“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real” – J.K.Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Exactly 1 year ago today I wrote about this quote, about what it meant to me. Talked for the first time on my old blog about the depression and anxiety I have now spent over 10 years of my life living with. Decided to be honest and more open about something I had kept hidden away from so many people for so long.
Hitting that publish button was so scary. And so full of pride. I am still proud of it, of that moment of opening myself up to others.
Yet I never felt satisfied. Never felt I had done justice to the depth of emotion that quote evokes in me. I wrote that post when I was still working out how honest I wanted to be, still trying to finding my voice. I was honest and at the same time not. I held back, wrote with a shallow surface level of honesty. A little bland. A little less blunt emotionally than the level I now find myself writing at.
I was too scared. Too worried about what people might think or say, that I might upset them.
That fear has never gone away. I still feel it every time I post about my mental health. But I am trying to be more honest. With myself, with others. If we are not honest about mental health issues, people will never understand. Our experiences will not help others. We will not help ourselves. We will always feel alone, unsupported and ashamed.
So I wanted to return to this quote from Harry Potter. To talk about it again.
I have come up against the suggestion that my anxiety and depression are in my head. That all I need to do is pull myself together, to just stop it. And I am not alone. I wish it was that simple, that I could go ‘hey this isn’t real so I don’t need to feel it anymore’. If it was that simple though, why the heck do so many of us suffer so much, sometimes for so very long, sometimes until for some people it becomes too much.
Anxiety and depression may well exist only in our heads. Be the product of our own minds. But why is this seen as any different from intangible emotions such as love or joy? Emotions that are the output of our heads, the result of neurons firing. Why are these real yet depression and anxiety are not? Do we dismiss those emotions as insignificant or unreal? Of course we don’t.
So tell me why the belief seems to persist that mental health issues are not real. Why they are dismissed so easily by so many.
The effects of anxiety and depression are very real. Heartbreakingly so. Lives are lost, dreams disappear, friends vanish. Thoughts and feelings take over until you are no longer sure what is the illness and what is you, who you even are. The impact on people’s lives is as serious as many physical illnesses, sometimes even more.
This Dumbledore quote feels like it was written by someone who has faced days filled with the very real and significant effects of the contents of their head. J.K. Rowling has been honest about her experiences with depression and its presence in her life is felt in the Harry Potter books. Only someone who has experienced the emptiness and overwhelming hopelessness of depression could write the Dementors. They are depression given form.
This quote recognises the very realness of the intangible.
I read it and I feel less alone. I feel supported, I feel understood.