Ms. Rowling Contemplated Suicide

How different all our lives would be!

For those who are not disturbed by interpretations driven by the Personal Heresy, this revelation would support the psychological or Jungian interpretation of the alchemy in the series. Either way, I know Ms. Rowling’s recovery from depression and consequent success will come to my mind the next time I am speaking to someone convinced their life is going nowhere and is meaningless; depression can be overcome and the world made better, much better, by those who have overcome it.


  1. Arabella Figg says

    I’m very happy Rowling revealed this. What an encouragement to those who struggle with depression and inclination to suicide, especially young people. And what an encouragement to them to continue to pursue help if they feel brushed off.

    Christians, especially, have been extremely poor at acknowledging depression, treating it rather as a personal and spiritual failure, addressing it with verse “arrows” and bromides, shaming those who suffer and condemning therapeutic and medicinal intervention. It’s a scandal.

    So I’m glad Rowling has boldly put this out there and emphasized that she had no shame over her struggle. May some critical doctor appointments be made this very day.

    I’m not sure what you meant by “the Personal Heresy,” John, and when I clicked it, was confused by what was there. Care to ‘splain this further?

    Kitties don’t ‘splain anything they do…

  2. Perhaps the reason for the dementors’ “realism”?

  3. Well, I do think it sheds some light on the powerful imagery of the dementors. And perhaps one reason why Prisoner of Azkaban continues to feel the most emotionally cathartic book to read (for me, perhaps for many). I suspect it might have been the most cathartic for her to write as well…

  4. Arabella Figg says

    I was able to get the “personal heresy” definition. It seems to me to be too much “either or.” While everything a writer writes may not be autobiographical in nature or specificity, everything the writer has experienced has formed the writer and his/her views.

    Rowling has been quite clear that writing the series has been a personal exploration of her own grief, faith-struggle and coming to terms with death. Her newest revelation more clearly reveals what informed her writing and compassion. I consider Prisoner of Azkaban, Order of the Phoenix and Deathly Hallows the finest books in the series for their exploration of internal suffering, psychological themes, etc., and overcoming.

    Hairy Plotter is exploring a bug on the rug…

  5. Arabella, this paragraph struck a nerve with me: “Christians, especially, have been extremely poor at acknowledging depression, treating it rather as a personal and spiritual failure, addressing it with verse “arrows” and bromides, shaming those who suffer and condemning therapeutic and medicinal intervention. It’s a scandal.”

    My father-in-law gave us a book back in the mid-70’s entitled, “None of These Diseases.” Being a rather new, green-behind-the-ears Christian at the time, I fairly soaked up the information and tucked the author’s message (certain maladies and psychological issues=spiritual misalignment) away to revisit another day. Unfortunately, that “day” coincided with unresolved grief following my mother’s death combined with the breakdown of other family relationships and an overwhelming sense of personal failure as a parent (specifically, *Christian parent*). The ensuing depression was enormous. Only by the grace of God and the creation of a Providentially-created discussion group at church dealing with depression was I able to work through those days and weeks. Like Rowling’s insightful GP, God gave our facilitator discernment and mindfulness of “follow-through” to help me face and overcome the dire circumstances at that time.

    Until Rowling’s forthright pronouncement of her struggle with depression and thoughts of suicide, I had not considered the importance of the Dementors in her work simply because I had not personalized the Dementors’ activities. I echo Jdilbeck and Beth’s sentiments; NOW the inclusion of such horror makes sense.

    PJ, loving life and thanking God for every day.

  6. Arabella Figg says

    PJ, you are so right and I fully understand your story, without going into gory detail. It’s only when I understood how truly broken, how truly emotionally frail fragile I was, that I finally and truly understood God’s grace and tender love.

    For anyone to think Harry went through the kind of childhood he did without depression, low self-value, unrelenting sadness and feelings of abject helplessness, doesn’t understand. Harry would be a natural “feast” for Dementors without and within. I think Rowling’s Dementors was one of her finest works.

    When our worlds blow apart, our inner selves implode, or we are simply continually sad, angry and/or apathetic, we need and can receive help, simple as that, and there’s nothing to be ashamed of.

    I highly recommend kitties for comfort…

  7. Arabella and PJ,

    This quote from POA does quite well describe what Ms. Rowling was feeling and remembering about her own experiences with depression.
    “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 will be left with nothing but the worst experiences of your life.”

    I am thankful to God that you both as well as Ms. Rowling have found your ways out of the “Dementors” (depression) snare.
    As in the Christian Church being weak in these matters, yes and no.
    My former Pastor (now deceased) was a warrior in the local community for reaching out to those facing depression, rejection, divorce, etc., when some in the church community would turn such as these away.
    Yes, we do need more ministers like him who are willing to sit with someone and take the time to talk, care and cry with that person facing their own personal “dementors”.

    Thanking a gracious God today along with you both.


  8. Given that the dementors may represent JKR’s real-life demons of depression, that leads to the question of what the chocolate represents as a relief after an encounter with a dementor.

    I always thought that was a most curious element in the story, especially having just re-read PoA again.


  9. Your empathy is most appreciated, Arabella. Amazing, God’s love and provision.

    Give the kitties a scratch and some extra catnip for me…too many family allergies to allow for feline entertainment in our home! We have to love ’em from afar….generally via AFV!

  10. David, your kind words posted after I responded to Arabella. Thank you.

    And Nicholas…may I step out on a limb and presume you’ve not been in the presence of a woman in the throes of chocolate cravings? Mercy! You can put your life at risk to be caught between a true chocolate-lover and her caffeine-laden, cacao-based treat! 🙂

    Rowling’s use of chocolate to buoy the spirits post-dementor attacks?…a wonderful tip-of-the-hat to one of life’s simple pleasures countering the Dementors’ cruelty. (The fact that the darker the chocolate, the healthier it is….well, there you go; the perfect medicine for the ailing witch or wizard.)

  11. Ah, chocolate simply representing . . . . . chocolate. Perhaps the simplest explanations are often the best. (Goodness, that had something of a Dumbledorian sound to it . . . . . )


  12. Arabella Figg says

    Actually, Rowling was quite clever to use chocolate. It has an unexpected oxymorinic ordinariness juxtaposed with the Dementors, but it also has important mood-enhancing effects.

    I checked several websites on chocolate. This succinct summation is from a student paper (which I’ve trimmed with ellipses and brackets) at

    “Eating chocolate increases the levels of endorphins released into the brain, giving credence to the claim that chocolate is a comfort food. The endorphins work to lessen pain and decrease stress (2). Another common neurotransmitter affected by chocolate is serotonin…an anti-depressant. One of the chemicals which causes the release of serotonin is tryptophan found in, among other things, chocolate (1).

    One of the more unique neurotransmitters released by chocolate is phenylethylamine. This so called “chocolate amphetamine” causes changes in blood pressure and blood-sugar levels leading to feelings of excitement and alertness (1). It works like amphetamines to increase mood and decrease depression, but it does not result in the same tolerance or addiction (3). Phenylethylamine is also called the “love drug” because it causes your pulse rate to quicken, resulting in a similar feeling to when someone is in love (4).

    Another interesting compound found in chocolate is the lipid anandamide. Anandamide is unique due to its resemblance to THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), a chemical found in marijuana. Both activate the same receptor which causes the production of dopamine, a neurotransmitter which leads to feelings of well being that people associate with a high. Anandamide, found naturally in the brain, breaks down very rapidly. …Chocolate also contains two other chemicals which work to slow the breakdown of the anandamide, thus extending the feelings of well-being (4).

    Even though the anandamide in chocolate helps to create feelings of elation, the effect is not the same as the THC in marijuana. THC reacts with receptors more widely dispersed in the brain and is present in much larger amounts. It would take twenty-five pounds of chocolate to achieve a similar high to that of marijuana (1).

    I think it is quite fascinating that a food such as chocolate can have such an effect on the operations of our brain and thus our perceptions of the world…. I have significantly increased my chocolate intake [and] think I’m a happier person… Could it be that the chocolate I consume now almost on a daily basis has something to do with my subtle transformation in mood? I would like to think not, but it is an interesting thought. I do, however, instinctively find myself reaching over to the chocolate stash whenever I start feeling a little depressed or overwhelmed and it always seems to make me feel better.”

    Arabella here again. The effects listed above would be very helpful after a Dementor attack. I find the “love drug” aspect critical here. It metaphorically and symbolically fits in with Rowling’s emphasis on love as conqueror over evil.

    PJ, my husband is the chocoholic at our house. And kudos to your former pastor, David. May his kind increase!

    The kitties never get chocolate, not even conniving Big-Eye Foody; it’s dangerous for animals…

  13. Arabella,

    Thank you from a fellow “chocoholic” like your husband on the educational
    information you gave on the medical aspects of chocolate. I wonder if
    Ms. Rowling looked into any of the medical facts in relation to help with the after-effects of a Dementor. Well, if she did or not, I was elated that she wrote the positive effect of chocolate into Harry’s story. It lets all of us “chocoholics” off the hook. LOL!

    One last point on depression/suicide counseling and the Christian church. There are a number of web sites that can help those that are facing these difficulties such as, and although I believe it takes face to face counseling to fully complete the healing process, it can be a first step for many towards the healing that gave “new” life to J K Rowling and then gave her the opportunity to give us all the world of Harry Potter.

    Hopefully one day the “kitties” can have chocolate too!


  14. As a chocolate lover, I’ve known for a while that it does make me feel happier or more content when I eat it–especially if it is dark chocolate. I actually eat some chocolate every day, and when I have it with my rooibos chai, I’m much happier, more content.

    When I first read that the proper thing after encountering a Dementor was chocolate, it made me chuckle. But it made such sense to me–when I’m feeling at all down or sad, I reach for the chocolate and it does help. I’ve never tried twenty-five pounds of it, but maybe that’s the reason Harry was given chocolate the size of a small boulder.

    I’ve been fortunate to never have had very long periods of depression, not the sort the JKR and some of you speak of. But once again, we are discussing something because of her books; she chose to use her personal experiences of depression as an important part of our understanding Harry’s personality, and now she is talking more about it, and continuing to shed light on something that affects so many. Some are fortunate to get the help they need, while others might not–it’s so important for people to seek help when they need it, and here is JKR using her books and her own experience to reach out to help others. So, thank you to Jo, and to all of you for sharing your own experiences.


  15. Arabella Figg says

    Other characters in HP struggled with depression and feelings of inadequacy. I’ve read that depression is anger unexpressed and we see this in HP characters.

    Remus Lupin, for one. A childhood victim damaged forever, think of what his life was, revealed, and unrevealed. He was the ideal person to help Harry. I think he functioned quite well, mostly (although we saw him seriously regress in DH).

    Sirius Black was another. Expunged from the family, even if he despised their views…that’s a hard one; even just being odd one out growing up, going to the Potters for refuge and familial love. His years of grief and rage in Azkaban and helpless solitude in OotP didn’t help.

    Ron suffered as well, as we saw during many points in the bookes and especially in DH.

    Snape chose to deal with his in a very poor way, yet he at least turned to serve good. Nearly-Headless Nick seemed a depressive. Cho certainly suffered depression after Cedric’s death.

    I think Rowling gave us these people and more to show how people deal with depression, either in healthy or unhealthy ways. I’d never thought of it quite like this until her statements. I think she’s done a great service.

    Thudders never met a depression he couldn’t squash…

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