When I heard the news of Prince Harry and Meghan sitting down with Oprah in a transparent interview, I was thrilled. It was my thought this would be their opportunity to set the record straight on so much negativity spewed in the press. I wasn’t prepared for what I heard or how it would make me examine my own life as a military spouse.
Meghan was and is an independent American woman who fell in love with someone, who just so happened to be a prince. From the outside, it looked so picturesque and romantic. I was one of the millions of people who watched their royal wedding. The beautiful outfits, world-wide traveling and ability to serve looked like an amazing life to lead. Little did any of us know how dark and ugly it really is behind the scenes. But we should have.
Those perfect pictures hid a woman who was told she needed to be less of herself. Their happy and in love smiles covered up the hurt they were feeling about the endless attack on Meghan. It definitely hid how bad things were becoming. As I watched the interview unfold, I saw the parallels to my own life as a military spouse. Being told how to act, what to say and losing your identity, having it replaced with the word "dependent;" the reminders "she should have known what she was getting into." While the similarities might end there, it was enough to make me think about my own earlier years in this military life. The biggest difference (other than a castle and plenty of money) was the fact that I found my home and support within the community, Meghan was never given a chance.
As a therapist, I have the privilege of walking alongside my clients through some of the hardest times of their lives. The first time I heard a client tell me they wished they could disappear, I could feel the chills run down my arms. We never want to think a human being is suffering so deeply they are contemplating ending it all. While my role is to ensure they remain safe while supporting their needs through those dark thoughts, Meghan wasn’t allowed to have that lifeline.
It infuriates me. The courage it takes to openly admit to another person that you are thinking about suicide is immense, many can’t even take such a step and instead just end their lives. To listen to her share she sought help and was told she couldn’t have it because it wouldn’t look right caused the tears to openly fall down my face. It made me think of the almost 200 military dependents we are losing each year to suicide. This is what we’ve come to, despite hundreds of years of advancement and pushing against the negative stigma of mental health needs? How dare anyone care what it looks like beyond ensuring someone's well being. Knowing the monarchy was more important than her life is unforgivable, in my opinion.
Listening to Meghan share how members of the family were worried about how dark her son would be when he was born caused me to cry even more. Here is a woman who has given up everything she knew for love and is pregnant with her first child, struggling in ways we can’t even contemplate. She was completely alone. Knowing what we know now, it’s a miracle she’s alive and I don’t say it lightly.
At this moment, I want everyone to look at what Meghan and Harry shared for what it is; a chance to get it right. As a global society we’ve allowed the tabloids, social media and the news even to do this to them. We are a part of the problem. It's an important lesson for the military community to take in as well. Let this revealing interview be a lesson to everyone on the importance of honesty, empathy and above all, kindness. Without these things, we won’t evolve as a society to ensure the generations who come after us never know hate or unkindness.
Meghan and Harry's revelations will be debated and talked about for a long time, not all of it in Meghan and Harry’s favor. This is their truth, their experience and is absolutely their right to go on the record to share. To those who would disparage them or deny the recount of their experiences: I hope your life is perfect enough to cast stones. I don’t think you could last a moment in their shoes otherwise.
Every single one of you reading this article has experienced hurt. We all know what it feels like to be disparaged and feel the sadness or deep loneliness that often accompanies those painful moments. These are feelings that slowly chip away at the innocence many children initially have of the world, until there is no more left. It is up to all of us to change that. We can all start today and it's really simple: be better.