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How the Harry Potter Books Saved My Life

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I first discovered the Harry Potter series when the “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” movie came out in 2001. I loved the idea of a world with magic, and when I saw the books in my school library I naturally wanted to know what happened next.

Editor’s note: The below features spoilers.

Within the next couple months I was diagnosed with depression. I was suicidal and receiving treatment and counseling, but I think the one thing that helped me most at that time was Harry Potter and his friends. Reading Harry’s adventures and imagining a world where magic is real, where good will always defeat evil if you have love and never give up, gave me what I needed in my life to keep going.

You see, at Hogwarts, Harry discovers the only reason he is still alive, the reason Lord Voldemort did not succeed in killing him, was his mother’s love. When he goes to Hogwarts from his aunt and uncle’s home, where he lived in a closet (literally), he finds his friends Ron and Hermione, and together they defeat Voldemort every year in one form or another until their final year, when Harry must face off with Voldemort alone and fight him one last time.

Looking back I see these books as an analogy for depression: you cannot face it just once and have it be gone. Depression rears its ugly head again and again in your life and you have to fight it again and again. Depression is not an easy thing to get rid of, much like Voldemort.

When I was first finding out I had depression, I went to J.K Rowling’s most famous books, and I read. I read when I was not sure what else to do. When I wanted to die, I distracted myself with her world of a young wizard boy with round glasses, a witch brighter than her age, and a scrappy red headed wizard with a pet rat and an R knitted into his sweater. I went to the books when I was scared, when I was tired, when I was confused. Every time I had trouble, I read.

When I would finish a book I’d then have something to look forward to: the next movie and the next book I could get my hands on. I got to know the characters and felt as though I had made friends while reading. I knew every bit of information I could find about them in the books. I felt happiness and relief when they defeated that year’s challenges, I felt sadness when characters died, I felt pride when Harry won his Quidditch games. I could imagine the castle, and Snape’s crooked nose, and Luna’s radish earrings, and Neville’s stutter. I had a home away from home.

The books lasted me about a year total, but the movies lasted much longer. The last one came out in 2011, and I now have a new movie from the Harry Potter world to look forward to, and the script from “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” has just come out. Now every time I am depressed I can go back. I don’t think J.K. Rowling knew what it meant for some of her fans when she said, “Whether you come back by page or by the big screen, Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.”

Thanks to Rowling, I had a way to escape my own mind. I had a way to forget about what was happening for even a brief moment. Thanks to her I had something to cling to, a mystical, wonderful world that taught me all I needed was love and people who support me and determination to keep myself going, and that helped me more than I think anything else at the time besides my medicine. Her books saved my life, and I could never thank her enough for that. Because she decided to write down her ideas and then to keep going to publisher after publisher to get that writing out there, people like me are still alive. I credit her (along with my friends and family who helped me through when I wasn’t reading, of course) with me still being alive today. I hope she knows what she’s done for her fans. She hasn’t just created some good books and helped create movies based off those books, but she has shaped lives.

I still believe in magic, Joanne, Thank you.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255

Image via Thinkstock.

Originally published: August 29, 2016
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