Harry Potter Self Care

Welcome back to another Geeky Self Care post here on bravelittlepufferfish! Today I thought I would tackle what geeky item helps me in my self care the topic for this one is extremely near and dear to my heart and that would be “Harry Potter”. The story of the boy who lived and the story that defined a generation of children who are now young adults. It is a tale of friendship, the power of love, good triumphing over evil, and of course means a lot to many people. I read them with my father from the tender age of about five and a half and have continued to love the book series. I waited in line at book stores for the books to come out and went to cinema premieres, I even have the knitting book and knit my own Weasely sweater(although by the time I was done with it I thought it would be a little bit embarrassing to have a large D on my chest). This is something that for me I could go on about for ages but I thought would break it down just a little bit!

1. Hogwarts will Always Be There

For Harry, Snape, and many students in the book series Hogwarts is a safe place where they are accepted. Dumbledore says himself that “Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home”. This is a beautiful mantra and serves as a happy place. There are so many head canons on tumblr about Hogwarts accepting muslim students, trans students, Jewish students, and other often ostracized groups finding their happy place at Hogwarts. Collectively among the Harry Potter fan community there is a discussion around Hogwarts as it is ours. Across borders, religions, and cultures for those who love Harry Potter Hogwarts is a shared home we can all find. Hogwarts is a place where even the biggest of misfits can find their home. The Harry Potter community is made of misfits and in times of darkness it is a true comfort to be able to return home.

2. Boggarts and Dementors

Another point of Harry Potter is that there are specific creatures that manifest themselves as mental illnesses. The biggest being boggarts as a threat of anxiety and of course the dementors as a sign of depression. Too often these real illnesses are passed as “just being inside your head” but as Albus Dumbledore says “Just because it is in your head who is to say it isn’t real?”  Perssonally I believe often the hardest part about recovering from mental illness is coming to terms with it. We see this with Harry and other wizarding children in the muggle world. They do not know of their magic, and in the case of the Dursely’s literally kept in the closet, so much that it is often out of control. It is only when that Harry accepts the fact that he is a wizard and learns how to use it properly is his magic under control. You can chase away a boggart by laughing at it, and finding that happy memory when a dementor is nearby saves your soul. It isn’t always the perfect advice but it is useful.

3. Complex Characters showcasing Complex Problems

There are several characters in the series who face abuse, racism, bigotry, manipulation, bullying, and other forms of extreme trauma. These characters rise up from the ground and are able to stand up for themselves. Through love, friendship, and some serious git and bravery these characters are able to better their situation and fight evil. Many have their times of doubt but more often in the books they are able to conquer Lord Voldemort and the Death Eaters.

4. A Healthy Non Traditional Family Structure

To be honest this is a pet issue of mine. There are few non traditional family structures that operate in a healthy way so I relish any nontraditional family structure I can see.

Harry grows up in a non-nuclear family and is loved by many even those whom he would call “mom” and “dad” have passed away. For me this was big to have someone who grew up without “Mom” or “Dad” but was still loved and cared for. Of course in the muggle world he is abused by his Aunt Petunia, Uncle Vernon, and cousin Dudley but in the wizarding world he finds a support network through his school friends and the adults around him. In a maternal way Hagrid enjoys carrying for Harry inviting him to tea every single week to talk about his classes and how his week went. This feels extremely reminiscent of the way my mother would beg me to call her about once a week. Throughout the book series we also see that Harry is given multiple father figures throughout the books including Dumbledore, Sirius, Hagrid, Lupin, and even Arthur Weaseley. Of course Harry is not short of mother figures of Molly Weasely and Minerva Mcgonagall. Each of those adult to child relationships are important to Harry and each adult recognizes that Harry’s parents are important to him even though he never had the chance to meet them. Each parental figure in the books is pertinent to Harry’s growth and development into a young man. This is big and establishes healthy relationships for those who are raised in similar non-nuclear family situations.

 

In truth the way I describe the relationship with my father figures is that my grandfather who raised me was a combination of loving Hagrid and wise Dumbledore while my biological father was like Sirius Black, loving but through uncontrollable circumstances was not ready to be a full time caretaker. The way my anxiety manifests itself honestly feels like a demon on my shoulder. Where suddenly opening my laptop or getting in the car can feel like a nasty boggart is hiding there. Yes boggarts for the most part are harmless but the terror they cause is real. Having the language to explain my family situations, mental health struggles, and even finding the community of misfits that make up my friends truly is a comfort that surrounds me like a warm blanket

To sum up my thoughts on Harry Potter and my mental health journey, which I am sure to return to I will leave you with this quote from Dr. Brene Brown. This is from her book “Braving the Wilderness: the Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone” Dr. Brown writes

“ Yes, we know that Harry Potter is not real, but we know that colective light is is real. And powerful. And in the face of hatred and bigotry and cruelty and everything that dark sky stood for, we were so much stronger together.”

I believe that sums up my feelings about Harry Potter, although I refuse to believe it isn’t real. Below I have also listed some resources if you would like to explore this topic further. Please let me know what you think by liking this post, sharing with your friends or any other means. Has Harry Potter resonated with you in times of darkness? Is there a particular character that resonates with you? How so? Please let me know in the comment section down below!

 

Harry Potter Self Care Resources.

Harry Potter and the Sacred Text

This is a 30 minute podcast series in which two humanist ministers form the Harvard divinity school, the wonderful Vanessa Zoltan and Casper ter Kuile, read Harry Potter using sacred reading practices they learned in divinity school. Each episode focuses on a different chapter through the lens of a specific theme, they will use a specific sacred reading practice often from the Christian or Jewish tradition, and close with a blessing upon two of the characters. They also take voicemails from listeners about their own thoughts and interpretation of the texts. Whether you belong to a faith and actively participate in your religious community or are an atheist who would like to be more spiritual I believe there is something for everyone in this podcast. It is a loving community and you are able to pick and chose what theme you may want to focus on. I have friends who are actually reading the books alongside the podcast which is another great way to listen. Please go check them out as they are wonderful!

Harry Potter Therapy: An Unauthorized Self Help Book from the Restricted Section by Dr. Janina Scarlett

The author of this book is both a self proclaimed nerd and registered psychologist. This is a book where many common and uncommon mental health topics are discussed through the lens of Harry Potter including but not limited to anxiety, depression, body image issues, bullying and much much more. There are shared stories of other Potter Heads and how the story of harry helped them through their journeys or tough mental health situations. There are also techniqtues for mindfulness and coping that are focused through the lens of Harry Potter. They are the same ones you would expect to learn in a therapy but with a nerdy twist. I bought my copy for about $8.00 on Amazon so go check it out if you have the means. Or if you don’t perhaps ask your local library to order it.

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A Life Update

A little over a year ago I decided to spend the school year of 2017-2018 to work on myself. I had just suffered a major loss in my life, graduated from school, moved a few times, and felt like I was drowning in a sea of anxiety. I went to college to become a teacher, which is an extremely stressful and taxing job and I decided it would be best for me and potential students to work on myself for a bit. For the past year I have. I have been going to therapy, taking medications, and only accepted part time positions not to overwhelm myself. I am open and honest about when I am feeling anxious with my partner and my friends, I have made tremendous progress and am incredibly proud of myself.  

However a little over a week ago I had another major loss in my life. It was a shock, at the time my only goal was to plan everything and I did. I planned a beautiful service and my father is at peace. But I am left here feeling set back. I wake up lethargic, when friends are talking I sometimes can’t help but feel lost, and even am just disinterested in every topic at times. I yelled at a friend for talking about the Survivor season finale and later that day burst into tears before entering a movie theatre to see “Solo” of all movies.  Even as I type I can feel myself shaking a bit on my patio with anxiety. This makes me feel lost as I am still the terrified person I was in September. This set back makes me feel like all progress has been lost but it is important to recognize that it hasn’t.

I am not lost. I am not the same person I was in September. I have coping mechanisms now.

The progress I have made is not gone. It is still there but now I know I need to to rest. If I go out I know to set up a signal indicating to a friend or my partner that I might need a break.

I remind myself that I am allowed to give myself time. Time where I can write. Time where I can paint, knit, draw, and make scrapbooks. As well as time where I can play music, something I have not allowed myself to do. I give time to read YA Fantasy, poetry, and literature. I must give time for bubble baths and letting the nice scented hot water soak some of the anxieties away. But with all of this I must also allow time to accomplish my goals.

I want to be a full time teacher, go to grad school for Music Therapy, update this blog expanding the community, and finish the novel I set out to write. Chipping away at these goals little by little is important too. It is about finding a way to incorporate both and being patient with myself when the plan does not work and ok when some days my brain cannot work with me to get the work done.  It has been said to me a few times that the mark of a great teacher is not a beautiful lesson plan but the reaction you give when your lesson plan is not working. Teaching on your feet when the plan is not working is arguably one of the hardest skills to learn for new teachers. I think we can bring that into life as well. Often plans do not work out, even if you have everything written down in a fancy planner. The key to living a happy life is adjusting when the plan does not work, for giving your time to rest when need be .

I have been set back but have not lost the lessons. This will be a year where I can truly work and accomplish goals but also allow time to have some rest. Recovery is non linear and I have the strength to push on. I believe for the rest of the year I will be pushing on and making great progress.

The Problem with Mother’s Day

Today is mother’s day in the United States where Mother’s are celebrated with brunch, flowers, scented candles, and of course cards telling them how much we love them. It is a holiday where love and appreciation are spread for the wonderful amazing women who raise us. Unfortunately for myself and many others it is also a time of pain, uncertainty, and the unsettling feeling of not belonging. This is true of father’s day as well. I have always loved the sentiment behind Mother’s Day and Father’s Day but have always felt out of place and often in pain during these well meaning holiday.

To preface my issues with Mother’s Day and Father’s day let it be known that I grew up in a non nuclear family. Since I was nine months old my paternal grandparents raised me, my biological father often visited until I was in High School, and I have never properly met my biological mother. In addition to this my extended family of aunts, uncles cousins, and even my great grandfather were heavily involved in my life. I was surrounded by support and love but did not have a woman whom I called “mom”. When I was a really small child I did not notice this. I was just a happy little girl who was loved and adored by her giant family. However around first grade I started to notice that the family structure I had was not remotely the same as everyone else who grew up around me. As an adult I am ok with this but as a child the sheer thought that I did not have a woman who I called “mom” was crushing. My grandmother treated me as if she was the one that gave birth to me but still she wasn’t “Mom” she was “Grandma”, and according to everyone else “Mom” came before “Grandma”.

This meant that for so many of the well meaning school projects throughout grade school were printed with the words “mum” and handwritten in marker above it “Grandma”. Even through Middle School this hurt but fortunately “Grandma” and “Grandpa” always opened their arms to care for me. 

In America not everyone is raised by a mum and a dad. For many they are but this is not always the rule or the case. Many children are raised by grandparents, aunts, uncles, family friends, and in foster homes. These beautiful important children who are being raised in loving families often feel ostracized since they often may be the only one in a classroom where the printed project or cards at CVS do not fit their family. The thing that sets these children apart also makes them feel like they do not belong in this world. In the modern day there is more acceptance for non traditional families so shouldn’t the language we use for children.

Another way where I feel a particular sting at the arrival of both Mother’s Day and Father’s Day is that both of the people who raised me passed away. I do not have children of my own and the people who I would have celebrated with have passed away. So even though I have passed the point where I am sad that my particular family was a little bit different than everyone else’s the magnitude for what I have lost is profound. At the mention of Mother’s Day and Father’s Day my eyes swell up making it difficult to go through the day. They are days when I am sorely reminded of what I lost. 

This blog post is not a call to be rid of Mother’s Day and Father’s Day completely but rather a call to potentially be more mindful of others. A call to be more understanding of others who may be having a hard time understanding. This can also be a call to card businesses or even craft companies for kids to create products that would be sold. Mother’s Day cards that celebrate Aunt’s, Grandmother’s, Foster Parents, and potentially more would be fantastic. I think that anyone who steps up to the plate to nurture anc care for a child should be celebrated. It is a daunting task and you should be reoconized for you hardwork. 

In conclusion Happy Mothers day to current mothers, mothers soon to be, those who wish to be mothers, aunts, grandparents stepmothers, to those who have lost their mothers, and to those who wish to be mothers but cannot for some unknown circumstance. May you be showered with the love, light, and appreciation you deserve. Happy Mother’s Day

Much Love,

Dawn

Finding the Balance in Life

With each new week I am one of the few people who get up early on a monday. On Mondays I conquer the world and feel like I am finally starting to incorporate new habits. I have a long list of to-do items that I get done, eat healthy, and even meditate. On Tuesday however I seem to wake up groggy and  break the rules that I assined myself for “my new productive life” that I started only a day ago. I am lost and unable to find myself to do anything. This is where countless hours are spent in bed, on my phone, and completely gone from finding my way in life.

Setting the intentions for a new week is great at the beginning of a work week is great! However it is also difficult to get many of items on the “to-do” list crossed off. As the week trudges on it is  significantly harder to accomplish the goals you set for that week. For me this manifests with the messiness of my apartment, my eating habits, my exercise routine, and the amount of creative projects I would like to create. Make that most aspects of my life maybe expect for keeping in contact with friends and family.

The key to fighting this trend of being extremely productive for the first half of the week and a lazy bum for the rest has been to find a balance. No matter what life wants to balance itself out, so why not do it yourself! Believe it or not you can lead a mostly healthy lifestyle that fits salads and donuts, running and netflix, meditating and instagram! The key is more having a balance and not punishing yourself for indulgences. During the week I try to do a good job of eating healthy, getting work done, and I have even started running again now that the weather is nice. But on Thursdays my work schedule is crazy busy and I am exhausted. So on Thursdays I like to treat myself to an ice cream sundae from the ice cream place near me and an early bedtime while watching Netflix. I utilize it as a day of rest. I still live a mostly healthy life style bus as a human I allow myself time to rest.

When trying to better ourselves most of us love to do it in an overhaul. But the best way to find balance is to accomplish tasks little by little. I know for myself and the way my anxiety manifests if something is put off for a long time it will only eat me from the inside out. I get freaked out by how much of a mess my apartment is. So I have taken to try to clean along the way while I am making a mess. It is not the perfect solution but so far it has worked and brought my anxiety down.

 

As humans we need both time to work and time to rest. It is important to schedule both in order to find a balance. As someone who lives with anxiety this is a bit hard since often I used to feel terrible about taking time to relax since I would have so much work to do. But now I actually make sure I take time for myself and relish in my downtime. During my work days I have a 40 minute break between classes. Before I used to work through it, pace my classroom, and try to think of new lesson plans. Nowadays I actually use it to sit down at my desk, sip on a cup of coffee, and rest for at least half of that time. This small break truly helps me reset so I can give an energetic lesson at the end of the day.

Something that often gets overlooked even though it is extremely important is that it takes time for true results to show themselves. One of the big life things I have been trying to accomplish is being a bit of a neater person. I am nowhere near being a neatfreak but in general my cleanliness habits have gotten better. For months I felt like I was not making any progress then I saw my therapist I realized how far I had come.

The main things to take away are

  1. Allow time for rest and work
  2. Accomplish tasks little by little
  3. Results may come slowly but they will come

Thank you for reading. I will have another post up soon about trying to find a balance after a major life change such as graduation, mental breakdown, or through a time of grief. In addition I will be posting a special post tomorrow in honor of mother’s day.

Much Love,

Dawn