Recently I reread listened (thanks Jim Dale) to Harry Potter and was captivated by Dementors. Not so much as they relate to the story but as they relate to my own experience with Depression. To refresh your memory here are some quotes about Dementors from the books:

“Dementors are among the foulest creatures that walk this earth. They infest the darkest, filthiest places, they glory in decay and despair, they drain peace, hope, and happiness out of the air around them. Even Muggles feel their presence, though they can’t see them. Get too near a Dementor and every good feeling, every happy memory will be sucked out of you. If it can, the Dementor will feed on you long enough to reduce you to something like itself — soul-less and evil. You’ll be left with nothing but the worst experiences of your life.”

“For that was the terrible power of the dementors: to force their victims to relive the worst memories of their lives, and drown, powerless, in their own despair. . . .”

“You can exist without your soul, you know, as long as your brain and heart are still working. But you’ll have no sense of self anymore, no memory, no . . . anything. There’s no chance at all of recovery. You’ll just — exist. As an empty shell. And your soul is gone forever . . . lost.”

These should sound eerily familiar to those who have and are suffering from depression. One of the most difficult things I have found is how to explain what depression feels like to someone who has never had it. In truth it is one of those things that no-one who hasn’t experienced it can truly grip but I have found Dementors have been a very effective way to communicate at least the severity of the disease.

I know personally depression feels like a loss of hope, happiness and peace, without medication and treatment I had gone further down that pit and succumbed to despair and watched my soul decay into nothing leaving me as an empty shell.

A friend who stood by me during some of my darkest moments shared their thoughts upon seeing me after an absence of many months and during the worst of my depression.

“I still have a vivid image of … seeing you for the first [time] after the summer ended … It was then that I more fully realized and understood that you were going through hell. It made my heart ache to see you like that”

That is what makes depression the foulest disease, it destroys your entire ethos, and just like Dementors if it lingers around long enough it can physically change you. However with treatment, support and patience it can be beaten, and once you have overcome the worst of it you will know you can beat it again for just as Harry learned:

“And now a chill settled over them where they stood, and Harry heard the rasping breath of the dementors that patrolled the outer trees. They would not affect him now. The fact of his own survival burned inside him, a talisman against them, as though his father’s stag kept guardian in his heart.”

And remember if you don’t know how to explain to someone when you are suffering from depression just tell them you’ve been attacked by a Dementor