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What I want you to know about finding your own depression-crushing Patronus.

Depression was the dementor in my life. But J.K. Rowling inspired me to take action.

What I want you to know about finding your own depression-crushing Patronus.

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.

Image via iKobe!/Flickr.

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.

Photo by Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images.

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.

Photo via Warner Bros. Entertainment.

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.

Expecto patronum!

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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Researchers at Harvard University have studied the connection between spanking and kids' brain development for the first time, and their findings echo what studies have indicated for years: Spanking isn't good for children.

Comments on this article will no doubt be filled with people who a) say they were spanked and "turned out fine" or b) say that the reason kids are [fill in the blank with some societal ill] these days are because they aren't spanked. However, a growing body of research points to spanking creating more problems than it solves.

"We know that children whose families use corporal punishment are more likely to develop anxiety, depression, behavior problems, and other mental health problems, but many people don't think about spanking as a form of violence," said Katie A. McLaughlin, director of the Stress & Development Lab in the Department of Psychology, and the senior researcher on the study which was published Friday in the journal Child Development. "In this study, we wanted to examine whether there was an impact of spanking at a neurobiological level, in terms of how the brain is developing."

You can read the entire study here, but the gist is that kids' brain activity was measured using an MRI machine as they reacted to photos of actors displaying "fearful" and "neutral" faces. What researchers found was that kids who had been spanked had similar brain neural responses to fearful faces as kids who had been abused.

"There were no regions of the brain where activation to fearful relative to neutral faces differed between children who were abused and children who were spanked," the authors wrote in a statement.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less