Depression was the dementor in my life. But J.K. Rowling inspired me to take action.
I’m a Harry Potter fanatic.
I have been ever since I picked up the very first book over a decade ago, when I was in fifth grade, and I especially love “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.”
I’m also in recovery from major depressive disorder and attempted suicide. For seven years, I felt like I was in a very dark place. I feared I'd never see the light again. I didn't understand how an illness could suck the life out of me completely.
I found the dementors in Harry Potter to be especially terrifying.
For those of you who have never read the book, a dementor is a very dark creature, almost like a demon.
As Professor Lupin explains in the book, "Dementors are among the foulest creatures that walk this Earth. They infest the darkest, filthiest places. They glory in decay and despair. They drain peace, hope, and happiness out of the air around them. ... Get too near a dementor and every good feeling, every happy memory will be sucked out of you.”
Back then, I had no idea that dementors were based off J.K. Rowling’s own battle with depression.
But now, I can see the characters pretty clearly: the dementor was depression; Professor Lupin, the therapist; Harry, the patient; and the Patronus, a treatment plan.
In the book, Harry was attacked by the dementors many times. He grew tired of it. He didn't want to feel despair anymore, so finally, he sought help. He went to someone he trusted, and Lupin spent many sessions with Harry.
At first, Harry’s Patronus only lit dimly. However, over time, his Patronus became so powerful and so bright that the dementors started to actually flee from him.
I read this book over and over again after I learned about Rowling's depression, and it powerfully changed my perspective of how I dealt with my own depression.
At first, I was afraid of the stigma attached to mental illness. I felt so alone. I was afraid of being called weak because it felt like life affected me much differently than others. But, finally, after suffering for so long and nearly dying, I found the strength to get help with my dementors — just like Harry did. And in doing so, the light turned on again in my life.
Just like Harry, I was able to eventually find my own version of Lupin, someone who I was able to speak to about my illness. And while antidepressants never really helped me, things like exercise, writing, and music became my Patronus. It wasn't entirely easy (remember, being able to ignite a Patronus is really advanced stuff!), but eventually I got the hang of it.
What’s most important to remember is that Harry didn’t do any of this on his own.
At one point during the third book, Harry and Sirius Black are attacked by dementors. They both nearly die. However, because Harry has worked hard to learn about his Patronus and his own power, he saves himself and Sirius too. Like Harry, I’ve learned that I can help others.
I also had help along the way, and it brought me out of the darkness. And my hope for you, if you struggle from depression, is that you can also find this relief. Your Patronus might only shine dimly at first, but if you keep working at it, eventually the dementors will run in the opposite direction. Once you learn to wield your own power, you will be able to drive those dementors away every time.