Age at interview: 46
Background: Mike lives with his wife and two children (ages 10 and seven) in an inner metropolitan suburb. Born in India, Mike grew up in Australia and identifies as both Indian and Australian. In addition to caring for his wife and children, Mike works three part-time jobs.
Mike has been involved in his wife's daily care and treatment for the last 13 years and in his son's care for the last year. Mike's wife was diagnosed with chronic depression when she was 16 and bipolar II when she was 18. His son was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) at the age of nine. His wife has stayed voluntarily in hospital multiple times and tried a variety of medications.
More about Mike
Mike described the last 13 years that he has been caring for his wife as a 'journey' with 'lots of downs' but 'enjoyable' times also.
Aged 46, Mike is married with two young children. His wife, who is 37 years old, was diagnosed in her teenage years with chronic depression and bipolar II with manic tendencies. Their 10-year-old son was recently diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and Mike and his wife care for him and their daughter, who is seven.
Mike met his wife about 14 years ago when they were work colleagues. He described how he decided to 'go out with her' after she told him about her diagnoses because he 'loved her' and thought he could 'handle' her illness. Mike said he only really began to 'understand the illness' about three years into their relationship following the birth of their son, when his wife tried to take her own life, which he said took him 'by surprise'. When their daughter was born three years later, Mike's wife again became 'unwell' and spent time in a Mother and Baby Unit, which caused him to experience conflicting emotions of joy and worry.
Since their daughter's birth, Mike's wife has 'regularly' stayed voluntarily in private mental health units whenever she senses that she needs a 'break', which he said was 'better' for them both. Mike identified getting enough sleep as the key for her wellbeing, but said her medication could interfere with this. He described going into 'single parent mode' when she goes into hospital, and said he thinks hospital is not a 'positive environment' for their children to visit. Mike said he and his wife have spoken to their children, and that as a result they know 'Mummy's sick' but are still too young to 'understand fully'.
Mike feels that caring for his wife and son requires him to be 'strong', and described himself as 'not designed' to ask for 'help', even when he knows he 'needs a break'. He said he does feel he can rely on friends from his cricket club because they have an 'awareness' of the importance of 'supporting' people with mental illness. Mike and his wife see a family counsellor, which Mike described as a 'venue where he can say things that need to be said'. His wife sees the same psychiatrist who diagnosed her with bipolar, as well as a psychologist, which Mike said ensures she gets 'two opinions'.
Although his life might have been 'easier' if he had married someone else, Mike said his wife is the person he 'chooses to be with' and that it is 'not in him' to 'walk away'. He aims, in the short term, to pay off their mortgage because he feels that keeping the house is 'everything', and to make more of an effort to find shared 'enjoyment and passion' with his wife in 'little things' like going to the cinema together. In the long term, Mike hopes that one day he and his wife can go travelling so his wife can 'experience the world'.