I Died So I Could Live is a memoir by Wendy Shipman in which she shares the hardships that she has dealt with, including mental illness, and her recovery process in the hope of showing others that they too can overcome adversity. Poems are interspersed throughout the narrative.
The book begins with the challenges she faced during childhood, including a difficult relationship with her mother, that led her into a dark place of depression and suicidal thinking, at a time when she felt there was no one she could talk to about how she was feeling. She writes about feeling like she was grieving, and “I died and I could not figure out how to live.”
The depression stuck with her as she went to university, where she experienced a series of traumatic events that occurred while she was there. She writes that one of these events “killed in the spirit inside of me. Right there… I died.”
Wendy also describes the emotionally abusive relationship she entered with the man who became her first husband, as well as the adverse effects that had on her mental health.
About three-quarters of the way through the book, the story shifts from challenges to change that leads to healing. As the subtitle says, this book is about what she had to endure to receive the crown of life God prepared for her. Her Christian faith plays an important part throughout the book, particularly in terms of her healing process. She writes about the spiritual awakening that allowed her to release the burdens weighing her down so she could begin to thrive. This included finding forgiveness, not just for those who hurt her, but for herself.
Readers get to hear the lovely story of how she met her now-husband. I love this line about when they first met in person: “His warm embrace melted the wall I had built with mortar and concrete.”
Wendy also shares how a psychologist was able to help her work through her depression, anxiety, and trauma. Together they “re-opened those wounds and cleaned out all the nasty debris like resentment, hurt, and anger that I had left covered up” in order to help them heal properly. I thought that was a really interesting description.
At the end of the book, there are writing prompts for self-exploration to help readers in their own healing process.
Throughout the book, Wendy is open and vulnerable in sharing what she’s been through. She demonstrates incredible strength and resilience, and she serves as a great example that recovery and healing is possible. As a reader, it felt like the author is speaking right to me in a very genuine way, and she compassionately encourages readers to pursue their own journey towards healing. I thought this book was really well done.