Harry Potter: one of the most recognisable names in the modern world. The boy wizard was created during an experience of severe depression for author J.K. Rowling, who fought her own dementors by creating the magical world of Hogwarts in her tiny Scottish apartment. The books have gained worldwide attention, won multiple awards and sold more than 400 million copies.
Early life and career
Joanne Rowling, who writes under the pen name J.K. Rowling, was born on 31 July 1965 in Yate, Gloucestershire, England. She is a British novelist, film and television producer, screenwriter and philanthropist. In 1982, Rowling took the entrance exams for Oxford University but was not accepted. Instead, she went for a B.A. in French and Classics at the University of Exeter.
As a child, Rowling used to write about the fantasy stories which she frequently read to her sister.
She once said that her teenage years were unhappy.
Her life at home was complicated by her mother’s illness and a strained relationship with her now estranged father. In 1990, while she was returning from Manchester to London, the idea for a story of a young boy attending a school of wizardry came into her mind. In December, her mother died after ten years of suffering from multiple sclerosis.
At the time when Rowling was 25, she lost her mother. This was around the same the time when she had begun writing Harry Potter but had never told her mother about it. Her mother’s death heavily affected Rowling’s writing, and she channelled her own emotions of loss by writing about Harry’s feelings of loss in greater detail in the first book. Rowling in her 20s finished her first novel.
Later on, at the age of 27, she married the Portuguese television journalist, Jorge Arantes and their child, Jessica was born on 27 July 1993 in Portugal. Her husband used to abuse her. Depression hit Rowling when her first marriage to the television journalist broke down just after two years.
In 1993, the couple got separated. Afterwards, she and her daughter moved to Scotland to be near Rowling’s sister. All she had at the time, were three chapters of her book.
“I was jobless, a lone parent and as poor, as is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless,” she said in her commencement speech at Harvard.
The shattered life
Seven years after graduating from university, Rowling saw herself as a failure. At this point of time, her depression took a dark turn and she felt fallen and stuck. At the age of 29, she was a single mother living on welfare.
While caring for her newborn daughter and dealing with the aftermath of a catastrophic marriage, she experienced major clinical depression. Rowling also dealt with suicidal thoughts.
Dealing with depression
“I was very frightened of my father for a very long time and also tried desperately to get his approval and make him happy. We were as skint as you can be without being homeless and at that point, I was definitely clinically depressed”.
After sending the manuscript of her first Harry Potter book, it was turned down by 12 publishers before Bloomsbury picked it up. It’s hard to believe that she faced a lot of rejections for such a wonderful series.
For Rowling, rock bottom wasn’t the end, but rather, it was an opening to new possibilities and eventually, a step in conquering success. She poured her life into creating the world of Harry Potter. Her own personal failures gave her energy to work on her passions.
At the age of 35, she released 4 books and was named the author of the year. Today, Harry Potter is a world wide brand worth more than 15 billion dollars. She no longer suffers from the debilitating depression, as she overcame the obstacle.
“Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”
― J.K. Rowling
J.K. Rowling has been vocal about her mental illness. She discusses her feelings and experiences with depression freely and openly and is proud of having beaten it. Depression not only hurts, instead, it kills people inside. Depressed souls don’t find anything positive, rather they are drowned in overwhelming sadness.
Everyone deals with it differently. While some will definitely get over it, some live with it indefinitely, and sadly, some will finally decide to take their own lives. What J.K. Rowling’s story teaches us, is to be our own saviours. Tough times will come by, but we have to persevere.
Edited by Preetika Dubey