As part of his new docu-series on mental health, The Me You Can't See, Prince Harry has spoken candidly about the death of his mother, Princess Diana, and how he tried using drink and drugs to cope with the emotional pain and trauma he subsequently experienced.
The Duke of Sussex said that some of the partying he did during his teenage years and twenties was an attempt to "feel less like I was feeling" and praised therapy for being an important tool in helping him start to heal. He credited his wife, Meghan Markle, for encouraging him to speak with a professional shortly after they met.
Recounting the televised funeral for Princess Diana, Harry (who was just twelve at the time of her passing in 1997) described it as an almost out of body experience. "For me the thing I remember the most was the sound of the horses' hooves going along the Mall," he told co-creator Oprah Winfrey, when discussing the heartbreaking moment he walked behind his mother's coffin, accompanied by his father, Prince Charles, and brother, Prince William.
"It was like I was outside of my body and just walking along doing what was expected of me," the royal shared. "[I was] showing one tenth of the emotion that everybody else was showing, [but] this was my mum – you never even met her."
Harry continued on to poignantly reveal that his loss contributed to him suffering from anxiety and panic attacks between the ages of 28 to 32. "I was just all over the place mentally," he said. "Every time I put a suit on and tie on, having to do the role and go 'right, game face' in the mirror... Before I even left the house I was pouring with sweat. I was in fight or flight mode."
On the topic of alcohol and drugs, the prince added, "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."
He also shared that he would regularly consume a week’s worth of alcohol in one night "not because I was enjoying it but because I was trying to mask something".
During the first three episodes of The Me You Can't See, Prince Harry also commented on how his father, Prince Charles, was reluctant to discuss Princess Diana's tragic death and how he was expected to just 'get on with' life, rather than seeking help for his mental distress.
"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'," Harry explained, indicating that wanting a happier life for his children was another big reason for stepping down from his royal duties.
"That doesn’t make sense, just because you suffered [it] doesn’t mean that your kids have to suffer," he said of his father's way of parenting. "In fact, quite the opposite – if you suffered, do everything you can to make sure that whatever negative experiences you had, that you can make it right for your kids."
Harry added that other members of the Royal Family told him to "play the game" too and continue on with life in his senior working role, but he refused. "I’ve got a hell of a lot of my mum in me... The only way to free yourself and break out is to tell the truth."
The Apple TV series airing has coincided with the results of an investigation into the methods used to persuade Princess Diana into giving her explosive interview to BBC's Panorama programme, with journalist Martin Bashir, confirming unethical tactics were deployed.
Both Prince William and Prince Harry have since released individual statements condemning the BBC and such deceitful practices. "The BBC’s failures contributed significantly to her [Princess Diana's] fear, paranoia and isolation that I remember from those final years with her," William remarked in his.
Harry added in his own, "Our mother lost her life because of this, and nothing has changed. By protecting her legacy, we protect everyone, and uphold the dignity with which she lived her life. Let’s remember who she was and what she stood for."
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