Name: Tracey
Age at interview: 30
Gender: Female

Background: Tracey lives with her partner in a metropolitan suburb. She identifies as Anglo-Australian and works in finance. Tracey and her partner are currently trying to start a family.

About Tracey

Tracey was primary caregiver for four years for her partner, aged 31. Her partner was diagnosed with major depression when she was 26. She has been admitted voluntarily to hospital several times. For the past three years, Tracey's partner has been classified as 'non-current'.

More about Tracey

Tracey described the four years she cared for her partner as being like a 'roller coaster ride' in which she experienced conflicting thoughts and emotions.

Tracey is 30 years old and has been living with her partner of eight years. Tracey's partner, now aged 31, recalled a 'repressed memory' during a session with a psychologist when she was in her early 20s. Tracey said she thinks her partner was not ready to 'deal' with it because when she was about 26 she went into a 'downward spiral'. She could not get out of bed in the day and reported having 'suicidal thoughts'. This prompted Tracey's partner's psychologist to recommend she see a psychiatrist who diagnosed her with major depression and general anxiety disorder.

Tracey said the psychiatrist prescribed an antidepressant and suggested her partner be admitted voluntarily to hospital where she stayed for seven weeks. Over the next four years, Tracey's partner had around seven further voluntary hospital admissions. Tracey said the purpose of those stays was mainly for changing and monitoring medications. She said it took two years to find a 'really good balance' of medications that 'worked' for Tracey's partner. Consequently, about three years ago, Tracey's partner made a 'really strong recovery'. Since then, her condition has been classed as 'non-current', and she now feels well enough to be going through IVF.

Tracey described feeling supported 'in some respects' by her partner's psychologist, psychiatrist and GP. Her partner's psychologist gave her books that explained 'what it can be like' for the person diagnosed with major depression. Tracey said the psychiatrist's suggestion of hospital admission took a lot of the 'pressure off' her as 'sole carer'. However, there were times in the four-year period when, Tracey said, she felt like she was the 'one responsible' for keeping her partner alive, which made her feel isolated.

When Tracey's partner was hospitalised, Tracey explained her main priority was ensuring her partner's 'voice' was included in decisions about her treatment. Tracey said her partner could not voice her own opinion about treatment because she lacked the 'energy to stand up for herself'. At the time, Tracey said she thought she was capable of doing that role on her own. But in hindsight she thinks it would have been helpful if she had been able to access a support network that understood the 'pressures, feelings and thoughts' around being a carer.

Tracey said she and her partner are now at a stage where they both feel grateful for certain positive changes they see in themselves. Tracey said she is more 'vocal' now about her own opinions and has more understanding of what makes other people 'tick'. She said her partner feels she is 'more capable of standing up for herself' and dealing with problems. A main insight Tracey said she learnt from their experience, is that 'personal growth' - for both the caregiver and person cared for - can come out of the 'real darkness' of a depressive illness.