27 May 2012

Harry Potter: My Escape

So my AS Level exams have finished as of yesterday morning (yay!) and relief does not even begin to describe how I feel! As with last year and GCSEs, part of me feels quite shocked that I managed to make it through without any huge 'incident'. I did have a few less than perfect blood sugar scenarios. The first Spanish exam was after a morning of relentless highs, and then I was low during my English exam, and Economics yesterday - it was 2.5 (45) by the end of that, although shockingly I didn't really feel anything; probably adrenaline! It did mean though that when I went into town straight after my exam, I could have a coffee FRAPPUCCINO as opposed to a latte! (I think only those of us in the D-bubble could truly appreciate the excitement of that - It made me feel quite rebellious too!)

Once I returned home that afternoon, and thought of a way to 'celebrate freedom', the first thing I wanted to do was pick-up a certain well-known book, go out in the blissful sunshine and read. However, my parents haven't so much as put a ban on me reading it, but do become a bit frustrated when they see one of the books in my hands, for what must be the 10th time now!
Nevertheless, as one of my subjects this year was Spanish, and I was struggling a bit with it around Christmas, inspiration did hit me: my parents may be against me reading "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone".... they can't object to "Harry Potter y la Piedra Fil√≥sofal"! So a few Amazon clicks later, it was ordered and I started reading. By the time my exams came, I'd only had time to reach the Leaky Cauldron, so when I came home yesterday I decided to pick up where I left off, and have spent all day today in the sunshine reading. To be honest, as I'm hoping to apply to do English at University (outside chance Oxbridge, depending on AS levels), I probably shouldn't be reading a book I've read about a thousand times! But the Harry Potter series holds a very special place in my heart, which goes beyond the amazing story and it being the book of my childhood. More that, it was my childhood.

Me with my Nimbus 2000 on my 8th Birthday!
I also got a robot Norbert the Dragon!

I do credit HP and the incredible JK Rowling (the imagination behind it all) with helping me to deal with my diabetes at an age (seven) that should have been really the 'height' of my childhood (I also am eternally grateful for her creating a heroine that made it 'cool' to like 'school' - excuse the terrible and unintentional rhyming here! Hermione was my 'role model' growing up.) I think for me it was that, as my 'real' world became consumed by blood sugar checks, hospital appointments, this food and that food, injection (the list goes on!), it was my escape. And there was also the fact the the characters had faced adversity too. Obviously I would never try and compare having diabetes to losing a parent (something I am very sensitive to as three people very close to me have lost one of their parents), but it was the fact that their lives were far from perfect. It wasn't Disney where everything seemed to have a happy ending. When I watched some of the Disney films, it just seemed like something had gone so terribly wrong in my own life; how could there possibly be a 'happily ever after'? I guess that's maybe why one of my favourites of the films is The Hunchback of Notre Dame - one of the 'darkest' ones.

Not to say that the wizarding world didn't seem quite perfect to me. In fact I became so convinced and so desperate for it to be real, that I genuinely believed I would receive my letter on my 11th birthday, and actually thought the owl must have forgotten when I didn't! Because, and oh this is going to sound quite stupid, but when I read about how Madame Pomfry could grow back bones overnight and cure dragon-fire wounds etc... I really thought that she could have cured my diabetes too. That's what ran through my seven/eight year old mind for years until it clicked that it was just a story. And I even used to have dreams about some magic potion that would have 'fixed' me. 
But then, I talk about fixing. I think that the books already achieved that. When my entire world seemed to be falling around me 10 years ago, it would not be an exaggeration to say that those books, those words, helped to stitch me back together. And oh my goodness I can't believe I'm sitting here crying as I type this... but I don't think they're sad tears. More, they're grateful ones. Because for those hours I spent reading, laughing and crying, that world was all that was real, and it made me forget mine. And I think one of the reasons I have always loved fantasy stories, and writing my own (I wrote a 30 page one in year 7 as a 'short story'...!) is because it let me escape. And don't get me wrong, for so many reasons I love my life and have so much to be thankful for. But diabetes did steal my childhood in many ways - it forced me to grow up when I still should have been allowed to be a kid, carefree with no real responsibilities.
So Harry Potter for me was my childhood. When everything just got too much, when the numbers became all consuming and my real world too 'clinical', those books gave me a sense of hope; a youthful and innocent belief that things would get better. And there was also that sense of justice throughout the books and all fantasy novels and to a further extent all great literature. That good ultimately triumphs.
 I have spent a lot of time over the last 10 years doubting myself. With type 1 diabetes, it isn't your fault, yet I sometimes wondered: why me? What did I do and how is it right that I have this when so many people can do such horrible things, and seem to get away with it? Maybe Karma will come back to haunt them in another life, but it isn't right for a seven year old to believe she is being punished for something - and I did feel like that. And at times when things aren't going well I can feel like that still. Like in those exams, I just didn't know why of all times diabetes was doing that to me. It made me feel quite powerless, and it is hugely demoralising. Coming home and picking up HP, it was like a huge black cloud had been lifted, and I felt calm again. It is like me security net in a way, where I feel safe. That's why I'll admit I cried too when watching the speeches at the premiere for Deathly Hallows part 2, and JK Rowling ended with: "No story lives unless someone wants to listen... Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home" I was literally in buckets, because for me I will always return to it - it is that book(s) for me, and I don't think there will ever be another story which reaches out to me quite as much. It is one in a million.

There are quite a few quotes in Harry Potter which have inspired me, in relation to diabetes, and I've put down just a few of the key ones here!

“It is important to fight and fight again, and keep fighting, for only then can evil be kept at bay though never quite eradicated."
This for me is probably one of the main ones. Yes, Diabetes will most likely always be here, but it is no use giving up just when it gets a bit hard. I wouldn't be where I am today if I hadn't kept 'fighting' and telling diabetes: you will not beat me. And it hasn't, because I'm still here smiling, not having let it stop me. I suppose that then brings me onto the next quote, one of the most famous ones from Goblet of Fire:
"...when you have to make a choice between what is right and what is easy". This for me links in with the 'not giving up'. It would be easy to say 'okay diabetes you've won'. It would be easier to blame diabetes for everything and play the victim, but I have never wanted to do that; that's also another reason why I admire Harry as a hero.

"Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light." And funnily enough I think for me, Harry Potter was this light a lot of the time. When I had my darkest diabetes times, or darkest times in general, I turned to it: after both my Grandma and Auntie died, and when I had swine flu and became quite ill, to when my blood sugar has gone very, very high - it, like I said, helps me to escape.

I think Harry Potter for me though - there were so many characters I could connect with. I've  already mentioned Harry and Hermione. The latter for me was really just a symbol that it was okay to like school, and stood against the 'dumbing down' that can happen in society today. It's something that both JK Rowling and Emma Watson have spoken about in relation to her character, and which I 100% agree with. I've always loved school, have always been a bookworm, and it's not something I will ever be ashamed of; Hermione really helped me with that. And then of course there's Luna. I just loved her character, probably because like me she's a little ditsy! But also because she didn't try to conform, a bit like Hermione. I have been a bit of an 'outsider' at times I think. Like I've said before on my blog, I don't really like going out, drinking and doing 'normal' teenage stuff. It's just not me, and I suppose some of that is to do with my diabetes. So reading the books really gave me confidence in myself, to follow my own path and not let anyone else influence me.

Norbert and Nimbus may be gone, but Hedwig still perches on top of my wardrobe!

Back to the 'good vs evil' idea though, which I mentioned briefly earlier, I am going to diverge slightly from Harry to another famous fantasy novel series, if the letters LOTR mean anything to anyone...! I remember watching the film, and this just spoke to me so much. When I read the book later on (normally I NEVER watch films before reading the books, but I was tiny at the time!) It's the speech Sam does, and it is practically identical in the book and film version. May seem a bit cheesy, but it's something I think any diabetic can relate to, and find motivational.

It's like in the great stories. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn't want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it's only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn't. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something... that there is some good in this world, and it's worth fighting for.

And this isn't something I have always believed. I went through a period where I really didn't know how I could cope, going back to the "how could the end be happy?" But I believe that now, slowly but surely, I'm getting there. 
I think for me, what I am holding onto is knowing that I have so much in my life that is good. I have worked hard, have achieved good grades etc... all the 'technical stuff'. But I'm proud of me as a person. I know I've said already on my blog, how if I've had a bad diabetes day, I just tell myself "tomorrow is a new day". Yes, life with D is so far from perfect, but it has made me so much stronger, as I realise what truly matters. And earlier I spoke about 'fixing', but I don't really like to think that Diabetes has 'broken' me in any way; made me any less perfect or at a disadvantage to other people.
At the end of the day I have kept going - have not, and will not, let it stop me. I think that's a common theme in all the HP novels too, the whole doing what is "right", not what is "easy". I don't play the D-card, and like I've said before I think I've 'acted normal' to the point where peope can forget I have to deal with all this stuff, which can be hard at times. And that's why, for me, the Harry Potter books are worth far more than any Austen novel (I know she's 'Austen', but really do not like her novels!) But it's like my other favourite novels, Jane Eyre and To Kill a Mockingbird. They are about adversity, and how important it is to keep going even if the road seems too dark and winding. There is always a way for it to be good again, just as long as you persevere and keep smiling as you do so.

Books for me have been so important, and I think in writing this I've justified why I want to study English at University! I couldn't imagine doing anything else. Durham also appeals to me a lot, as they have a Harry Potter/Fantasy Novel module!

To finish, I wanted to share a poem I wrote on Christmas Eve two years ago, titled Fairytales. (I was still relatively new to poetry, wrote this 'open-mic' style and haven't changed any of it since, hence why it's not the best!) I wrote it after watching the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, and was reading Harry Potter at the time too.

Just words that were written;
they're not real...
but they are -
at least to me.
They are the places I escape to,
the dreams in which
I long to hide.
I can't let them go.
It is not ignorance
to cling to them,
Naivety to still believe.
Regardless of what you say,
telling me that I must
leave childish thoughts behind;
they are part of my reality,

I cannot let them die.

(And finally!) I just wanted to end on a Dumbeldore quote from the final book:

"of course it is happening inside your head, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?"

I just want to take the time now to say now how thankful I am to JK Rowling for writing these books - I cannot begin to describe how much they have helped me, and you will always be one of my greatet inspirations in life.
I am a dreamer (my poems alone can tell you that!) Maybe because my life is so 'real' with no rose-tinted windows? Maybe simply because I had to grow up too quickly? But for me dreams and imagination are so important, and yes I can sometimes get lost in them, but I won't ever let them go. I think all along I knew Hogwarts wasn't real, but it was my only real hope back then for a cure. And mainly it made me happy, for those few years believing; similiar to other things you believe in as a child, and I believed in it all to the extreme! And for me it was, and in a way still is real, because it made me feel something - made me hopeful. And I wouldn't trade that for anything. Because I still am hopeful; still dreaming and still smiling. 
I just hope that everyone else is too. I hope that, if you haven't already, that you can find your inspiration too, whether it be in the pages of a book, the pictures on a screen, or just the world inside your head. But it will be there :)

Sophie x


1 comment

  1. Emilie (emem001@hotmail.com)18 January 2014 at 21:08

    Oh. god. This is just so weird. I've had diabetes for 11 years now, and everything that you've written in this post is something that I can relate to, those quotes, everything! I did write something very similar to this in my old journal a few years ago. And those thoughts about escaping to another, uplifting magical world. AND the Madame Pomfrey thing!!!! Oh my god, it's like you've read my mind! The things we have to go through with this god damn illness, as little innocent kids, is just horrible. But escaping to these absolutely wonderful stories is something I've been SO grateful for. Sorry if my english is quite bad, I'm swedish, but I just wanted to say that I have the EXACT same relationship to both Harry Potter AND lotr!

    I was actually, a few years ago though, thinking about getting the "Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light" quote as a tattoo. But I have not done it yet, but thinking about it :D


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