Prince Harry is opening up about his and Meghan Markle’s struggles with mental health in his new docuseries The Me You Can’t See. In the series, which premiered Thursday night on Apple TV+, he reveals that the Royal Family refused to help them with their mental health issues, ultimately leading to their decision to step down as working royals and settle in Montecito, California.
“I thought my family would help, but every single ask, request, warning, whatever it is, just got met with total silence, total neglect,” Harry says. “We spent four years trying to make it work. We did everything that we possibly could to stay there and carry on doing the role and doing the job. But Meghan was struggling.”
Meghan’s suicidal thoughts
Harry also delves deeper into the suicidal thoughts Meghan had in 2019 while she was pregnant with their first child Archie, which she first revealed in their CBS interview with Oprah in March. “The thing that stopped her from seeing it through was how unfair it would be on me after everything that had happened to my mum and to now be put in a position of losing another woman in my life, with a baby inside of her, our baby,” Harry says. “The scariest thing for her was her clarity of thought. She hadn’t lost it. She wasn’t crazy. She wasn’t self-medicating, be it through pills or through alcohol. She was absolutely sober. She was completely sane. Yet in the quiet of night, these thoughts woke her up.”
He speaks of feeling “somewhat ashamed” that he couldn’t help his wife, and how they had to carry on with royal responsibilities while she was in crisis. “Of course, because of the system that we were in and the responsibilities and the duties that we had, we had a quick cuddle, and then we had to get changed and had to jump in a convoy with a police escort and drive to the Royal Albert Hall for a charity event and then step out into a wall of cameras and pretend as though everything’s OK. There wasn’t an option to say, ‘You know what? Tonight we’re not going to go.'”
Harry also reveals that Meghan is the one who inspired him to start therapy four years ago, allowing him to finally address the trauma he suppressed as a 12-year-old when his mother Princess Diana died in a car accident while fleeing the paparazzi. “It was meeting and being with Meghan, I knew that if I didn’t do therapy and fix myself, that I was going to lose this woman who I could see spending the rest of my life with.” He explains, “When she said, ‘I think you need to see someone,’ that was in reaction to an argument we had.”
Through his relationship with Meghan, Harry realized he had anger issues that stemmed from his childhood trauma. “I quickly established that if this relationship was going to work, that I was going to have to deal with my past because there was anger there and it wasn’t anger at her. It was just anger and she recognized it. She saw it,” Harry says in the third episode of the series. “So how do I fix this? And it was a case of, ‘You need to go back to the past, go back to the point of trauma, deal with it, process it and then move forward.'”
Silenced by his family
Harry also reveals that therapy was never something he considered before and that his family discouraged him from talking about his emotions after Diana’s death. “I am one of the first people to recognize that firstly, I had a fear of — when I first went to therapy — a fear of losing,” he says. “Four years of therapy for an individual that never thought that they would ever need or do therapy is… that’s a long time. I wasn’t in an environment where it was encouraged to talk about it, either. That was sort of, like, squashed.”
Instead of talking about his problems, Harry was encouraged by his family to stay quiet. “Family members have said, ‘Just play the game and your life will be easier.’ But I have a hell of a lot of my mum in me. I feel as though I am outside of the system but I’m still stuck there. The only way to free yourself and break out is to tell the truth.” He added, “If your parents don’t want to talk about it and your friends can’t remind you about it, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t say, ‘Hang on a second, I may be the product of my upbringing.'”
Harry, 36, calls his late 20s a “nightmare time in my life” where he would suffer from panic attacks. “Every single time I jump in the car and every single time I see a camera, I would just start sweating. I would feel as though my body temperature was two or three degrees warmer than everybody else in the room. I would convince myself that my face was bright red and that everybody could see how I was feeling, but no one would know why. So it was embarrassing. You get in your head about it.”
Instead of dealing with his trauma, Harry turned to drugs and alcohol to escape. “I was willing to drink, I was willing to take drugs, I was willing to try and do the things that made me feel less like I was feeling. But I slowly became aware that, okay, I wasn’t drinking Monday to Friday, but I would probably drink a week’s worth in one day on a Friday or a Saturday night. And I would find myself drinking, not because I was enjoying it but because I was trying to mask something.”
Dealing with Diana’s death
When Harry finally started therapy, it was a revelation that his issues stemmed from never dealing with the death of Diana. “The moment I started therapy and probably within my second session, my therapist turned around to me, and said, ‘That sounds like you are reverting to 12-year-old Harry.’ I felt somewhat ashamed and defensive, but ‘how dare you, you’re calling me a child.'” But Harry says his therapist explained what she really meant was not an insult. “She was [saying], ‘I’m not calling you a child. I’m expressing sympathy and empathy for you for what happened to you when you were a child. You never processed it. You were never allowed to talk about it. And all of a sudden now, it’s coming up in different ways as projection.'”
Harry also realized that the royal institution had been suppressing his mental health. “That was the start of a learning journey for me. I became aware that I’d been living in a bubble, within this family, within this institution, I was, sort of, almost trapped in a thought process or a mindset.”
To deal with his panic attacks, Harry started EMDR therapy — eye movement desensitization and reprocessing — and demonstrates it on camera in the third episode of the series. The technique involves rapidly moving your eyes and tapping your shoulders, which Harry says leaves him with a feeling of “calmness” and “strength.”
“EMDR is always something that I wanted to try and that was one of the varieties of different forms of healing or curing that I was willing to experiment with, and I never would have been open to that had I not put in the work and the therapy that I’ve done over the years,” Harry says.
Breaking the cycle of suffering
It was the birth of Archie that helped inspire Harry to step down as a working royal, because he didn’t want to continue the cycle of abuse. “I then had a son, who I would far rather be solely focused on, rather than every time I look in his eyes wondering whether my wife is going to end up like my mother and I’m going to have to look after him myself,” he says. “That was one of the biggest reasons to leave, feeling trapped, and feeling controlled through fear. Both by the media and by the system itself, which never encouraged the talking about this kind of trauma. Certainly, now I will never be bullied into silence.”
Harry credits therapy with saving his and Meghan’s lives and with helping him make the decision to leave the royal institution. He also reveals that the Firm tried to stop him from leaving. “One of the biggest lessons I’ve ever learned in life is you’ve sometimes got to go back and to deal with really uncomfortable situations and to be able to process it in order to be able to heal. For me, therapy has equipped me to be able to take on anything,” he says. “That’s why I’m here now. That’s why my wife is here now. That feeling of being trapped within the family is… There was no option to leave. Eventually, when I made that decision for my family, I was still told, ‘You can’t do this.'”
Now, Harry is determined to break the cycle of suffering that he feels his father Prince Charles passed down to him. “My father used to say to me, when I was younger, he used to say to both William and I, ‘Well, it was like that for me. So it’s going to be like that for you.’ That doesn’t make sense — just because you suffered it doesn’t mean that your kids have to suffer,” he says. “In fact, quite the opposite. If you suffered, do everything you can to make sure that whatever negative experiences that you had, that you can make it right for your kids. We chose to put our mental health first. That’s what we’re doing. And that’s what we will continue to do. Isn’t this all about breaking the cycle? Isn’t it all about making sure that history doesn’t repeat itself? That whatever pain and suffering has happened to you, that you don’t pass on.”
Harry and Meghan celebrated their third wedding anniversary on May 19. They are expecting their second child, a daughter, this summer.