Because I'm Not Myself, You See

Ariane Beeston

Because I'm Not Myself, You See
Black Inc.
21 May 2024

Because I’m Not Myself, You See

Ariane Beeston

'How strange to be the observed and not the observer.'

Ariane Beeston is a child protection worker and newly registered psychologist when she gives birth to her first child - and very quickly begins to experience scary breaks with reality. Out of fear and shame, she keeps her delusions and hallucinations secret, but as the months pass Ariane gets worse. Much worse. Finally admitted to a mother and baby psychiatric unit, the psychologist is forced to learn how to be the patient.

With medication, the support of her husband, psychotherapy and, ultimately, time, Ariane rebuilds herself. And she also begins a new chapter working in perinatal mental health, developing resources to support other new mothers.

Because I'm Not Myself, You See is a candid, often humorous memoir of motherhood and madness, interwoven with research and expert commentary. It's the story of the impossible pressures placed on new mothers and how quickly things can go wrong during 'the happiest time of your life'. It's also about life on the other side of serious illness, trying to make sense of what doesn't make sense, and finding humour, beauty and joy when things don't go according to plan.


I’ve just come up for air after finishing this literary memoir about the author’s experience with post-partum psychosis. This is a fine piece of writing, a brutally honest work that speaks to the experience of early motherhood in a way that will chime with readers who have found recognition or solace in books like Nicola Redhouse’s Unlike the Heart or Jessica Friedman’s Things That Helped, as well as those who, like Beeston, turn to literature to help navigate whatever it is they are going through: other writers’ and researchers’ words provide the shape of this elegant book. While Beeston’s experience is extreme, I know that her account will mean a lot to a wide range of readers, many of whom may have stared (and those who fell) into the abyss of depression and anxiety themselves following childbirth, or who were close by a relative, friend or colleague who did. If you think that doesn’t include you, the statistic that up to one in five people who’ve given birth (and up to one in 10 partners) will experience perinatal depression and anxiety may make you realise that you have stood closer to this abyss than you first thought.

Beyond the revealing account of psychosis itself, we also learn about Beeston’s unique life, working as a young psychologist and in a high pressure and emotionally charged job for the Department of Community Services in NSW, sometimes tasked with placing at-risk children in foster care, and then as a writer, journalist, a voice in postnatal advocacy, and a ballet teacher and dancer. Beeston broaches many topics that have, until quite recently, been glossed over in the pop-cultural representations of motherhood: navigating hospital and medical staff, the hard landing at home after hospital, the pain and difficulties of lactation, the terror of being alone with the baby, the fear of being unable to keep the baby safe, the hormonal apocalypse. It’s all here (and more besides), in Beeston’s raw account. At the end of it all, this is a story of never giving in, of resilience and determination and love, of the profound impact of mental health professionals, and of the strong relationships that endure and transcend time spent in the worst places. While I found this book difficult and upsetting in parts, Beeston injects well-timed humour and is gentle with her readers, giving plenty of warning where the road gets particularly rocky, and the appendix is full of resources for more reading and help. This book is necessary, and it’s wonderful.

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