An Ode To Meghan Markle as a Mom: You Deserve All the Help You Need
"I just didn't want to be alive anymore," Meghan Markle revealed in her two-hour interview with Oprah Winfrey on March 7. "And that was a very clear and real and frightening constant thought. And I remember—I remember how [Prince Harry] just cradled me."
Watching the eye-opening conversation all I could think was: Oh Meghan, I'm so sorry. I've been there. Though I'll never experience racism or the toll microaggressions can take on your mental and physical health, or know what it means to meet Queen Elizabeth or be a royal (I've never even been to the U.K.) I do know what it's like to be a woman, to be pregnant, to have suffered a miscarriage, to be a mom, to struggle with my mental health, to feel isolated and lost, and to need help like I need air. And now, a toddler mom with baby number two on the way—just like Markle—I know what it's like to be pregnant in a stressful time and to need the support of my family and partner and workplace more than ever. But also to feel hopeful for what's next.
Why does asking for help still have such a stigma attached to it, even in 2021? Let's be clear: Becoming a parent is a huge identity shock. Suddenly your entire world revolves around this new human who needs you for absolutely everything and the old you seems like a childhood friend you haven't seen in years. Pregnancy and the postpartum period can transform your mind, body, and life in ways you never expected. Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs) affect 1 in 7 women and, according to Postpartum Support International, 15 to 21 percent of women experience anxiety or depression during pregnancy.
Markle described the loss of her independence after marrying Prince Harry and joining his world, an experience that sounds a lot like what many new parents experience but on steroids. "I left the house twice in four months," she told Winfrey. And while that's the reality for most of us during the pandemic, that feeling of confinement and being lonely was just one piece of Markle's situation—and it happened before COVID-19 and before any of us even knew what lockdown meant. Add on bullying and scrutiny from the British press and blatant racism, and to say Markle was struggling would be an understatement. She was literally begging for help from the institution of the monarchy as she contemplated suicide and was unable to get it. "I couldn't call an Uber from the palace, you couldn't just go," Markle said. And since she had turned over her license, passport, and keys upon joining the family, she was trapped.
Even Prince Harry admitted that he felt lost and didn't know how to get help. "I went to a very dark place as well, but I wanted to be there for her," he said. Going to his family wasn't an option, he said, because "that's not a conversation that would be had. I guess I was ashamed of admitting it to them. I don't know whether they would have the same feelings or thoughts. It's a very trapping environment that a lot of them are stuck in."
For me, a reformed workaholic (seriously, I was sending work emails while balancing my laptop on my pregnant belly in between contractions during labor with my son) who, while struggling with postpartum depression and anxiety, had to leave a job I loved after realizing I wasn't going to get the support I needed as my maternity leave came to a close, getting help meant creating boundaries, putting my family first, and relying on my husband more. For Meghan and Harry, it meant clawing their way out of a toxic situation and putting their child and emotional well-being first—even if that meant losing their roles as senior royals, protection, and money. Sometimes you've simply got to start over on your own terms.
Meghan and Harry coming out so publicly about their experience—and stressing the importance of putting their family's happiness first—is one step toward it being more acceptable to prioritize mental health and well-being. For it being more than OK to do away with traditions if they don't serve you or your partner. Let's normalize walking away from things in your life that don't allow you to be the best possible version of yourself and to ask for support (from a partner, friends, family, or work) when you need it. After all, there's no shame in survival.
"I grieve a lot," Markle told Winfrey. "I mean, I've lost my father. I lost a baby. I nearly lost my name. I mean, there's the loss of identity. But I'm still standing, and my hope for people in the takeaway from this is to know that there's another side."
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255. For those struggling with other mental health issues, the National Alliance on Mental Illness offers mental health education, resources, and a helpline (800-950-6264).