Trigger warning: suicidal thoughts & ideation
From the outside looking in, Meghan Markle has lived a charmed life. The mother, actress, and duchess of Sussex wed Prince Harry in 2018. In 2019, she gave birth to Archie, months after moving into the Royal Palace and taking up residence in her new, princess-like home. And in February, Markle revealed she and Harry were expecting their second child. The pair is currently pregnant with a little girl.
However, things haven’t always been easy for Markle. From publicly fighting with her father and facing near constant criticism (in the tabloids, and by the public) to leaving the Royal family and her royal life, the 39-year-old has endured her fair share of pain and grief. And these struggles took a toll. During an interview on Sunday night with Oprah Winfrey, Markle revealed she contemplated suicide during her time as a working royal.
“You were having suicidal thoughts?” Oprah asked during the two-hour interview.
“Yes. It was very clear and very scary,” Markle said in heartbreaking admission. “I just didn’t see a solution.” Like countless others, Markle didn’t see a way out.
“I was really ashamed to have to say it at the time, and ashamed to have to admit it to Harry because I know how much loss he’s suffered,” Markle added. “But I knew that if I didn’t say it that I would do it… and I just didn’t ― I just didn’t want to be alive anymore. And that was a very clear and real and frightening constant thought.”
Markle is not alone. While her situation is admittedly different than most, her thoughts and feelings are not. Millions of individuals contemplate suicide each year, and I would know. I am one of millions. On several occasions, I have seriously considered taking my life. And though my reasons are different — I live with bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, and was (very recently) diagnosed with PTSD — I understand where Markle is coming from. I know the shame. The guilt. The isolation, desolation, and fear.
You see, like Markle, I am a busy, “successful” woman. I am a writer and mental health advocate, one whose work has appeared in numerous publications. I have written about my disorders and suicide. In 2019, I founded a non-profit, one which aims to help young adults living with mental illness. I am married and a proud mother of two. My family is my world. They are my light, and they bring me so much joy.
I also have hobbies outside of motherhood that fulfill me. I am a distance runner. I’ve logged thousands of miles, running more marathons and half marathons than I can count. But sometimes, despite all of the joy and self-care the darkness takes hold. The pain and sadness consume me like a black wave. I kick, flail, scream, and gasp for air, but no one hears me. No one comes to help. And in spite of everything, I want to disappear. I, like Markle, don’t want to be here.
That said, I am. Thanks to medication, hard work, a great psychiatrist, psychologist, familial support, and whole hell of a lot of luck, I am still breathing. I am still standing strong. But I know what it feels like to be lost and downtrodden. To feel helpless, hopeless, and like there’s no way out. Meghan Markle had to feel this way with the entire world watching, scrutinizing, and judging. I can’t imagine how that exacerbates the feelings of overwhelm and despair.
“Suicidal thoughts have many causes,” an article on the Mayo Clinic explains. “Most often, suicidal thoughts are the result of feeling like you can’t cope when you’re faced with what seems to be an overwhelming life situation. If you don’t have hope for the future, you may mistakenly think suicide is a solution. You may experience a sort of tunnel vision, where in the middle of a crisis you believe suicide is the only way out. There also may be a genetic link to suicide. People who complete suicide or who have suicidal thoughts or behavior are more likely to have a family history of suicide.”
The good news is there is help and hope. Most mental illnesses can be treated, with therapy and medication. With life changes and self-care. Situational triggers, like the ones Markle likely experienced, can be trumped over. Circumstances can be changed and overcome. And talking about suicide breaks the stigma surrounding suicide. It makes treatment more accessible. It lessens the blame and shame. Because silence can have tragic results, but knowledge can save lives.
If you or someone you know is struggling with feeling of anxiety, depression, helplessness, hopelessness, or despair, call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also text HOME to 741-741 for free, 24-hour support from the Crisis Text Line.