Anxiety, OCD and bipolar aren’t words many familiar with Sarah Wilson’s work would associate her with, but her latest book, First, we make the beast beautiful, provides readers with an insight into her years of living with a myriad of mental illness.
Wilson, best known for her I Quit Sugar books and subsequent lifestyle empire, former editor of Cosmopolitan magazine and one-time host of Masterchef Australia, enters into a 310 page conversation with the reader. The book floats between being part biographical and an exploration of her own lived experience for the best part of 30 years, part self-help and part journalistic investigation into the state of Australian mental health research.
Just as the nature of living with a mental illness can be intense, so can reading someone’s personal experience of it. Throughout Wilson’s lived experience, there have been times she has been incredibly unwell and suicidal. Wilson’s writing of these experiences can be anxiety-inducing in itself as she is able to convey very powerfully what it was like for her when she found herself howling on the floor unable to move, what it’s like for her to be unable to sleep properly for weeks on end due to perpetually having to tap the bathroom door four times in sets of four or what it’s like for her to go through a manic spiral.
In some parts of the book readers could very naturally feel concerned for Wilson and ask themselves if she is ok. Thankfully Wilson is able to manage her mental health and wellness, telling the Guardian Australia earlier this year:
“I do have anxiety and I have a good life, I would not have my business if I did not have these [anxious] episodes. In terms of my business, I have a GM in place and I have a team and I set it up so they don’t rely on me. And each year that passes my hands-on operational work reduces and reduces. In order to manage my anxiety I have to put in place healthy practices. It has enabled me to disappear and live in an Airbnb at the beach, or to travel or take off hiking whenever I need to.”
The book provides a good insight to people who have no lived experience of mental illness about what it’s like and has also been embraced by people with a lived experience, as Wilson is often bombarded with messages of support from readers who have lived similar experiences to her. It also provides a new take on the recovery conversation and what it’s like to stay in the awkward, uneasy, anxious feelings and just go with them instead of perpetually having to fight against them.
First, we make the beast beautiful is published by Pan Macmillan Australia.