Harry Potter cured a phobia my abuser gave me
Trigger warning: this post is heavy, deals with sexual abuse, mentions of child abuse, and themes of horror – especially the Saw franchise. No horror pictures or links are included.
October is Halloween season, which means horror movies. Lots, and lots of horror movies. Old, new, and revamps of old ‘favourites’, like the Saw franchise.
When I was 12, I watch the third Saw movie with my dad. It scared the living daylights out of me. I don’t know why he let me watch the movie, but then again my parents weren’t the best parents in the world. What followed were nightmares, night terrors, and an intense fear of the dark. For context, my childhood was not great, and there was always an undercurrent of trepidation when dealing with either parent. As you might imagine, this new fear only furthered problems. I was told I was ‘silly’, that I was ‘making too much of a big deal’ out of things, and when I couldn’t let it go, the threats came, so did the words.
For a 12 year old, I had quite the imagination. I was very into CSI (all three of them, but CSI Las Vegas was mu favourite) murder mysteries, and anything to do with Hannibal – I wasn’t supervised much as a child. There was something about Saw that scared me, and it wasn’t the psychological nature of it, nor was it the gore. It was the puppet, Billy.
I remember as a child never liking puppets, and as an adult I’ve never liked puppets, or masks. After over a decade of abuse my survival instincts are strong, and I depend on faces. An emotionless mask of a puppet, or doll makes me extremely jumpy, and sets off a flight response In me. As I’ve grown older the fear has gotten a lot better, and I wouldn’t necessarily class it as a phobia, until a few years ago.
That’s the background out of the way. I’m not just bringing up old childhood memories for the fun of it – that’s what therapy is for.
I was 19 when I met the man I shall now name ‘Douche’. Douche much older than me, and a favourite on the local fetish scene. One day when my brain is ready I might write more about the entire fiasco that was the Douche, but for now suffice it to say it was a sexually and emotionally abusive ‘friends-with-benefits’ arrangement.
The Douche had a predilection towards horror movies, and I remember the first time I went to his house I watched a movie called ‘Cube’. Over the next few months we ended up watching so many movies. He didn’t have much to do during the day so he just watched movies. He had a whole collection of them, and surprise surprise his favourite movies were horror. Whist Saw wasn’t his favourite franchise, he liked it. He particularly became interested in my complete, and utter refusal to watch any of the Saw movies.
He took it upon himself to cajole me into watching them, and to ‘cure’ me of my fear. He promise to distract me, to talk to me, and get my mind off it.
Whenever Billy was on screen he distracted me, but he didn’t do it by talking to me. He decided that sexual stimulation would be perfect, and thus throughout the entire movie (I forget which Saw it was, and I honestly don’t care to remember) every single time Billy popped up his hands wondered.
Unsurprisingly, this doubled down on my fear of Billy. Whilst I’d gotten a lot better at dealing with my dislike of Billy, shortly after everything went pear shaped. Every every single time I saw Billy my mind would automatically think back to that day, and the many days after. I would spiral, slip into a depressed state of mind, and ultimately I’d end up disassociating.
I tried time and time again to desensitise myself from the fear, but it didn’t work. Nights became harder as the dark would spur my imagination, and my imagination is a creative little thing. I tried working through it in therapy, but it didn’t help, and ultimately I don’t think my therapist understood what I was trying to get across. I carried with a deep fear of Billy the puppet up until I was forced to face my phobia head on last year.
Last October I had to confront my Billy the puppet problem when the new Saw film came out. Due to advertising, I would have absolutely no warning as to when an advert would pop up. My YouTube history went against Me since I’m a fan of FoundFlix, and the trailer would pop up often. The faded head of Billy the puppet was on nearly every single one of those adds. I spent last October not only battling my feet, but battling my brain. My mental health was in tatters, and everything was so raw.
I’d like to say there was some type of movie montage moment of facing my fears, but there wasn’t. It was an odd thing. I was on a Glam & Gore binge, watching her horror inspired SFX creatures come to life when I started to watch one on Billy the puppet. I’m not sure why I did it, but I did it.
In Harry Potter in the Prisoner of Azkaban, Professor Lupin has a class of third years face a boggart. Put simply, your darkest fear. He then has them face their darkest fear, and defeat it. How? By turning that fear into something harmless or funny.
That’s what I did with Billy.
At the end of the Billy the puppet SFX tutorial Glam & Gore, aka Mykie, included a blooper montage that consisted of herself dressed as Billy falling, doing silly things, and for some reason constantly repeating ‘razor blades’.
In my brain this humanised him almost, and it made him kind of funny. Watching an SFX artist dressed up as Billy being licked by an adorable puppy made something click. Then I scouted out other videos of Billy in humours situations and discovered the meaning behind ‘razor blades’. I watched it and I laughed. I then ended up finding myself on something called ‘Baby with a Gun’, and let myself fall down a hole of sketch comedy.
After I dragged myself out of the comedy hole I watched footage of Billy the puppet from the Saw movies, and I felt fine. (Confession, I’m watching the SFX video again as I write this, and I still feel mostly fine.) I can honestly say that I don’t really feel scared of Billy anymore. Unfortunately, the connotations are still there, but now the fear has gone it’s so much easier to deal with them.
I’ve been in therapy for just over two years. Throughout those two years we have covered a lot, and try as I might, from time to time we cover the Douche. He’s left a lasting impression. Two years ago I couldn’t, and wouldn’t admit to being sexually assaulted, but now I can. I can say I was sexually assaulted.
There are still lot of mental scars I’m healing from during that time in my life. I went a lot through that year, and whilst the Douche is a large part of it, there’s still a lot more I’ve yet to unpack.
Whilst the title seems too much like click bait, ultimately the lesson I learned from Harry Potter helped me to cure a phobia that my abuser gave me. Because of Harry Potter I can laugh at Billy the puppet … in the right context.