How to Train Your Patronus – Protecting Your Spheres

Dementors first premiered in J.K Rowling’s 1999 release of the Prisoner of Azkaban. They are soulless beings who feed on the happiness of others, creating a bleak despair that is incapacitating, which is why they are used to guard the prisoners. They are jailers through and through.

The marvelous thing about art – and particularly writing for this writer girl – is the ability to interpret a thing that someone creates and make it personal, make it yours. The words begin in the mind of the author and transform every time someone reads those words. They take on a life of their own and become something more, something else with every consumption.

For me, the Dementors have always represented depression and our capacity to become our own worst enemies; that the darkness of our past and our funky genetic makeup can create demons of our making. Others can create the Patronuses needed to scare away the Dementors, but it is our own light, our own internal Patronuses that make the most difference in our mental well-being. Our light does not always come easily, and our Patronuses sometimes dim with our struggles – sometimes they blaze brighter than the sun. There is no easy answer.

There is no magical way of always having a perfect Patronus for someone with depression. It comes and it goes, and there is a sad beauty to the ebb and flow.

Dementors are more than a representation of the depression that can cripple and kill. They also represent the people and things we surround ourselves with on our mental health journeys.

In the age of modern media we have the capacity to reach out, to connect, in a way that has never before been seen. We are not reliant on weeks of wait to speak to someone on the other side of the world. We can learn faster, communicate immediately, and consume at an astronomical speed.

Many things have been said of fandoms and social media lately. I know that I don’t need to deconstruct it for you all. You’ve heard it all. You know it all. You’re smart people.

What I did want to mention is that while there are wonderful, glorious people in fandoms, in life, and all around the world, social media can be overwhelming. You have one or two voices who clatter over the more gentle voices of others, unwilling to listen, unwilling to compromise on their sense of ‘being right,’ and who would rather suck the life out of you than acknowledge that while your opinions may differ, you are human, you are worthy of respect, you are a creature of incredible light.

I had, well, an ‘interaction’ with such a voice recently and the discussion came around the social media and blocking people. The person argued that social media is a public space and therefore blocking is a basic evil that squashes difference of opinion, diversity of thought, and ruins livelihoods. In all honesty, I didn’t follow most of their points because the thoughts seemed based in a fluent lack of logic, but the underlying theme was evident.

Dementors should be allowed to suck the life out of you if you enter into any and all social media spheres. Your choice to put your thoughts and your life out into the world means that those who wish you ill have free reign over attacking, bullying, and being just downright annoying.

This, friends, is simply not true. While lots can be said about the 24-hour news cycle, the way in which we consume, our need to create news out of nothing, and the inherent entitlement we feel towards celebrities in general when they step onto social media, no place, not even the public ones, is a place where you should feel uncomfortable.

The analogy that makes the most sense to me is that if you were having a conversation about beautiful pink shoes that you want to buy while sitting with a friend in a café. You’re gushing about the shoes, admitting to a love so deep your heart may burst. (I love shoes, okay?) While you’re gushing, someone you have never met butts in and starts telling you why those shoes are awful, that you’re an idiot for liking them, and that yellow is a better color. Just because you are in a public space that others frequent, that in no way means that you have to listen to them, indulge them, or even give them the time of day.

You are allowed to block them out, to not engage, to protect yourself from their negativity. Being in public in no way strips you of your basic right to feed your Patronus.

The same is said for social media. No one – absolutely no one – has a right to come into your café while you’re talking about Captain America’s boyfriend, or the overwhelming awesomeness of Felicity Smoak, or whatever thing that makes you happy, and annoy the crap out of you for your opinions.

I’ve said a lot about opening your heart and your mind to inclusiveness, to listening to people when they try to point out how you can be better, and learning about different viewpoints other than your own. This does not mean you have to suffer attacks or put up with people who are aggressively unable to hear your side of things – who are unwilling to respectfully disagree. I also firmly believe that the biggest, most irrational bigot (Hi, Mr. Trump), absolutely has the right to block you if they want.

Just because someone has the right to say something does not mean that someone has to listen to it just because you said it. You are not entitled to their space, to their mind, or to their attention. If they decide that the only way to protect their Patronus is to block you, they have a right to do so.

This includes celebrities – unequivocally and without any sense of “but they’re famous!” Celebrities deal with a lot, and know that opening the doors to their café and welcoming people in can result in overly intense people, people who feel entitled, and those seeking validation through attention, including bad attention. They understand the risks, and they certainly know that their profession calls for certain demands that others do not. They enter into it knowingly. This does not mean they, too, aren’t welcome to block those they deem to be Dementors. Feeling like you are owed their attention because you consume their art isn’t enough. Just like we are entitled to our little corners of our café, so are they welcome to engage with fans in what feels a safe way.

Because they are human, and are just as susceptible to Dementors, as we are all.

If you need to block a million people in order to feel comfortable in your space, do so. Create spheres that cater to your mental well-being, to love, to kindness, to respect. Engage without being creepy, but understand that everyone’s Dementors work differently.

Respecting others begins with respecting yourself, in knowing that it’s okay if you have to block or leave unhealthy relationships behind.

You are your own best friend, and you know what dims your Patronus and what makes it grow.

Dementors are the monsters in our head, soulless and always there. They can be driven away by our light, but they always linger; they always sit on the edges, carefully circling and waiting for the proper moment to make you feel like a prisoner. Do what you must to keep yourself healthy. Protect your spheres.

No one else is going to do it for you.

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