For a fair chunk of the last decade, I have been battling with a range of mental health issues, including depression, anxiety and insomnia. I suffered on and off for almost seven years before finally getting the help I needed to turn my life around. While I was in therapy, I made a lot of notes and now I’m trying to turn those notes into something useful. “A Muggle’s Guide to Dementor Defence” will be a series of blog posts that will, if nothing else, help me to organise my thoughts, but hopefully some of this will be helpful to any of you who are going through similar things.
But first, I wanted to explain how this all came about.
A Little Background
So, I was living a perfectly happy and healthy life, or so I thought, until 2011, when the whole thing came crashing down around me. I won’t bore you with the details, but within the space of about two weeks, I lost my girlfriend, my job and my apartment. I had to leave the city where I had been living since starting university and move back in with my parents, where I spent most of the summer on their couch, thoroughly miserable. It was during this time that I realised that I didn’t have much of a social life (most of my Uni friends had moved away), that I hated what I had thought was my dream job and that my relationship wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. It turned out that I was depressed long before this all happened, even though I didn’t realise it at the time.
Eventually, my parents persuaded me to return to university to start a PhD, which was the kick up the arse I needed to start getting on with my life again. Still, things kinda dragged and didn’t really return to normal. It would be nearly seven years before I would complete the PhD and truly get my life back on track, and one of the key elements of that success was finally getting the right kind of help for me.
For over a year, I saw a private Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) professional called Jo and, unlike all of the other counselling and therapy I had received, these sessions are what finally helped me to sort myself out. By 2017, I was finally off my medication and by the end of 2018, I was happily married and no longer receiving therapy, if only partly because Jo is sadly no longer with us.
During this time, I was encouraged to make notes. I had tried to write journals and diaries before, but writing “got up late, struggled through some PhD work, finally remembered to eat something, stayed up too late watching TV, lay awake for several hours before finally falling asleep” every single day was not helpful to anyone, so I never stuck with it. But under Jo’s guidance, it was different. I would write about what was going on in my head during the week and then report back to her, then she would then give me tips, advice and exercises designed to quiet my mind and to overcome my negative behaviours. I didn’t write every day and when I did it was usually on a topic that had been on my mind for days and that I just wanted to get out of my head and onto the page. Suddenly, I found I was able to keep going with it, and it really helped me to process what I was going through.
A Muggle’s Guide to Dementor Defence
Because I am an aspiring writer, I tried to write all this stuff this down in an engaging way, as if I was writing it for someone else. I tried to throw as much humour into it as possible and tried to illustrate Jo’s teachings with examples of my own experience. And, because I am a massive nerd, this quickly became known as “A Muggle’s Guide to Dementor Defence”. (In the unlikely event that JK Rowling ever reads this, I hope she will be understanding about what I was trying to accomplish and hopefully, I won’t get sued!) For those who don’t know, the Dementors were creatures in the Harry Potter books who were invisible to Muggles (non-magic folk) and who drain happiness and life from their victims; an obvious allegory for depression.
Now, a few years on, I’ve decided to revisit this big, messy, unorganised collection of notes, guidance and exercises and turn it into something that will hopefully be useful to someone. I will be writing a series of posts on everything from sleep to exercise to musings on topics like love, work and faith. There will be posts focussing on practical advice, such as how to cope with insomnia, as well as discussions about things like how I came to terms with losing my ‘dream job’. As I said, if even a single person can benefit from my experience – if just one person can have an easier time dealing with mental health issues than I did – then it will all have been worth it.
So, that’s the origins of the guide. It was something I wrote for myself to get me through therapy, which I hope can now be used to help others.