Prince Harry - Oprah interview: 13 of the most explosive revelations from The Me You Can’t See

Duke of Sussex speaks of his and Meghan Markle’s mental health struggles and how he learned to cope

Chelsea Ritschel
New York
Thursday 20 May 2021 19:30 BST
Biggest bombshells from Prince Harry’s mental health docuseries
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Prince Harry has again sat down with Oprah Winfrey for a candid discussion about his mental health struggles and the importance of seeking help in a wide-ranging interview, in which he touched on the loss of his mother and the treatment of his wife Meghan Markle.

In the five-episode docuseries The Me You Can’t See, which was released on Apple TV+ on 21 May, the Duke of Sussex, and other notable individuals including Glenn Close, Lady Gaga and basketball star DeMar DeRozan, spoke with the TV host about the importance of breaking down mental health stigmas.

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For Harry, this meant opening up about topics ranging from his mother Princess Diana’s tragic death and his subsequent fear and anxiety of paparazzi to his eventual decision to seek therapy, as well as the steps he is taking to ensure history does not repeat itself.

Harry started therapy four years ago at Meghan’s encouragement

During the documentary, Harry reflected on his decision to seek mental health counselling, telling Winfrey that he had never felt like he needed therapy growing up, nor was he “in an environment where it was encouraged to talk about it either”.

When Winfrey asked what made Harry think he needed to seek therapy, he responded: “The past. To heal myself from the past.”

Later in the series, he revealed that it was on Meghan’s suggestion that he finally went to therapy, after the couple had had an argument and that, in that moment, he had “reverted back to 12-year-old Harry”.

According to the duke, his late 20s were a hectic time in his life, with Harry describing himself as the “yes man” who would perform royal duties all over the world.

After experiencing burnout, he told Winfrey that he visited doctors, therapists, and alternative therapists, but that it was meeting Meghan that encouraged him to really seek mental health help.

“I saw all sorts of people but it was meeting and being with Meghan,” he recalled. “I knew that if I didn’t do the therapy and fix myself, that I was going to lose this woman who I could see spending the rest of my life with.”

Harry’s memory of his mother is watching her being chased by paparazzi and feeling helpless

Speaking with Winfrey about the years leading up to the death of his mother, the Duke of Sussex revealed that when he thinks about the late Princess of Wales, the first memory that “comes to mind is always the same one, over and over again”.

“Strapped in the car, seatbelt across, with my brother in the car as well, and my mother driving, being chased by three, four, five mopeds with paparazzi on, and she was always unable to drive because of tears. There was no protection,” he recalled.

According to Harry, the memory always raises in him a feeling of helplessness, of being too young to protect his mother.

He felt bitter at having to share his mother’s funeral with the world

When Princess Diana’s funeral was held in 1997, it was watched by more than 30 million people worldwide.

However, according to Harry, who admitted he didn’t want the royal life anymore at that point, the outpouring of love and support from her fans and supporters was overwhelming on the emotional day.

“Sharing the grief of my mother’s death with the world… For me, the thing I remember the most was the sound of the horses’  hooves going along the mall, red brick road,” he recalled. “It was like I was outside of my body and just walking along, doing what was expected of me, showing one tenth of the emotion everybody else was showing.

“I was like, this is my mum. You never even met her.”

Princess Diana’s death was never spoken about

Following his mother’s death, Harry said that he struggled to think about the circumstances surrounding the 31 August accident, as he felt there was “no justice at all”.

“I was so angry with what happened to her and the fact that there was no justice at all. Nothing came from that. The same people who chased her into the tunnel, photographed her dying in the backseat of that car,” he told Winfrey, adding that he also didn’t want to think about his mother because “if I think about her, then it’s going to bring up the fact that I can’t bring her back and it’s just going to make me sad”.

When Winfrey asked whether others in the royal family talked about Harry and Prince William’s late mother, the duke said: “No one was talking about it.”

Harry turned to ‘drugs and alcohol’ to cope with his anxiety

According to Harry, his late 20s and early 30s were a “nightmare time” in his life during which he struggled with severe anxiety and often looked for ways to mask his pain.

During this time, he told Winfrey that he was “willing to drink, willing to take drugs, I was willing to 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 was finding myself drinking not because I was enjoying it, but because I was trying to mask something… [I was] completely unaware of it,” he said.

Harry’s “happiest time” was when he was in the army

The duke, who served in the army for 10 years, during which he rose to the rank of Captain and served two tours of Afghanistan, described this point in his life as “without question” his “happiest time”.

According to Harry, his happiness stemmed from a feeling of belonging and being treated like everyone else, with the 36-year-old noting: “I got to wear the same uniform as everybody else, I had to do all the same training as everybody else, I started from the bottom like everybody else. There was no special treatment because of who I was.”

In addition to happiness, Harry said he also felt his most “normal” while serving in the armed forces in Afghanistan, as he was “away from the media”.

The clicking of cameras makes his “blood boil”

During the documentary, Prince Harry also opened up about the early days of his and Meghan’s relationship and the racist overtones frequently used to describe her in media coverage.

“Within the first eight days of our relationship being made public was when they said, ‘Harry’s girl almost straight outta Compton’. And that her exotic DNA will be thickening the royal blood,” he remembered. “We would get followed, photographed, chased, harassed.”

According to Harry, the constant paparazzi presence and the “clicking of cameras and flashes of cameras” still makes his blood boil, as it brought him back to his childhood and his mother’s experience being hounded by the media.

He also noted that social media added another layer to the harassment.

He felt completely helpless and abandoned by the royal family, who refused to step in and help

Reflecting on the never-ending coverage and interest in his and Meghan’s relationship, Harry revealed that he felt “helpless,” especially when requests for his family’s intervention were ignored.

“I thought my family would help, but every single ask, request, warning, whatever it is, just got met with total silence or total neglect,” he told Winfrey, adding that he and Meghan had done everything to try to make it work as members of the royal family but that she was starting to struggle.

On Meghan’s suicidal thoughts and Harry’s shame over not being able to do more to help

During the couple’s first sit-down interview with Winfrey in March, Meghan revealed she had experienced suicidal thoughts towards the end of their time in the UK, before referencing a 2019 photo taken of her and Harry on their way to a concert at Royal Albert Hall as the day she’d told her husband about her feelings.

Speaking with Winfrey during the new documentary, Harry spoke candidly about the moment from his perspective, with the duke revealing that, earlier that evening, his wife had shared with him “the suicidal thoughts and the practicalities of how she was going to end her life”.

“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,” he said. “She was completely sane, yet in the quiet of night, these thoughts woke her up.”

According to Prince Harry, what stopped Meghan, who was six months pregnant at the time, from acting on these thoughts was “how unfair it would be on me after everything that had happened to my mum and to now be put into a position of losing another woman in my life, with a baby inside of her, our baby”.

Reflecting on the day now, Harry said he was ashamed of his response, telling Winfrey that, due to the duties expected of them, they had cuddled briefly before making their way to the charity event, where they had to “pretend as though everything is okay”.

When the couple’s son Archie was born, it became one of their “biggest reasons to leave,” according to Harry, as he wanted to be able to focus solely on their child rather than constantly worry “whether my wife is going to end up like my mother and I’m gonna have to look after him myself”.

Harry will never be “bullied into silence”

Of the couple’s eventual decision to step down from their roles as senior members of the royal family, Harry said he no longer wanted to feel “trapped and controlled through fear both by the media and by the system itself”.

Adding that speaking about “this kind of trauma” was not encouraged by the firm, Harry said: “But certainly now, I will never be bullied into silence.”

Harry tries EMDR and reveals why flying into London is a “trigger”

In the third episode of the docu-series, Harry explained that therapy, for him, is now about prevention.

He also tried EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing), a form of psychotherapy that encourages healing through the recalling of distressing images, with Sanja Oakley, an EMDR consultant featured in the documentary describing it as a “a relatively new form of trauma informed therapy”.

According to Harry, EMDR is “always something that I’ve wanted to try,” with the duke revealing that he never would have been open to the therapy if he hadn’t put in the work over the last four years.

For Harry, one triggering moment and memory is flying into London, which he said always makes him feel “worried, concerned, and a little bit tense and uptight”.

“And I could never understand why, I was aware of it, I wasn’t aware of it at the time when I was younger, but after I started doing therapy and stuff like that I became aware of it and was like: ‘Why do I feel so uncomfortable?’ And of course, for me, London is a trigger, unfortunately,” Harry said. “Because of what happened to my mum and because of my experience and what I saw.”

Harry told Oakley that, in these moments, he feels as if he is being “hunted” and “helpless” and that his anxiety stems from his awareness that he cannot do anything about it.

“There is no escape. There is no way out of this,” he said.

During the therapy, the soon-to-be father-of-two said that he would instead tell himself in those moments that he is not helpless, and there’s nothing to be afraid of.

Harry has learned you need to process in order to be able to heal

After Harry spent a large portion of his life ignoring his trauma, he said one of the biggest lessons he’s learned “is that 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”.

According to the royal, by accepting this, and undergoing therapy, he feels he is now “equipped to “take on anything”.

He said: “That’s why I’m here now. That’s why my wife is here now.”

However, he did note that when he first decided to leave the UK, he was told they were not allowed, which he said made him question how bad it would have to get before they were able to remove themselves from the situation and acknowledging that his wife was “going to end her life”.

On his regrets and history repeating itself

As for whether he has any regrets, the duke said that his biggest regret is not calling out the racism Meghan was facing in their relationship earlier.

“Do I have any regrets? Yeah, my biggest regret is not making more of a stance earlier on in my relationship with my wife and calling out the racism when I did,” he said.

Harry then compared his relationship with Meghan, who is half Black, to that of his mother’s with Dodi Al Fayed, revealing that he felt “history was repeating itself” as his mother was also targeted by the paparazzi for dating someone that “wasn’t white”.

“History was repeating itself. My mother was chased to her death while she was in a relationship with someone that wasn’t white. And now look at what’s happened. You wanna talk about history repeating itself, they’re not gonna stop until she dies,” he said.

According to Harry, he is speaking out because he wants to end the cycle, a cycle which he said his father Prince Charles used to tell him and his brother was unavoidable.

He said: “It’s incredibly triggering to potentially lose another woman in my life. The list is growing. And it all comes back to the same people, the same business model, the same industry. Because 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 gonna be like that for you.’”

Harry said his father’s mindset is one that doesn’t make sense to him, continuing: “That doesn’t make sense. Just because you suffered, that doesn’t mean that your kids have to suffer. In fact quite the opposite, if you’ve suffered, do whatever you can to make sure that whatever experiences, negative experiences you had, that you can make it right for your kids.”

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