Prince Harry’s reputation as a reckless “party prince” has almost always preceded him, as tabloids have been splattered with stories alluding to the Duke’s drug use and hard-partying ways since he was just a teen. His latest admission on how he was feeling at the time on mental health docuseries The Me You Can’t See with Oprah Winfrey, however, serves as a sobering reminder: There is often a complex reason behind substance abuse, and vilifying this behavior can do more harm than good.
On Thursday, May 20, Prince Harry confessed that his former thrill-seeking lifestyle was the result of panic attacks and untreated trauma regarding his mother’s untimely death.
“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,” Harry admitted to Oprah Winfrey on their new Apple TV+ show. “But I slowly became aware that, OK, 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,” he continued, adding that there was no space to discuss his mental health during his upbringing.
“I wasn’t in an environment where it was encouraged to talk about it either, that was sort of, like, squashed,” he said.
Before Harry met now-wife Meghan Markle, he was often thought of as Prince William’s party-boy younger brother after a series of scandals including naked photos of Harry playing billiards on a Vegas trip that made the rounds in the media just before his tour in Afghanistan. And while no one’s writing off the whole of his 20’s as a mental health episode, it’s clear Harry was running away from certain emotions more than he was ever, as it might have appeared, simply seeking a thrill.
The Duke of Sussex went on to detail the panic attacks form which he suffered, often as result of partaking in royal duties. “Every time I put a suit and tie on and having to do the role and sort of like go, ‘Let’s go.’ Before I even left the house, I was pouring with sweat, my heart rate was … I was in fight-or-flight mode. Panic attacks, severe anxiety — so 28 to probably 32 was a nightmare time in my life, freaking out,” he said.
When Prince Harry attempted to seek support from his family — which he did several times— he was “met with total silence or total neglect.”
Fortunately, Prince Harry now acknowledges the importance of mental health treatment, especially when someone’s suffered trauma like he had. He admits that his wife, Meghan Markle, inspired him to try therapy after a fight during which he acted like “a 12-year-old.”
“People who are hurt, understandably hurt, from their upbringing, their environment, what’s happened to them, what they’ve been exposed to, what they’ve seen — whatever it is — if you don’t transform, if you don’t process it, then it ends up coming out and in all sorts of different ways and you can’t control,” he explained, adding that he personally needs therapy because of “the past, to heal from the past,” by which he primarily means the death of his mother, Princess Diana.
We’re so happy to hear that Prince Harry is working towards improving his mental health! In the meantime, may this serve as a reminder to withhold judgment, as you never know what someone is going through — even a royal.
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Before you go, click here to see the best photos of Prince Harry and Prince William growing up together over the years.
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