Archive for January 1st, 2008

Boy Wizard (c) Lynda Bernhardt

Throughout the Harry Potter series, I saw parallels between Harry’s life and the life of an abuse survivor. Harry lived in a small closet under the stairs in a household where he was not wanted. How many abuse survivors felt that level of isolation and rejection in their abusive families, being forced to keep their truths “in the closet”?

People constantly told Harry how brave he was, but he never chose this life. He was brave because he had to be. I felt this way throughout my healing journey. People would tell me how brave and strong I was, but I never chose those things: There was simply no alternative. When the memories exploded out of me, I had no choice but to face them and heal. I would have given anything not to have experienced the things that I had, just as Harry would have much preferred an anonymous life with two loving parents.

Harry was affected so much more deeply by the dementors than his friends because he had experienced more pain than they had. How many abuse survivors feel the same way? I can nosedive into a very deep depression rapidly if I do not guard my thoughts because I have experienced very deep pain. Love is the antidote to dementors, and self-love has been my antidote to depression.

In book 5, Order of the Phoenix, Harry experienced an enormous amount of isolation and anger. Boy, could I relate to that. I read that book over the summer, when I was feeling very isolated myself, which made it even harder for me to read. I have heard non-abuse survivors talk about how Harry was a pill throughout that book, but I understood how difficult it can be to manage anger, loneliness, grief, and isolation.

Another big similarity is that Harry always felt different and as if he did not fit in, when he truly was a very popular kid. Yes, he had the Slytherins being jerks to him, but for the most part, he was well-liked by most of the other students at Hogwarts. I know so many abuse survivors who feel alone in a crowd. Because they loathe themselves, they project that loathing onto the people in their lives, never realizing just how much they really do fit in. I did not fully understand this about myself until I attended a high school reunion. My memory was that I was a dorky outcast, but so many people at the reunion remembered me fondly and even followed me around so we could talk longer. I came to realize that I was always the person who I am today (a person who I like) – it was I who could not see it.

Because of Harry’s past and lack of love, he leaned on his friends. He embraced them as family. I do this, too. That can be hard during the holidays when everyone puts their families first because I feel like I am back in those abusive days again, completely cut off from the people who I loved and who loved me. I have spoken with many abuse survivors who say the same thing – that they have trouble finding people who value friendships as deeply as they do. Harry makes me feel less odd that way.

For all I know, J.K. Rowling had a fabulous childhood and this is all coincidence, but I don’t think so. There is too much truth in her books. I, for one, am appreciative to have someone like Harry Potter to help me understand myself better.

Related Topics:

Healing From Child Abuse and the Harry Potter Series

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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