‘And Professor Lupin stepped over you, and walked towards the Dementor and pulled out his wand,’ said Hermione. ‘And he said,” None of us is hiding Sirius Black under our cloaks. Go.” But the Dementor didn’t move, so Lupin muttered something, and a silvery thing shot out of his wand at it, and it turned around and sort of glided away…’
This is the first scene where the readers are introduced to the Dementors and also to the concept of Patronus charm. Dementors represent depression, despair and hopelessness whereas the Patronus represents hope and happiness or rather a shield that protects the feelings of hope and happiness…
‘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 – soulless and evil. You’ll be left with nothing but the worst experiences of your life.’
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
J.K.Rowling introduced us to the concept of Dementors, creatures so terrible that even the bravest of all wizards could weaken before them. Dementors are depression personified. She has proved it time and again that no amount of physical strength would help you to overcome Dementors. Best example is that of Hagrid. Despite his physical strength he could not stop himself from reliving all of his worst memories while he was imprisoned in Azkaban.
When you are dealing with an attack, a physical attack, you fight it, maybe throw punches at it, wrestle it or in worst cases run away from it. But how do you deal with something that has no physical form? How do fight something that is within you? That is what depression is. You are not fighting anyone. You are fighting your own self. Like any other problem or attack, depression attacks you when you are least expecting it. It catches you in unawares. You can run away from physical attacks but how can you run away from something that is attacking you from within?
According to the HP books and movies the only way you can repel a Dementor is by casting a Patronus which irrespective of its form or size protects you from the worst.
‘The Patronus is kind of positive force, a projection of the very things that the Dementor feeds upon – hope, happiness, the desire to survive… – Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
As we have seen in books and in movies physical strength does not help in fighting Dementors. Fighting Dementors requires mental strength and courage.
…’With an incantation, which will work only if you are concentrating, with all your might, on a single, very happy memory.’ – Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
J.K.Rowling has admitted that Dementors are depression personified. So the defenses which she has described are all applicable to fighting depression. According to the books you can cast a Patronus only if you are concentrating very hard on a single happy memory.
If you read between the lines, what I interpreted was that the only thing that can repel or defeat mind monsters is happiness. Remembering a happy memory gives you hope that maybe life is not so bad, which, in turn fuels the desire to survive, and hence you begin to look forward in life or rather look forward to life.
Depression sucks out hope, happiness, peace and every other positive feeling and replaces it with despair, misery, hopelessness and gloom. It is implied that in order to fight Dementors (depression) one requires a tremendous amount of will power and mental strength. It is easier to give in to the gloom and despair. When all you want to do is dwell on the bad things in life, to be able to pull out one teeny tiny memory that is happy and positive, is like a lone ray of sunlight penetrating deep inside a dark and lonely forest full of horrors. It gives you hope that outside this gloom and darkness the sun still shines and spreads its warmth.
Most people believe that you cannot fight depression alone. Many believe that it helps to have your own support system in place while fighting depression. I feel that the concept of a single happy memory stems from this belief. You don’t have memories with yourself. All the memories, whether good or bad, are either with people or with things that you probably love or hate.
A single memory that involves something that makes you happy, like for instance it could – a hobby, your pet, or maybe your family or friends or anything that gives you hope which I believe is the key to fight any type of depression, and the mind monsters are as good as defeated.
He raised his wand: he could not. would not, suffer the Dementor’s kiss, whatever happened afterwards. It was of Ron and Hermoine that he thought as he whispered,’Expecto patronum!’
Of course the battle has just begun and there is long way to go but the very fact that you have begun to feel hope is a huge victory in itself.
DISCLAIMER: This is purely what I have learnt and understood while reading the books. This is me reading between the lines of whatever the original author has written. This is NOT an advice, medical or otherwise. Severe forms of depression requires medical help and assistance.
This article is a part of series of posts where in I will be sharing whatever I have learnt and interpreted while reading the Harry Potter books.