I started watching Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part One today. I had a lot of cleaning to do, so I figured it would entertain me. And I haven’t watched the movie since it first came into the theaters. This was a bad idea.
Less than five minutes into the movie I was sitting on the couch sobbing.
I don’t think that is a normal reaction to Harry Potter, but it’s been my reaction every time I’ve seen this movie, or read that book. When we saw the movie in theaters… every one of the 5 times, my friends thought I was crazy. Here I was crying my eyes out within moments of the movie starting, what was wrong with me?
But maybe we should consider a bit of context. Within the first flashes of the movie we see Hermione, struggling and obviously devastated, but forcing herself to maintain strong. We then see her obliviate her parents, and wipe their memories of her completely. As we watch her face vanish from the pictures on the mantel piece, we know that her memory is taken as well. We know that her parents have no recollection of who she is, or that they ever had a daughter.
As a kid, I related to Hermione. I guess that most girls did, but the fact remains, that Hermione and I are ridiculously alike. I have wild uncontrollable hair which seems to change with my mood, and which rejects most forms of taming. I spent the majority of my time in libraries, and at one point read literally every book at my school. I constantly had a pile of books towering over me. I was passionate, and defended my friends and family furiously. I was picked on, cheated off of, and had various slurs spit at me. I even had my Yule ball moment at prom.
As I watched Hermione grow up, and continually have to fight for the survival of herself and her friends, I felt for her, and I believed that she could survive. Because if she could survive—if she could find her happily ever after, so could I.
Now let’s shift gears for a moment, so that you might figure out the point to all of these disjointed musings. Let’s talk about the mental health treatment known at Electroconvulsive Therapy.
Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT): is a procedure in which electric currents are passed through the brain, intentionally triggering a brief seizure. ECT seems to cause changes in brain chemistry that can quickly reverse symptoms of certain mental illnesses. It often works when other treatments are unsuccessful. (MayoClinic.com)
Basically, they zap your brain and hope the chemicals fix themselves.
This sounds crazy. It sounds like the modern day lobotomy. Hell, a lot of people consider it the modern day lobotomy. But it works.
It doesn’t work on everyone, or every time, but it can work. My mother had her first ECT treatment when I was 10 or so. And it gave her several years of lower medication dosages, peace of mind, and overall health. Then it started to wear away, so she had another treatment and had the same miraculous effects. Then she had another, and another, and another.
By the time she died my mother had gone through ECT five or six times at least. Many of these times included multiple sessions. I don’t regret her usage of ECT, because it helped. In total it probably gave her four or five extra years of happiness… or at least slightly more happiness than she would have had otherwise. I do regret the use of ECT at the end.
I regret the doctors who continued using ECT even after they knew it was dangerous to keep going, the doctors who didn’t explain it properly to my parents. I regret that her brain started to slip away and that her memory was permanently damaged.
One of the major side effects of ECT is memory loss. Usually this memory loss is temporary, but it isn’t always. My father had a notebook full of pictures, stories, and explanations which she would read after every treatment. He would have to remind her that she had daughters, that he was her husband, and that her father had died. He would have to remind her that her older daughter didn’t live with the family, and why she was in a hospital. He would have to remind her that she had a dog.
After a couple of hours she would remember just about everything, but I wouldn’t be allowed to visit her those days. My father, having to explain why my mother may not remember me right away, is another experience which I don’t envy him.
ECT was a life saver for a while, but it was also terrifying and heartbreaking. And by the time I was twelve and she was receiving more treatments, I understood the risks. By the time I was eighteen, I understood that some memories don’t come back.
She couldn’t remember our weekend at that ridiculously fancy hotel in Kansas City, or the outdoor heated pool in January. She couldn’t remember the Macy’s manikin that looked like Tyra Banks, whose arm I accidently tore off. She couldn’t remember taking me out of school in fifth grade to see Star Wars: Episode I.
They weren’t important memories, are big memories, but they were my memories. Before she died I found that there were more and more moments which, when I would reminisce and laugh, she would just smile glassily. And I could tell she was pretending, I could tell that she couldn’t remember.
Now, to piece this all together. Hermione Granger, the literary character I love so thoroughly—and relate to completely, is forced to remove the memories of herself from her parents.
Any guesses as to why I cry?
Thanks for Reading,
Behind My Books