Creativity Heals: Finding peace in making jewelry

Teenage years have their challenges. For Melanie Nagode, who was diagnosed with depression when she was just 12 years old, they were an outright struggle.

She was put on medication, but it was very difficult to get it right, and she ended up in the hospital her junior year of high school.

It was during that time that Nagode was introduced to the craft of making chainmail, rings of metal originally worn as body armor, and to the use of creativity for self-care. She is also very conscientious and a hard worker; and she was able to graduate on schedule.

Nagode was always creative, and discovering chainmail and jewelry-making as a creative outlet was a turning point for her.

“When I work on chainmail, I feel that I am participating in something beautiful,” says Nagode. “It’s fun designing a piece. I become engulfed and absorbed in the process — sketching it out and creating it — and it becomes self-care. You have to solve problems as you work, and then there is a finished product you can be proud of.”

Then, at college, she struggled to stay on track. With the sudden loss of her brother when she was 21, Nagode was unable to manage the depression and failed the semester. She moved home where her family provided structure and support to try to nurture her back to mental health.

Finding the right therapist was the game-changer that Nagode needed. With a diagnosis of bipolar 2 and attention deficit disorder, and involvement in a four-year, member-run nonprofit with young adults living with mental illness, she learned the importance of social support and was able to get on the road to recovery.

Gradually, Nagode was ready to think about returning to college. She looked for a college with smaller classes that would provide more individualized services and support, and discovered Mitchell College.

She came to New London and studied liberal arts with a concentration in psychology.

An internship with Artreach was another turning point for Nagode. The internship helped her build confidence in her ability to work, which led to a feeling of success and being a contributing member of society for the first time.

“I learned that it’s important that there be meaning in my work,” said Nagode.

She then became a part-time employee at Artreach, another success milestone. While at Artreach, she coached and mentored members and also participated in some of the programs including stand-up, sketch comedy, storytelling and art classes.

She came full circle when she taught jewelry-making to Artreach’s members.

Working at Artreach gave Nagode the confidence to go back to school. She first became a certified nursing assistant, and is now a nurse working in the psychiatry department at Backus Hospital.

“I feel like I am fulfilling my purpose,” she said. “I am where I am supposed to be.”

When thinking about self-care and avoiding burnout, Nagode turns back to making chainmail.

“It’s meditative in a way,” she said. “When I focus on a project for a few hours, it fills my cup. Then, I am ready to give again.”

Emma Palzere-Rae is associate director for Artreach Inc. in Norwich and founder of Be Well Productions, which focuses on the healing power of the theater. If you have a story about how creativity has helped you heal, contact emma.artreachheals@gmail.com.

BIOGRAPHY

Who: Melanie Nagode

Town: Groton

Diagnosis: Depression, bipolar 2, ADD

Creative Outlet: Chainmail and jewelry making

Helpful Resource: Artreach, Inc. — https://www.creativityishealing.org

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