A few months ago as I was flipping through channels, I stopped on Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. I’ve seen the movie and read the book several times, so I scrolled through my Twitter timeline as the movie functioned more as background noise than entertainment.
When the Dementors took the screen, I couldn’t help but look up from my Twitter feed. To me, the Dementors were the most evil creatures in the world of Harry Potter. A beast that sucks the happiness right out of you? Yeah, that’s fucked.
I watched as the Dementors attempted to suck Harry’s soul into the depths of Dementor hell, and I thought, “Oh shit, this is the embodiment of depression.”
I don’t know how I didn’t make this connection before. Maybe it was because I would never admit that I was depressed. Maybe it was because the world told me I was a strong black woman — even when I was just a broken black girl. Maybe it was because when I was younger, I had no diagnosis to tell me why I felt like my “soul was being sucked into the depths of Dementor hell.” But when I witnessed the vile beings create an icy atmosphere of depression and despair, I knew that the experiences created by this fictional demon were very real.
“Get too near a Dementor and every good feeling, every happy memory will be sucked out of you.”
I’m black. I’m a woman. I’m young. And I’m clinically depressed.
I wasn’t always clinically depressed. At first I was just deniably depressed. I was hopeless. I was terrified. I was lonely. I was broken. And although I was filled with all of these clear indications of depression, I was a black girl. So I had strength. I had love. I had conviction. I had magic. I continued living in denial of my mental health issue because black girls have super powers, and magical beings can’t be broken by no punk ass “bout of sadness.”
When my dad was shot and killed, my family cried and mourned and looked to his only daughter to be the stronghold for his remaining children.
“You’re so strong, take care of your brothers. They are all you have left.”
When I felt the deep rifts of sexism and misogynoir, I steadied myself from its blows by excusing the behaviors of the perpetrators.
“Men are sexual beings. It’s not your fault, but be more careful when you [insert any normal human action] and you’ll be alright."
When I refused to inject myself with painkillers during labor, pushing out my nearly 6-month grown stillborn daughter, I was told that I’m so strong to endure that type of pain.
“I couldn’t imagine going through something like that. How are you staying so strong?”
I was not okay before my confrontation with trauma, and I certainly was not okay afterward.
I always felt the presence of my personal Dementor. The demon always stayed far enough away I could only feel its happiness drain. An ever-present feeling of icy despair. Not close enough that I was converted into a soulless shell, but enough that I felt its power nip at the edge of my aura no matter where I went.
And the Dementor followed me everywhere I went.
Some days it was so far off, that my happiness was able to shine a little brighter, and a little longer, and I was able to pass as the strong black woman the world christened me to be.
Other days, the Dementor lurked right outside of my reach. So close that I couldn’t see the light outside, the beauty inside, the love around me. My vision could only perceive the dark cloak of my tormentor. All I could feel was my soul being sucked to hell.
Because society tricked me into believing that I embodied some magical Patronus. I believed I had some superhuman ability to ward off my depression, while simultaneously going to the rescue of anyone being attacked by a figurative Dementor.
I ignored and denied the presence of my depression for as long as I could, but black girl magic can’t save your soul. And eventually, the Dementor gets close enough to perform the Dementor’s kiss, then you’re fucked — permanently.
Ultimately, I was forced to look my personal demon right in its eye, and name it. I had to seek help. I was not strong. My love waned. My only conviction was that things would never get better. I wasn’t a fucking wizard, I didn’t have a wand, there was no magic.
Naming my depression was the first step to healing. I always felt it was my duty to make sure everyone else was okay, and in the process, I denied myself love because I was giving the little I had left to others.
Depression is not a sign of weakness. Seeking help is not giving up. You give up when you allow the depths of your depression turn you into a soulless shell. Naming my depression. Acknowledging my depression. Seeking help for my mental health issue proved to be my biggest show of might in my life. Yeah, I live with a Dementor, but the only thing it’s kissing is my ass.
So to all my magical Black girls, naming your depression is not a repudiation of your strength, it’s loving yourself in your full form. It’s having power to acknowledge all parts of yourself, despite what the world may say is a weakness. And as we know, for us, loving our full selves in this world that constantly ignores us, beats us, and denies our personhood is a type of magic.
Published March 11, 2016
This post originally appeared on Medium.
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KV Thompson is a writer, poet, activist, and grade school teacher from St. Louis, Missouri U.S.A. She graduated from Webster University with a bachelors in Anthropology and from the University of Missouri-St. Louis with a Masters in Education. She currently teaches 4th grade in St. Louis.