Gillian's Memoirs



“I stand on the edge of a cliff in my own bedroom.”
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.



What if? What if you dreamed of having a beautiful child and in your mind you saw the life you’d share with that child. First steps, little league (or ballet). Maybe the child would play piano or make you proud on the Honor Roll. There’d be eventual graduations, college, even marriage and grandchildren. You might dream it out that far. Or not. Every parent has hopes.

Then you had a premature delivery in a foreign country. And the words swirling around you said a different kind of “what if.” What if something was wrong? The dream was at risk—or so it seemed. Would you be ready for that? Could you make peace? Or would it take you down? These are the questions author Gillian Marchenko faced as she woke up after an emergency C-section in Ukraine. Only her newborn child could answer them, in time. But first she had to find a way to hear more than the words “Down syndrome.”



Various buzz words typically plant children with disabilities into certain categories in the special needs world. High functioning, severe delay, semi-independent, low functioning, mild. A spectrum of functionality exists for our kids, whether we like it or not.

Gillian Marchenko is a mother to two girls with Down syndrome, Polly and Evangeline, who are on different paths of development. One could say they are opposites on the spectrum. Polly, talkative and gregarious, is educated in an inclusive classroom and Evangeline, non-verbal and often disengaged from her surroundings, is placed in a special education school. Their day-to-day ‘functionality’ is quite different from one another.

This eBook, a compilation of some of Gillian’s favorite previously published blog posts from 2007 until 2014, explores Polly and Evangeline’s differences and similarities, both positive and negative, and gently suggests that perhaps a child’s worth is not indicated by where he or she falls on the ‘spectrum.’

Throughout this compilation, Gillian begins to understand that she, too, exists on a spectrum. She moves up around the spectrum often; she’s a good mom and a bad mom. She’s sad that Down syndrome makes some things difficult for her girls. She loves the attributes they possess that may not exist without an extra chromosome. She’s a discouraged mom. She’s a hopeful mom.

In PULLING TO STAND, Gillian begins to understand that her girls are different and her girls are the same. Polly is Polly. Evangeline is Evangeline. And Gillian is a special needs mom. But the most important word in that description for her is “mom.”