This article was originally written for and published on Story of the Mind, a great mental health blog that you can find here.
"HAPPINESS CAN BE FOUND, EVEN IN THE DARKEST OF TIMES, IF ONLY ONE REMEMBERS TO TURN ON THE LIGHT."
This is a bit of an odd compilation but Harry Potter (either as an audiobook or otherwise) is my go to every night to go to sleep & whenever I’m not feeling right. I don’t know whether JK Rowling’s experience with depression has subtly influenced her writing – both through the wise words which are so often spoken or characters (I’m looking at you dementors…) which seem to embody the feelings which accompany mental illness. Or perhaps, I am just looking into it too far in order to explain and make sense of how I feel. Regardless, here are a few of my favourites:
“Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself.” – Dumbledore in The Philosopher’s Stone This is one of my favourites and I think it can definitely relate to what is on your mind – often talking about something which has been welling up inside of you takes away some of its power and the associated fear. I also personally relate this to a lot of OCD thoughts in Exposure and Response Therapy. Telling people about the obsession and saying it out loud doesn’t make it any more likely to happen, nor does it make it true.
“What you fear most of all is – fear.” - Lupin in The Prisoner of Azkaban I think this is very true of anxiety, especially panic attacks. Often being anxious about being anxious is the cause of the panic which is most feared. Being ok with the anxiety, and accepting that it will be often helps to make it less.
“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. Even Muggles feel their presence, though they can’t see them. Get too near a Dementor and every good feeling, every happy memory will be sucked out of you. If it can, the Dementor will feed on you long enough to reduce you to something like itself — soul-less and evil. You’ll be left with nothing but the worst experiences of your life.” – The Prisoner of Azkaban This is the most accurate metaphor for depression I have ever come across. Like Dementors it sucks the joy out of living and makes you forget that you ever felt ok or that you will again. In the moment, it feels like it will always be this way but that is really not the case.
“Understanding is the first step to acceptance, and only with acceptance can there be recovery.” –Dumbledore in The Goblet of Fire Accepting what you are feeling, acknowledging it and seeking help is the first step to recovery. Denying your feelings and ignoring them only makes them fester.
“Dark times lie ahead of us and there will be a time when we must choose between what is easy and what is right” - Dumbledore in The Goblet of Fire This is one that can be related to both Mental Health and also life in General. Recovery may not be the easy option in the immediate future but it the long term it is the right thing to do. Also, I think it is important to follow your morals and do what is right, fair and just to all people in life.
“I am what I am an’ I’m not ashamed. ‘Never be ashamed,’ my ol’ dad used ter say, ‘there’s some who’ll hold it against you, but they’re not worth bothern’ with.’ – Hagrid in The Goblet of Fire Stigma is something which makes people hide, but those who judge and dismiss and hold your feelings against you aren’t worth it. Those who matter don’t mind and those who mind don’t matter.
“Numbing the pain for a while will make it worse when you finally feel it.” –Dumbledore in The Goblet of Fire Again, aiming for quick fixes through things which are not good for us may numb the pain for a little while but it will come back stronger than ever before and do you far more damage than it ever will have done.
"No good sittin' worryin' abou' it. What's comin' will come, an' we'll meet it when it does." –Hagrid in The Goblet of Fire There is little use in worrying about what we can’t change, nor help. Worrying doesn’t really solve anything. (This will have to be a long-term goal of not worrying so much! Much easier to say than do I know…)
“We’ve all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That’s who we really are.” –Sirius in The Order of the Phoenix This is one which I feel is important to those of us with OCD especially. I know I have horrifying thoughts which are often the worst things I can think of in the world. I worry that they reflect my true self and true intentions. But they really don’t and they never will. Thinking things doesn’t make them true. Our actions reflect our true intentions and our true self.
“Thoughts could leave deeper scars than almost anything else.” –Madam Pomfrey in The Order of the Phoenix This is another which really exemplifies the impact that our own thoughts and self-talk can have on us. Negative, deprecating self-talk and rumination wrecks our confidence, our self-esteem and increases our anxiety. Sometimes we can be our own worst enemies and I realise this is a lot more complex than saying ‘Just think positively’ (this infuriates me immensely) – but working on our self-talk is important to recovery and our happiness.
"Working hard is important. But there is something that matters even more, believing in yourself" - Harry in The Order of the Phoenix & “You sort of start thinking anything’s possible if you’ve got enough nerve." - Ginny in The Half Blood Prince Yet another two great ones that I’ve really got to work on. Hard work is important but belief in yourself can do magical things.
“Of course, it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean it is not real?” –Dumbledore in The Deathly Hallows Your Mental Health happens in your head. No one can see how you are feeling. No one can ever know exactly what it is like to be you. Our experiences are all different. Just because others may not be able to see it or refuse to recognise it – doesn’t make it any less valid or real.
"WELL, HE SHOULD HAVE SOME CHOCOLATE, AT THE VERY LEAST."
SO...IF IN DOUBT, EAT SOME CHOCOLATE ;)