A Joyful Life by Michèle Swiderski – Guest Post
A Joyful Life: How to Use Your Creative Spirit to Manage Depression by Michèle Swiderski
Today I have the pleasure of welcoming Michele Swiderski onto the blog to answer a few questions about her new book ‘A Joyful Life: How to Use Your Creative Spirit to Manage Depression‘, a memoir about her battle with depression.
I spent many years struggling with on-again-off-again depression and generalized anxiety. Today, I am depression-free and have been well for the last six years. Although I will always be susceptible to relapse from the illness, my medication keeps me feeling strong and confident about the future. I joyfully shine my light brightly wherever I am.
I did a lot of work to free myself of the oppressiveness of depression and the mind-control of anxiety. And I did it my way, with Spirit and creativity as major players. I long to tell my story, if only it can provide someone with a bit of hope. Because HOPE is what gets us through the day. And HOPE is what connects us with Spirit.
1. What prompted you to write a book about your experience battling depression?
My most recent healing experience from depression and generalized anxiety was unique. I felt I had stumbled onto a huge secret that I was compelled to share with the world.
I had been through bouts of depression before and never felt strong once over the hump. Even though I was well enough to return to work, I remained extremely fragile and vulnerable. But this time was different. This time I felt strong because I had discovered the right mix of “ingredients” for my self-designed treatment plan. I knew specifically what I, Michèle, needed to maintain balance in my life. And much of it did not fit under a traditional medical approach. I hoped that others could benefit from what I learned.
2. What did you learn in the process of writing the book? Was it therapeutic for you in some way?
Yes, it surprised me how very therapeutic writing my story was. I never expected that, because it was not the reason I wrote this memoir. But it was a nice bonus. It was as if writing my story released me from a huge weight, as if I had given it wings to go inspire others. It was a beautiful thing, looking back.
Maybe I could liken it to a musician who writes a musical score and until the piece is finished and made public, it only exists in her head, but once the music is released into the world it no longer consumes her head. And there is now room in that creative part of her brain for other scores. Does that make sense? It was extremely freeing for me.
3. How do creativity and spirituality relate to a person’s mental health and well-being?
I can only speak for myself, but I suspect that much of what I learned during my healing year, how creativity took a central role in my healing, could be applied more broadly.
My experience with the healing power of creativity has certainly changed the way I look at the act of creating; engaging in creativity was always a natural inclination for me, but now I understand that it is a must for my mental health! The same is true regarding Spirit—that if we allow Spirit to take up residence in our lives and we keep it well nourished, it can most certainly have a healing effect, that Spirit is important for our overall life balance.
I would not be the first to suggest the healing power of prayer, for example. I think it is universally understood by those who care to explore spirituality.
4. Do you still use the principles in your book in your everyday life?
Absolutely! If I don’t, my well-being becomes shaky and I find myself dragging through the day wondering what is wrong, why I am feeling down, or why I have lost my get-up-and-go. If I omit morning meditations, don’t get exercise or don’t see my friends for a while, it’s amazing how quickly the mood can sink. Equally important is how suddenly it can be lifted with the needed correction.
Perhaps more significantly, I experienced a full-on relapse in June and it took me several weeks to realize I was not implementing my personal prescription for wellness. My depressed brain had forgotten what I used to know. That was a bit weird, actually, being inside the body who used to know yet no longer knew. But once I became aware of what was missing in my “prescription for wellness” by talking it through with a good friend who has seen me through several depressive episodes, I was able to put a plan in place for myself. I was amazed at how quickly my mood began to lift – within 24 hours I felt significantly improved. Honestly, it felt like magic. And it was so very simple to trigger the upward spiral.
That experience blew me away—me, the person who discovered the “secret recipe” for my wellness had forgotten. It brought home how very vulnerable our mental health can be and how important it is to look after it with the same care we do our physical bodies. That’s why I included a template for developing a personal action plan in my book, something to create when feeling well so that it is ready to guide us back when we are unwell.
5. What do you hope readers take away from “A Joyful Life”?
I would like readers to come away with hope in the struggle with depression and anxiety. The battle is not easy; I know that. It might be the biggest challenge of our lives, but it is still possible to heal from depression and it is worth investigating a different approach. It is possible to have depression and still lead a happy life – but it is a constant work in progress.
For me, it was a matter of trusting Spirit and relinquishing control for my day-to-day existence, plus needing to be disciplined in integrating daily creativity as part of my wellness plan. If readers think they don’t have time to “play,” I would ask, how much do they value mental health?
I also want them to understand that I am not suggesting an alternative to medication. Personally, when I was finally prescribed the right medication, one that worked with my particular brain chemistry, it was like being given back my personality dipped in sunshine, something I hadn’t seen in over twenty years. It was a very joyful reunion indeed. But in my view, medication alone is not enough. It works best when combined with Cognitive Behaviour Therapy or something similar, as well as with regular exercise, a healthy diet, and limited intake of alcohol and caffeine or other stimulants.
Depression is a serious illness, and we need to treat it with respect.
How to Use Your Creative Spirit to Manage Depression
Publisher – KICAM PROJECTS
Pages – 224
Release Date – 21st February 2017
ISBN 13 – 978-0997722215
Format – ebook, paperback
Michele Swiderski’s mind was disintegrating. Trapped in a cage of clinical depression and anxiety, Michele was forced to leave her job and embark on the grueling process of rebuilding her life by retraining her brain, re-energizing her soul, and reconnecting with Higher Spirit. Over the course of a decade, she fought her way through mental illness by weaving together her passion for creativity with her belief in the creative power of Spirit.
Through simple practices such as journaling, meditation, and crafting, she rediscovered the power of the creative spirit to rebuild her life. In “A Joyful Life: How to Use Your Creative Spirit to Manage Depression,” Michele eagerly shares her hard-won wisdom to guide others who are mired in depression. Reconnect with your best self and take your first steps to a place of health, hope, and happiness.
“Refreshingly honest, this book offers a firsthand grappling with one of the most insidious afflictions of our time. This is not about theory, but a painful, raw struggle and how Michele Swiderski saved her own life using a constructive, hands-on approach. By laying bare her own intimate journey, she has laid down a practical wisdom that offers genuine hope.” — Tom Harpur, author, “The Pagan Christ”
Want to find out more about Michele? Visit her sites below.