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Ariane's baby was just a few months old when the hallucinations started.

Content warning: This story discusses postnatal depression and suicidal ideation.

Ariane Beeston was a child protection worker, and a newly registered psychologist when she gave birth to her first child. But soon, she began to experience scary breaks with reality.

Out of fear and shame, she kept her delusions and hallucinations secret, but as the months passed things got worse, until she was finally admitted to a mother and baby psychiatric unit. With medication, the support of her husband, psychotherapy and, ultimately, time, Ariane rebuilt herself, and began a new chapter working in perinatal mental health, developing resources to support new mothers. 

In her new book, Because I'm Not Myself, You See Ariane interweaves memoir with research and expert commentary. Here, she shares an exclusive insight into her experience with Mamamia readers.

On the day of my induction, the obstetrician breaks my waters manually with a long, silver hook. And it's so absurd that I laugh as the hot fluid gushes out, pooling into the towels the midwife propped underneath me. 

A surfboard-like pad wedged between my legs, the obstetrician sends me off for a walk around the block to see if it kick-starts labour naturally. My husband takes my hand as we do laps around the hospital grounds.

We stop at the newsagent and I buy a stack of magazines and a packet of jellybeans, armed for the delivery. You were my little jellybean once, the exquisite curve of you up on the black-and-white screen. You were too small to feel then, but now you're all I feel under the stretch of my swollen belly. You kick beneath my hand and I realise it's the last time it will be just your dad and I. We savour it. And so we walk, around and around, under the grey sky, and back into the maternity ward to meet you.


Watch: One woman shares what postpartum psychosis is really like. Post continues below.

Video via YouTube/NHS.

You are two weeks old. It's so cold outside but the walls of the house are closing in on me. Who knew babies' cries could take up so much space? Strapped into the carrier, your head snuggles in close to my heartbeat. After all those months in the warm dark, you're used to its music by now. 

As soon as we're outside you stop crying. Your eyelids droop, once, twice, three times. My own eyes ache for sleep, but for now, it's your sleep I chase. And so I walk, steps I don't remember and into the sweetness of silence.

You are one month old. Outside in the too-bright sun I look down into the pram – you are a dragon, a tiny baby dragon. It's just a flash and then it's gone. I take photos trying to capture what no one else seems to be able to see. There are times when I can't make out your features. Your blue eyes blur with your chin and your cheeks and your nose and how do I bond what I cannot see?


You are two months old. Your dad walks through the door and we're both sitting on the lounge, crying. Your little face is red, and all scrunched up. Mine is streaked silver with tears. It's been one of "those" days, and I'm dirty and tired and milk-stained. "Why don't you go for a walk?" your dad says in his soft, calm voice that feels like an embrace. I put on my coat and scarf and step out into a night already sprinkled with stars. 

All around me, people are returning home from work.

They wear lipstick and heels and look down at their phones. I feel so utterly removed from everything, as if the world is happening and I'm watching it all from behind a pane of frosted glass. Did I always feel this numb? Am I just exhausted? And nestled deeply where no one can see, is the throb of my secret shame; that I haven't bonded with my little boy. That I look at him and feel nothing. That I don't want to be here anymore. And so I walk, through the labyrinth of my thoughts, where the only way out is further in.

You are three months old. I drop to the ground when I hear a knock on the front door, worried it's social workers coming to take you. I have failed as a mother. They know and they are coming. My heart beats into the cold tiles.

You are five months old. I am pushing the pram around and around and around when I have the thought that I don't exist. I have died. I am dead. And because I am dead, it won't matter if I take my own life because I am not real. I am not here. 


It feels as though I have solved some great puzzle of life and death – all the pieces of existence have fallen into place. I am calm. I am so very calm. Around and around and around and around and around and around.

You are eight months old. "I need some air," I tell the nurse in the mum and baby psychiatric ward, our home for the last two weeks. She smiles and nods, reminding me to sign myself out. In the park, you look up at me, your eyes full of the sky and the ducks we just passed. 

The softly spoken psychiatrists have handed me a new diagnosis – psychotic depression, a set of pills and the tiniest spark of hope. And so I walk, singing nursery rhymes into the hood of your pram in a voice no longer shaking with sadness.

You are 10 months old. I meet the other women from my mothers' group at the playground. We clutch takeaway coffees in one hand, our prams in the other. And there's a smile on my face, a real one. You grin at me, all blue eyes and cheeks and I am flooded with love. Buoyed by it. And so I walk, lighter and stronger and into the promise of new friendships.

Ariane with her son. Image: Supplied.


You are 12 months old. Your face is lined with cake crumbs and there's a balloon tied around your wrist. Your laughter is contagious. I catch it and laugh with you, laugh with my heart and my eyes. I clasp your perfect fingers in my own and wonder, is this what it's like to lose your mind, and find it all over again? And then I walk.

And you walk with me.

Because I'm Not Myself, You See by Ariane Beeston. Published by Black Inc. $36.99 available online and in all good bookshops. The book is out on Tuesday 21 May.

If you think you may be experiencing depression or another mental health problem, please contact your general practitioner. If you're based in Australia, 24-hour support is available through Lifeline on 13 11 14 or beyondblue on 1300 22 4636.

Feature Image: Supplied.