Different Dream welcomes the author of Still Life: A Memoir of Living Fully with Depression as today’s guest blogger. Gillian Marchenko is mom to 4 daughters, two of whom live with special needs. She’s here for a Q & A that tells readers more about her new memoir about living well with depression.
Question: Would you provide a short summary of Still Life for Different Dream readers?
Answer: Still Life is a memoir about one family’s experience with depression. Mine. As one reviewer said:
“I absolutely love Gillian Marchenko’s poignant memoir on depression. As someone who has been there (I found hope and healing over several years, through a combination of therapy, scripture, medicine, and family support), the book rang true to my own experience. I especially appreciate how Marchenko didn’t gloss over the difficulties her illness created with her marriage, children, faith, finances, and friends. Her healing was and is ongoing, and that’s an important truth. Often, we think that if we pray hard enough or have enough faith, God will heal us instantly. However, though He CAN work that way, and does, He also works mysteriously and gradually at times. If you or a family member struggles with this cruel disease, you’ll find hope in its pages. Not a shallow, pie-in-the-sky-hope, but the hope that Jesus is with us, whatever we go through, and that (as Gillian says so eloquently) life with depression is STILL LIFE.”
Question: What motivated you to write such a personal story?
Answer: I’ve spent about a decade struggling daily with major depressive disorder. Throughout the years, I have asked God countless times how in the world my experience and time can glorify him instead of feeling like my life is a waste. He gave me Still Life.
I also knew that if I wrote the story, I had to be honest. In memoir, I’ve learned that a reader stops trusting the nararator once they come across sentences like ‘I won’t go into that,’ or ‘I won’t bore you with details.’ They stop reading if they even sense that aspects and events are omitted. True memoir is a look into a slice of life and (in my opinion) in order for it to ring true, one has to include the whole story. There are parts that I did not want to include in the book. But I knew that if I didn’t, I would be doing a disservice to my readers, myself, and to the Lord who is the true author of my story.
Question: What red flags and symptoms of depression should readers be watching for in themselves and others?
- Withdrawal from life
- Feeling hopeless
- Cloudy thinking and inability to process or even pinpoint what is going on inside
- Suicidal thoughts
- Aches and pains
- Symptoms reoccur and/or last longer than four weeks.
- Of course, this list isn’t exhaustive. For more information about symptoms, people can access The National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI).
Question: What steps should someone with depression take to get help?
Answer: Some that come to mind are:
- Stop thinking it is your fault. It is an illness (1 out of 4 people have some type of mental illness).
- Tell one person.
- See your primary care physician to make sure it isn’t another health issue (thyroid, hormonal, vitamin difficency, etc.).
- After that, make appointments with a therapist and/or psychiatrist who specialize in depression.
Question: How can friends and family support and encourage someone they love who’s dealing with depression?
- Stick around. Even if your loved one withdraws from you, send texts, emails, maybe a card in the mail. Let them know they are not forgotten.
- Pray for them.
- If it is a close relationship, encourage them to seek out help.
- Validate the illness.
- Get educated and help break the stigma.
Question: How have you been coping with depression and growing in your faith since writing Still Life?
Answer: I praise God that my depressive episodes are fewer and don’t last as long. But it is still a battle. It is an active illness and I work at it. I take antidepressants, see a therapist and a psychiatrist, and seek out prayer and support from family, friends, and my church family when able. I try not to hide my struggles.
God has shown me that the darkness within loses it’s power when brought to light. My theology teaches me that He is sovereign and has a plan for me that will bring him the most glory. I cling to him more, when able, because I know I cannot survive without his love. A few verses he has given me to help me cling to him include:
- Isaiah 50:10 “Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the word of his servant? Let the one who walks in the dark, who has no light trust in the name of the Lord and relay on their God.”
- John 1:5 “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.”
- Matthew 10:27 “What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight, what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. My faith is growing in the midst of my illness.
Life with depression can be difficult, but it is STILL LIFE.
Gillian Marchenko is an author, speaker, wife, mother of four daughters and advocate for individuals with special needs. Still Life, A Memoir of Living Fully with Depression was published with InterVarsity Press in 2016. Her first book, Sun Shine Down (T. S. Poetry Press), chronicles her experience having a baby with Down syndrome while serving as a missionary in Ukraine. Gillian writes and speaks about parenting kids with Down syndrome, faith, depression, imperfection and adoption. She and her husband Sergei spent four years as church planters with the Evangelical Free Church of America in Kiev, Ukraine, and they now live with their four daughters in St. Louis, Missouri.
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