Rereading Harry Potter as Self-Care

This is a guest post from Patricia Elzie. Patricia is a self-proclaimed information junkie. She has a Masters in Library and Information Science and has volunteered hundreds of hours as a sex educator. Her hobbies include baking, sewing, archery, poorly playing the ukulele, cosplay, going to Disneyland, tiki bars, and home brewing her own ciders. Her literary interests include comic books, sci-fi, fantasy, erotica, pop non-fiction about food, pop science, fairy tales, YA, and LGBTQ. Patricia is a Slytherin and resides in Pasadena, CA. Follow her on Twitter @theinfophile.

Self-care looks different for everyone. For some people, self-care means reaching out to a close friend to sit and chat. For others, it means building a pillow fort and reading a book using only a flashlight. I tend to be in the latter group.

While my depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder are mostly managed, after all these years I still have my days here and there where I need to practice a bit of extra self-care and curl up with a book. I don’t read just any book. I certainly don’t read a book I haven’t read before, because the uncertainty of events in the book can make me extra anxious at a time where I’m already feeling a bit fragile. I don’t read a short book, because what if it doesn’t do the trick by the time I finish it? What if I finish the book and then I have the added gloom that happens after a book is over?

So, I reread Harry Potter. As with many of us, Harry Potter holds a special place in my heart, mind, and life. My best friend and I refer to ourselves as “Harry Potter Hipsters” because we started the series when it was first published in the US, before it gained it’s mind-blowing popularity. It was like a secret society the two of us had, even though we kept trying to force the books on everyone we knew. Starting with the release of the fourth book I would go to my local bookstore and spend 6 – 8 hours there for the all night release party where I would get my book at midnight, go home, and not sleep for hours while I read the entire thing. When my depression creeps in for a visit and I can’t bring myself to get out and be social (which is already a bit difficult), reading Harry Potter fills me with memories of friendship, community, and belonging.

But it’s so much more.

I find comfort in rereading the same stories because it holds no surprises. It’s dependable and the characters are familiar friends. When my OCD doesn’t allow my brain to “turn off,” rereading Harry Potter gives me a sense of order and control where I’m otherwise lacking such feelings. Strangely, it also gives me a face to my depression. To me, dementors are what my depression would be if it were a physical form: not complete sadness, but lacking of joy and hope partnered with an unfocused, wandering melancholy. But Harry Potter also offers the Patronus: a way to fight, to have hope, and allow happiness back in.

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Most importantly I know how Harry Potter ends. I know that while not everyone will make it and some things will be different, it will be okay. And I’ll be okay too.

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