Rich plans to retire soon and go travelling with his wife, which is something he said they have 'always enjoyed' doing together.