Panic Attacks & Demento– err, Soul Suckers
Let’s see. Should I be funny – or have a serious mental health discussion – funny – serious discussion – thinking – POR QUE NO LOS DOS!
Today I want to talk about chapter 5 of PoA, and a loooot of things related to mental health. So this serves as a content warning for anyone who may feel like they don’t want to read a discussion about depression, anxiety, panic attacks, or similar mental health struggles. I hope you’re ok if that’s you.
Ok first, before we get into our main discussion, get ready to have your freaking minds blown kids.
So Lupin is sleepy on the train ride to school, right? And the kids travel to school on September 1, right? And PoA starts in the year 1993, right?
Go ahead and look it up yourself if you like, or you can just choose to believe me, but… It’s a full moon. He is fully in a transformation period. THAT’s why Lupin is so sleepy!
That also explains why he has to take the train. When he takes his wolfsbane potion, he says himself later that he has to basically take the potion and sleep the period away. I just have to assume this means he can’t reliably apparate during a full moon, so he couldn’t go straight to the village. And if he can’t do that, then he probably can’t fly, either, so no brooms. Pretty much any travel that really requires his active participation is out the door.
The potion must be kind of like an anti-anxiety medication that is too strong. He takes it so that he can, paraphrasing Lupin’s words here, retain his own mind, but sleep through the impending transformation. Not only does the potion probably make him sleepy, but it seems like the effects of lycanthropy might be more manageable if the person doesn’t expose themselves to full moonlight.
For example, later in the book, Lupin doesn’t transform until after they have reemerged from the secret passage to the shrieking shack. When they’re in the tunnel, it’s already night time, so if the transformation didn’t depend on direct contact with moonlight, Lupin would have already transformed. Maybe that’s another reason he’s taking the train. He needs to stay under a roof of some sort.
Aaand with that, the fun stops here. You know, this actually is gonna get a bit serious, so I’d appreciate if you could put on a little lighthearted music, just to kind of confuse the mood and keep the brand alive.
Ok, so let’s talk about soul sucking dementie-whatsies. I once made a video on my YouTube channel, actually pretty popular one by my channel’s standards, about how I think these floaty bois are born. Well I might have to amend that a bit if I can come up with something else purely because of the description on page 83 in this chapter.
“There was a hand protruding from the cloak and it was glistening, grayish, slimy-looking, and scabbed, like something dead that had decayed in water…”
But then later on the same page, the book talks about water again.
“He was drowning in cold. There was a rushing in his ears as though of water. He was being dragged downward, the roaring growing louder…”
And so I’m not sure how that will play into any new theory about how dementoids are born. But it did feel pretty familiar when I kept reading onto the next pages. The way that the others in the compartment talk about Harry’s reaction kind of sounds like he just had a panic attack.
Harry comes back from the soul sucker experience and can’t remember what has happened. Ron says, “I thought you were having a fit or something.” He also says Ginny was “shaking like mad.” Harry feels weak and shivery, “as though he were recovering from a bad bout of flu. He also felt the beginnings of shame. Why had he gone to pieces like that, when no one else had?”
I’ve had experience on both sides of this situation. I’ve helped people close to me through some very serious and intense panic attacks, and I have had a few minor ones myself. What strikes me as most familiar, in my experience, are Harry’s thoughts about himself after he comes back to feeling normal. The way he questions how he could lose control like that, and how something could have such an intense affect on him, is eerily familiar.
It broke my heart this time reading Harry wonder how he could let himself “go to pieces,” because not only have I felt that a bit, but I have heard that even more from others. My wife has told me it’s ok to say that she deals with major anxiety and has experienced many panic attacks in her life. There was a time when the panic attacks were a rather regular occurrence, and they were very serious and very scary.
So I also empathize with how Ron and Hermione are feeling in this moment. Not only have they just been approached by a freaking demonator, so like, that sucks first of all, but they’ve also just witnessed their best friend go through something they’ve never seen before. The first time I saw Jess have a panic attack, I felt a lot of the same things I’m sure Ron and Hermione are feeling. Confused, scared, sad, unsure of what to do.
But also this strong pull to try and help; to do anything, anything to make it better. And in my experience from both going through it and helping my wife through it, dealing with an dem***or is a lot like dealing with a panic attack. There are ways you can try to keep it from happening, but it might not always work. There are ways you can try to shorten it, but a lot of the time, you’re going to end up just riding it out. And there are definitely things that help you afterwards, whether that’s company, or warm drinks, or comfort, or chocolate.
These scary things are pretty popularly known as a manifestation of the intense depression JKR was going through while writing these books. And so I never put a ton of thought into the symbolism of them – that work felt to me like it had already been done. But during this reread, it really felt to me familiar in a way I hadn’t anticipated. I hope you guys haven’t had to go through panic attacks before, but if you have, I hope you have someone in your life to whom you can talk about them.
And take Lupin’s advice – eat, you’ll feel better.
Lastly, I just want to say if you are experiencing symptoms similar to these or other mental health challenges, please seek help from medical professionals. My words are not intended to be taken as actual mental health advice. Or if someone you know is going through something similar, reach out to them. Oftentimes, people struggling with mental health issues feel like they can’t reach out to you because they don’t want to be a burden. Do this for them and just say how are you.