Inside Of Me by Wendy Shipman is a novella about dealing with depression. It’s a 2020 Christian Indie Award winner in the Personal Growth category. I recently reviewed Wendy’s more recent book, the memoir I Died So I Could Live.
In the book’s preface, Wendy shares that writing this book was an important part of releasing her own pain. She writes, “So many people suffer with depression like I do. This book is meant to inspire those that feel like you can’t survive… but you can! You can free yourself from the depths of despair by seeking therapy, support from family/friends, medication and/or counseling.”
The book opens with protagonist Judean at a church service, which sounded exactly like what my head imagines that a Black Southern Baptist church service would be like, with lots of hallelujahs and praise Gods. While it’s a book about depression, there’s plenty of humour in it, which the reader is introduced to early. Sista Patrice, who has the hots for the pastor, was “jumping up and down so much that her breasts were about to shout right out of her dress. It’s a wonder that Pastor can still concentrate on his sermon while Sista’s triple DDDs are catching the eyes of every Deacon on the side wall.”
After Judean leaves church, we learn that she’s been hiding problems with her mental health from her adult son. The scene then shifts to her son EJ coming to visit her at home because he was concerned about how she was doing. Through their conversation and memories that Judean recollects, it becomes clear that Judean has had a lot of difficult experiences and struggled for a long time.
The book addresses taboos in the African-American community around talking about mental health and getting help, as well as common myths about mental illness. Readers see how Judean gets different forms of treatment and makes progress with her recovery. I liked how the book conveyed that faith can play an important role in recovery, but other forms of treatment are also valid and often necessary. I thought Wendy presented that in a very balanced way.
Having read Wendy’s memoir first (which was published after this book), I definitely recognized elements of her story in Judean’s. I think that’s a really great approach to do semi-autobiographical fiction first and then a memoir.
I think this book does a lot to challenge stigma and normalize mental illness within the Black community. The book talks about challenges, but the recovery aspect and the humour keep it from feeling dark or heavy. Overall, it was really well done.
Inside of Me has also been made into a short film, and you can watch the trailer on Youtube.