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The Harry Potter series (pictured above) helped shape and improve the mental health of the author in her younger years.

You already have all the magic you need inside.

Magic is an integral part of every child’s life. Whether it is Tinkerbell’s pixie dust or the manifold of colors in a sunset, it can be found anywhere. Lately, the world has seemed bereft of magic. So, I revisited the most magical place I know, the world of witches and wizards — the world of Harry Potter.

Harry Potter and his friends are an example of being brave in the face of adversity, of believing in yourself even as reality crumples at your feet. Just like Harry, I am constantly finding myself in new situations, often scary ones. The message of the series is the same as when I was a child — you are not alone. Even when you cannot see your friends, they are there by your side. Harry and his friends always supported one another and continued their journey in the midst of fear, and these characters often inspired me to do the same. Harry Potter was especially helpful in elementary and middle school. I loved the idea of Hogwarts and I loved the idea of belonging somewhere.

My insecurities made me feel as if I could never belong anywhere, but Harry Potter surrounded me with friends who understood exactly how I felt. It made me smile, not only for the flying cars and potions, but the support and understanding of the characters. As a child I was often teased for how I spoke and acted; whether it was being told I wasn’t allowed to join the others girls in games or being pushed into a piano and having sharp bruises imprinted across my back, I knew I was not wanted. I was too loud, but Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry gave Harry and me the one thing we always wanted: a sense of belonging. Not only did he find his best friends in Ron and Hermione, but he was able to meet his godfather, Sirius Black.

Unfortunately, Harry’s life was like water and ink: clear and then all too soon muddled with darkness. Whether it was Lord Voldemort or the thick, black fear of Dementors, Harry’s struggles were not over. But it was not just Harry who struggled with this darkness. The dark lord was so frightening that almost all witches and wizards were unable utter his name. Like depression and anxiety, Voldemort was a fear too frightening and too real for the characters to address.

Like Harry during his years before attending Hogwarts, I felt more and more alone as I grew. I became colder and found comfort in solitude when I should have run to the open arms I could have found had I only asked. I did not know how to reach out to anyone. There was only one person who I felt truly understood me: Harry Potter. But before my life bled into black, I was happy; I made people laugh and gave them the happiness I so desperately craved. Somewhere between the insults spit at my feet and the need to always please everyone around me, disappointing others meant making them sad and ultimately forcing them to feel the darkness I suffered in. My happiness was scraped out of me and the Dementors in Harry Potter reminded me of my own depression.

Mrs. Figg described meeting a Dementor in the fifth novel, “Everything went cold…And I felt … as though all happiness had gone from the world.” As if the Dementors has paid me a personal visit, I was both tired and sad, and when I woke from my delirium, I was angry. Irritated at myself and the things I no longer cared for, annoyed that others were happy when I was filled with despair. I flickered between shades of cold blues and hot reds.

Somewhere between losing my 6-year-old cousin, watching my extended family fall to anger and breaking down in school, I grew to hate the person in every mirror I stared into. I had become something born of bitterness, or had I been this creature all along? Or had my despondency been confused with anger?

When Harry fears he is falling to darkness, he is reassured by his friends and family that the gloom around him is not his fault, that bad things have happened to him but that does not make him a bad person. Harry, as my light at the end of the tunnel, woke me from the dark water I so often found myself drowning in. Before I found friends, he showed me how to seek them out. He helped me to reach out to those around me. If nothing else I could always discuss which book was my favorite and if I liked the newest Harry Potter movie as much as those around me.

Instead of sitting in my darkness, I sought out the light. I would dance in the light of others until my own lurking shadow fled from sight. As Albus Dumbledore said, “Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”

Growing older means growing wiser. After reading seven books and watching eight movies, I found myself having read and heard enough wise quotes to convince myself to hear another’s intelligent thoughts. I understood that this hole of darkness was not a life sentence and that I could climb out of it if I found the first step. I began to see the value in attending my therapy sessions. I may not sit passenger in a flying car or soar in a game of Quidditch, but Harry showed me how to be happy, how to be free and I could not have touched the clouds without him.

I am not locked inside the Dursley’s house or fighting Lord Voldemort, but I have been growing as a person, understanding that I have value and I have people who care for me. And you do, too. We show love to our friends, and to ourselves. I believe Harry Potter is a great example of children learning the importance of mental health. He certainly was for me.

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