Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Still Life - by Gillian Marchenko: Book Review

Depression as an addiction. It becomes an addiction for sure. The helplessness and loss of hope. You can get used to staying out of the way of your own life.

It's so easy to judge and condemn what you don't understand. I am one of those who easily dismisses what she doesn't understand. This book gave me access into another human being's personal space, and it allowed me to see the struggles, the unrest and stirring that overwhelm a person battling depression. It was hard reading it. On one hand, it was hard to see Gillian (who felt like a character trying to rise to the surface from the bottom of a very, very deep, dark ocean) fighting her illness. It was hard to see her draw within the confines of her bed, unable to engage in everyday activities, distancing herself from her husband and children. On the other hand, it was hard to wrap my mind around what this really means. I don't completely understand depression, so this was eye-opening, but it left me, funnily enough, encouraged in my faith and daily walk with God.

Gillian knew she was dealing with depression, but she didn't know how serious it was until she called a TV commercial number, got face to face with a psychiatrist, and eventually, after a few failed attempts, she found Melanie, a psychiatrist who helped her face her new life. 

I love how open she was about her turmoil. She didn't try to preach us the things we know about God. She didn't try to dismiss this. She spoke like someone who's walked through the valley of depression. Everyone going through a hard season of life can so easily relate to her. I loved how she didn't spiritualize. This is such a refreshing thing. No, she didn't dismiss God, but she clearly stated that sometimes, God seemed far and hard to reach, but she knew that through it all He was present. It was so encouraging to read her words about God, and they had more weight knowing they came from a person who struggled to keep her mind clear and focused.

It is hard—doing life. I nod and continue. It is hard. But worth it.

I also liked the applicable strategies she talks about in the book. Melanie (her paid friend, as she calls her) gave her tips on how to handle life. One task at a time. This was so good, and who doesn't need that reminder? She tells of her narrating to herself her tasks and actions to keep herself grounded and present. Throughout the book was open about her relationship with the husband. As a pastor's wife, she felt the pressure to be the perfect image, but this idea crumpled every time she was put down by her gnawing depression. I also liked how she took turns in presenting how her children were influenced by her illness. She and her husband have four daughters, two of them with Down syndrome, and the youngest of them is adopted from Ukraine. She had difficulties in bonding with her youngest daughter, who is also autistic. She also writes about her relationship with her parents and siblings, and tells a bit about her family history, trying to piece together info that might give her a clue about her illness. 

The book reads a bit like a story, like a novel. You keep turning the pages to see what happens next, will there be a breakthrough? You rejoice when she has a good day, you empathize when the days are not so good. But by the time you reach the end of the book, you are encouraged to walk forward in the Light that was present in her life all along, and promised to never leave you, nor forsake you. 

Because life with depression is still life. And my short assignment for today is to be still enough to hear this truth from God. I will live in this space, I resolve. It’s time.

Gillian Marchenko's most recent book, Still Life, A Memoir of Living Fully with Depression, published in the spring of 2016 with InterVarsity Press. Her first book, Sun Shine Down, A Memoir, published in 2013 with T. S. Poetry Press. Her work has also appeared in numerous publications including Chicago Parent, Today's Christian Woman, Literary Mama, Thriving Family, and MomSense Magazine. Gillian lives near St. Louis with her husband Sergei and their four daughters. Connect with her on Facebook at Gillian Marchenko or at

I received a free e-book copy of this book from the publisher via Net Galley. All thoughts expressed here are my own.

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