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Friday, 25 November 2016

Ways of Coping: Harry Potter

**TW This post mentions suicidal thoughts**

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Art by Anne Lambelet

I absolutely adore the Harry Potter series, they mean so much to me and have given me so much since I first started to read them aged eight. They have been there for me as forms of escapism, comfort and inspiration. I derive so much warmth from the love, friendship and the idea of togetherness that lies at the heart of the stories.

I love how vulnerable Harry as a character is, the loss he has experienced, his anger and sense of injustice. I love how he can't always articulate himself, he makes mistakes, he longs for things he can never have. I love how his sense of alienation, despite being surrounded by loving friends, expresses an age-old human inner conflict.

I could write for hours about why I love the Harry Potter series, but for now I want to write about what I feel is one of J.K. Rowling's most powerful metaphors: the dementors.

Dementor. I think I actually know some of these. They suck all the hope and good out of the room they walk into:
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JK Rowling has spoken about her experiences of depression. She personifies the inward pain, torment and loneliness of depression as 'among the foulest creatures that walk this earth'. Dementors extinguish all joy and can even suck out souls'; when dementors loom, the world turns monchrome, grey and there is a pervasive dread. Depression, in my experience, is synonymous with terror- and JK Rowling's dementors manage to frighten all characters in their midst.

Beautifully, JK Rowling's antidote to dementors is a patronous. A patronus is silvery white animal and a protector which chases away the dementors. Patronuses are conjured by the wizard or witch by summoning an intensely happy memory.

Although this metaphor could sound glib if overly simplified (the old patronising, 'think positive to combat depression'), the meaning I gain from it is that there are times when our memories can keep us hanging on.

I have been suicidal many times and have been 'brought back' from that edge by the words of someone to close to me. That could be words from someone in person at the time. But equally it could be the memory of an interaction with someone. It could be written words in a letter or a message on my phone.

When I have been suicidal, the moments at which I have grasped at the memory of a human connection have been my patronus moments. Those memories, and ultimately those people, have saved me, have been my patronuses of my world.