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gillian marchenko

Author and Speaker


On depression, hiding, and the need for raised hands


On depression, hiding, and the need for raised hands…

(Please note: Once again, forgive my writing sluggishness. I’m sure there will be mistakes in the prose. My mind is a bit wonky after this recent depressive episode…)


“How did your talks on depression go?” my mom asks over the phone as the sound of pots and pans clink in the background of our phone call.

“I mean, was it hard? I found that when I’d go to support groups for fibromyalgia years ago, I’d come home with all the symptoms everyone else talked about at the meeting. Did talking about depression, well, depress you?”

I try to suffocate the sigh rising in my throat. On this phone call I’ve attempted to fake a lift in my voice because when I’m depressed, it lowers an octave. I could host a midnight jazz radio show.

I don’t want my mom to know I’m struggling. Friday ended in exhaustion after speaking to four groups of women on four consecutive days. On Saturday I rallied, and jumped at the chance to spend time with Sergei and Evangeline at the Garfield Park Conservatory in Chicago while the other girls were visiting her in Michigan. But the wave was forming. I felt it in the aches and pains in my body. My mind grew muddy. Lethargy took over usual emotions as we wheeled Evie around ferns as tall as the ceiling.

I woke up Sunday totally stuffed, unable to do much of anything, and thus starting a two day depressive episode that found me, mostly, in bed watching old movies and crying.

Why don’t I want her to know? She understands. She cares. She won’t judge.

I want change. I yearn for growth, acceptance, and understanding in the church. I want people to get help. And still, I hide my depression from my mom, even after standing in front of two hundred women speaking my story into a microphone. My message was simple. Christians get depressed. It doesn’t mean thy are no longer Christians. I looked people in the eye and prayed my words into their hearts.

Please help me erase even a small corner of stigma that holds mental illness in its grip.

About a month ago, Gifted for Leadership published an article I wrote about mental illness and the church. In a few short paragraphs I attempted to add my voice to the low hum rising up from the church about mental illness.

And yet, in my next personal bout of depression I hide and lick my wounds, even from my own mother. I hold myself still. I breathe out prayers and wait for the wave to lose its power.

In the midst of a depressive episode I still don’t have the wherewithal to reach out for help. So am I really a good person to urge others to try?

I don’t know. It’s self preservation, this hiding business. And honestly, at this point in my journey with major depressive disorder it can’t be helped.

But I thank God for progress. My depression doesn’t hold me under as long any more. I come up for air quicker. I do the next thing to get better. Some days, I shoot my hand up in the air, counted, a person fighting to reduce the stigma of mental illness in the church. And other days, for me, the next thing is simply to roll over.

God is at work. Saturday, Rick and Kay Warren are hosting a gathering on mental health and the church in California.

Emily Wierenga wrote a powerful post about what it’s like to be a mental health statistic in the church this week and shared similar sentiments to mine (albeit much more eloquently) about mental illness and this upcoming conference:

Rick and Kay Warren and the Saddleback Church are opening up a dialogue about mental illness this coming Saturday, in light of the struggle and suicide of their son. I love this. I love that we are finally talking about it. But I hate that it took the death of a young man to do it. And I hate that he, and I, are “problems” that the church has to talk about.

Amen, Emily. Thank you for raising your hand and joining your voice. I hate that these conversations cost lives too.

But I am thankful for stirrings of health. A low hum of voices are melding, working, building.

I’d like to ask you to pray. Pray for the speakers and attenders for the conference on mental health this weekend. Pray that churches will awaken through this effort. Pray for people in your life who fight mental illness.

And continue to pray for the battle in general. I’m raising my hand. I need your prayer too.

“Thank you for sharing your story about depression with us,” a woman said to me last week after I spoke at her church.

Her words stirred up tears in my eyes. How do I respond? This is all so personal and scary and needed. I mumbled something quietly about sharing for God’s glory.

As I’m able and when I can, I am raising my hand when it comes to mental illness. Please, God, let it glorify you.


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  1. Julie says:

    Thanks for your words and for your bravery in sharing.

  2. Jessica says:

    I was in that last group you spoke to on Friday. I came up to you and bought your book, but I had too much anxiety to spill out everything I wanted to say to you. What I wanted to say though, was that the whole time you spoke, I kept thinking, “She is me. She is inside my head.” And the reason that is so significant is that I’ve never felt so understood by another person. Ever. I have many wonderful people in my life that love me, but tend to feel like they put up with me, love me in spite of my craziness, but they don’t get it. Thank you so much for speaking. I wrote every word down and can’t wait for your book!

  3. […] worked ‘my program.’ The stuff I do to fight the ugly monster of depression that unfortunately exists in my head. At that moment I had a choice: to give in to a depressive […]

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