The 36-year-old recalled “trying to mask” his grief over losing his mother on his and Oprah’s new Apple TV+ docuseries about mental-health awareness.
In the first episode of The Me You Can’t See— Oprah Winfrey and Prince Harry’s five-part docuseries about mental-health awareness — the Duke of Sussex spoke candidly about turning to drugs and alcohol years after the death of his mother, Princess Diana.
Harry was just 12 years old when Diana died in a car crash in August 1997 while being chased by paparazzi, but as he told Winfrey on the Apple TV+ series, he “never processed” his grief for years. In fact, while growing up, Harry said he “wasn’t in an environment where it was encouraged to talk about it either. That was sort of, like, squashed.”
“If people said, ‘how are you?’ I’d be like ‘fine,’” Prince Harry added. “Never happy. Never sad, just fine. Fine was the easy answer. But I was all over the place mentally.”
Matters worsened when it came time for Harry to embark on his royal duties.
“Every time I put a suit on and tie on and having to do the role, and sort of like go, ‘Right, game face’ look in the mirror and say, ‘let’s go,’ before I even left the house, I was pouring with sweat,” Harry recalled. “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.”
To cope, Harry said he turned to drugs and alcohol.
“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 revealed, adding that he’d drink “a week’s worth of alcohol” on a Friday or Saturday night “not because I was enjoying it, but because I was trying to mask something.”
It was just four years ago that Harry finally sought therapy — a decision that he said was inspired by his wife, Meghan Markle.
“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,” Harry told Winfrey. “There was a lot of learning right at the beginning of our relationship. She was shocked to be coming backstage of the institution of the British royal family. When she said, ‘I think you need to see someone,’ that was in reaction to an argument we had. And in that argument, not knowing about it, I reverted back to 12-year-old Harry.”
He continued, “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.”