I am not depression

Gillian2014-26-Edit-1Gillian Marchenko is serving as our guest blogger this Spring. Her new book, Still Life; A Memoir of Living Fully with Depression publishes in May and her work has appeared in numerous publications including Chicago Parent, Today’s Christian Woman, Literary Mama, Thriving Family, and MomSense Magazine. Her first book, Sun Shine Down, was published in 2013. She lives near St. Louis with her husband Sergei and their four daughters. Connect with her at her Facebook page

When a person has mental illness, it can freeze you from everything else in life.

A few years back, my major depressive episodes lasted for weeks, sometimes months. It seemed I was more depressed than not, and therefore, unable to engage in my world.

During that season, it was easy to think that ‘depressed Gillian’ was my new identity. The other Gillians; wife, mom, friend, daughter, even Christian fell from my frozen body from the weight of depression. I drown often in the bitter water of no emotion.

And whenever I came up for air from the latest riptide, the aching, self-despising guilt over my new identity threatened to swiftly swallow me again.

How can you think you are a mother when you don’t see your children because you cannot get out of bed? How can you be a friend when you let every phone call go to voice mail and hide in the bathroom when the doorbell rings? How can you be a follower of Christ when the only thing you follow is nine mind-numbing seasons of The Real Housewives of Orange County?

In those painful days, my husband and I realized we could no longer attempt to deal with my struggles on our own. We needed help. I needed help. Serious help.

My doctor put me on an antidepressant. I began the hard work of finding a therapist and after she was located (thank you, Jesus), we started weekly meetings. With her help, and as the medicine dissipated some of my depressive symptoms , I slowly began to posses tools that could be applied both in and out of depressive episodes.

But the biggest help, the biggest tool in my new toolbox was this: I started to accept that my depression was not my identity.

My depression was my illness.

Even while sick, I was still a wife, mom, friend, daughter, and Christian.

The revelation that depression was a real illness and not just my weakness or my inability to handle life when it seemed like everyone else around me was doing just fine, shined a light on my false assumptions.

Now, years later, my healing is not complete, and perhaps it never will be this side of Glory. I work every day to use the tools I’ve learned to try to stay away from the freezing water of depression. Sometimes they work. And sometimes I fall in again.

I try to rely on the Lord. I close my eyes and imagine him carrying me while he walks on water.

But I know this for certain. My depression is the illness I fight, not my identity. I’m empowered to share more with others. I am comfortable asking for prayer. I am open about the scary, difficult parts of my mental health story.

And I’m passionate to remind others who have mental illness that they too, are not just their sickness. Is this you? Then I’m telling you now. It is one aspect of you. But you are so much more.

Depression reoccurs in my life. I still ignore my family and let calls go to voice mail. But also, there are days I tuck my kids into bed at night. I kiss my husband. I take a friend out to lunch. I open up the Word of God and sit in it, attempting to let it seep into my bones, providing the warmth needed to combat my illness.

I am many Gillians. But my depression is not my identity.

It is my illness.


Still LifeIn Still Life,  Gillian Marchenko continues her description of depression: “I must keep still. Otherwise I will plunge to my death. ‘Please God, take this away,’ I pray when I can.”

For Gillian, “dealing with depression” means learning to accept and treat it as a physical illness. In these pages she describes her journey through various therapies and medications to find a way to live with depression. She faces down the guilt of a wife and mother of four, two with special needs. How can she care for her family when she can’t even get out of bed? Her story is real and raw, not one of quick fixes. But hope remains as she discovers that living with depression is still life.

Still Life is available here for pre-order from IVP Press.

About Dr. G

Dr. Stephen Grcevich serves as President and Founder of Key Ministry, a non-profit organization providing free training, consultation, resources and support to help churches serve families of children with disabilities. Dr. Grcevich is a graduate of Northeastern Ohio Medical University (NEOMED), trained in General Psychiatry at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation and in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at University Hospitals of Cleveland/Case Western Reserve University. He is a faculty member in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at two medical schools, leads a group practice in suburban Cleveland (Family Center by the Falls), and continues to be involved in research evaluating the safety and effectiveness of medications prescribed to children for ADHD, anxiety and depression. He is a past recipient of the Exemplary Psychiatrist Award from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Dr. Grcevich was recently recognized by Sharecare as one of the top ten online influencers in children’s mental health. His blog for Key Ministry, www.church4everychild.org was ranked fourth among the top 100 children's ministry blogs in 2015 by Ministry to Children.
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