This week, the entire world has been talking about one thing: the Harry and Meghan interview. It was an interview that rocked the world and is one of the most telling interviews since Princess Diana’s landmark Panorama interview. I’ve seen the interview twice: once when it aired, and again this morning, but what is really interesting to me is the nonstop commentary from friends, family and the public. It doesn’t take too long to see that two invisible factions have formed: those who believes what Meghan said is true about her mental state, and those who are firmly against it.
Over the past few days, I’ve been thinking about what Meghan had to go through and how painful it must have been for a woman carrying a child inside of her to not only consider suicide but think of it as a solution for her and her unborn baby. We know the UK press for its relentless obsession with the Royal family and will hunt them into danger if they can get just one more photograph. We all remember what happened with Princess Diana. From day one, the press demonised Meghan, and all that did was perpetuate a narrative of race and hatred towards a woman who is independent and different. Okay, she’s not of ‘royal’ upbringing, her career was acting (and activism), and she was a divorcee. She represented a minority and brought the hope of a turning page for the royal family and society in a wider scope. But she became a target of racially driven hatred. Instead of protecting her and shifting the narrative for her, the palace instituted a rule of no comment, which made the complete debacle far worse than it should have been.
Imagine not being able to leave your house, because some racist idiot would just kill you or leave you maimed for the rest of your life… just because you exist. If you didn’t exist, it would all stop, and that’s the train of thought Meghan possibly had with herself which lead to such a dark road… Now imagine telling your family, the people who you rely on for protection when you’re vulnerable, what you’re going through, and they say that this was just the way things were and nothing could be done about it. So mentally, you’re stuck with this “solution” that you don’t really want to have, and there seems to be no other way out, and the public hates you. That’s a fucked up place to be in, more so when you’re pregnant.
When I watched that interview with Meghan, sitting there all brave and talking about one of the most dehumanising and devastating experiences a person could face, I thought of myself when I was 14 and begging for help. I felt proud of myself for getting through that dark space and coming out stronger, and I felt proud of Meghan for coming through it and telling her story. I’m proud of her for getting on international television and coherently unravelling those vulnerabilities and the events that triggered them. Kudos to her.
What has really triggered me was the backlash from people I knew online. The messages were pouring in about how many lies “that woman” would tell and how she’s using her career as an actress to manipulate and fabricate these elaborate tales to destroy the Royal family. My heart sank to see family members of mine voice similar sentiments, given that roughly six months ago, I had a dispute about this very topic: the act of reaching out when one needs help and their denial of it.
To the nay-sayers, I pray that if you or someone you love are ever feeling vulnerable and you or they find the courage and strength to voice that vulnerability, I hope that someone pays attention and provides the support and love that you or your loved one needs, and doesn’t share your existing stance of “I don’t believe him/her.” But I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt, any person in my direct circle that says that they don’t believe her and think that she’s attention seeking and acting, you’re out of my circle forever. You’re axed. We’re done. And here is why…
We will never know whether Meghan went through that, or how bad it really was. But she was brave enough to come forward and ask for help and then tell her truth in front of the entire world. That is not something to take lightly, and we are in no position to judge.
When I was 14 and was being sexually abused at home, I naturally told my mother. She should have been my protector, the person who, no matter what, will do what is necessary for my safety and wellbeing. Instead, she slapped me across the face and called a liar. For two years following that, the incidents persisted and got worse, and I told every member of my family what was happening and how badly I wanted to kill myself to end the trauma: aunts, uncles, my grandmother… everyone. Those who spoke up did so to my mother who simply told them I was lying, and others stayed silent, for reasons I do not know. The decision made at a family meeting (for which my abuser was present and I was not) was that I was attention seeking and I was untruthful. My mother once stood and watched this man grab my arm and shove it into his pants, holding me there while I was trying to get away, and she still called me a liar. She saw it with her own eyes and denied it to my face. I was 14 years old and I have never trusted anyone since. I hope that whatever he provided her with was worth it.
When I tried to kill myself at school (there were other occasions but this one was a turning point for me), the teachers called in my mother, who said that I was “acting out” at home and that I will be “dealt with” at home (sub-text: a good old-fashioned beating or some equal punishment). Nothing came of it from the school’s end. I was told that I could speak with the guidance counsellor, but there was not much the school could really do. They could not get involved with “such matters” and they left me to just “get through it”. Thank you to my nun-principal, who told me to pray and ask Mary for strength to come out on the other side. I was a non-believer, but prayed and begged for superhuman strength to stay alive and sane. I think the mantra became cathartic for me and helped me stay focused on getting out.
Trapped in a house with a sexual predator and a mother who, despite what she’s witnessed, said I was just attention seeking to literally everyone around me, there was no way out; only through. The surrounding adults had failed me, and I was cornered, scared, and my sense of security and trust destroyed at such a young age. I was always tense, full of anguish, and dreaded what was in my future. Would it escalate into something worse? Suicide was actually harder than I thought it would be because despite the mental trauma and torment I faced, I didn’t really want to die, I just wanted out. I resorted to slicing open my arms as a release. When the school questioned her about that, she told them it was just a phase. I went to the police who told me I needed my parents to make a statement… which was hilarious because, well, you can only imagine how that played out.
I reached out to everyone I could. Neighbours, teachers, strangers… any adult that could help me get out. Naturally, they would speak to my mother, who would then give them this fictitious spiel about what an angry teenager I am and how I’m just looking for attention because I had a baby sister.
I will never have children of my own. I will never have that sense of security restored, and I will never trust a living soul with my wellbeing. I will never not be angry about this. This is all because the people in my life who I thought would help me and protect me did not. No matter what age someone is, if they come to you for help, trust that they may actually need it, especially minors. And while there are people who will abuse this and lie about situations, you cannot judge everyone with the same standard, because what if it is true, and they hurt themselves after you denied them help? Can you live with yourself knowing that?
To those who are facing hard times… Be strong. Yes, it’s cliche, but it’s important to not give into your thoughts, especially those dark ones. This pain that you feel today can be useful in the future, and it will pass. Think about a physical cut. It hurts when it’s fresh, and if you keep re-opening it, it will not heal. But once you’re in the clear, and it heals, the pain goes away and you’re sometimes left with a scar: a reminder of what happened and a story to tell. What you’re going through right now is your story. Reach out and get help. Don’t stop fighting and do not give in. Use that anger to elevate yourself. You may not feel safe now, but nothing is permanent. When you get out or through, focus on yourself and heal. That was a mistake I made and I regret not working through that pain earlier in my life, as it cost me a decade of my life. Go to therapy, read therapy books, and practice mindfulness in your life. You will get through this. Be brave. Be strong. And reach out.