“I just didn’t want to be alive anymore.”
Like much of the world, I watched last weekend as Meghan Markle bravely shared with the public that she had been suicidal. Tears streamed down my cheeks as I shared her pain in a way only someone who has felt that way can.
I still remember the day those words first crossed my own mind. I was sitting in my car at a red light, waiting for it to turn green. It was a sunny afternoon, a stark contrast to the dark thoughts consuming me. I had just gotten a coffee from my favorite shop and was headed home when the thought hit me like a gut punch.
From the outside, there was no reason for anyone to believe I was struggling. On the inside, I couldn’t see the point of going on. I felt helpless, hopeless and didn’t see a way out.
Apart from being women of the same generation, it would appear that Meghan Markle and I have very little in common. I don’t know Meghan Markle. I don’t know the details of what she experienced separate from what she has chosen to share.
What I do know is my own experience and that these conversations need to take place. I know the only way to lessen the shame attached to mental health and the negative assumptions surrounding it is by creating open, honest dialogue about it. I know we need to make it acceptable for people to admit they are struggling and to ask for help without fear of judgment.
For these reasons, I would like to share my perspective on a few of her statements, as someone who just a few years ago, also didn’t want to be alive anymore.
For everyone who has felt this way, or who seeks to understand it more.
“You have no idea what’s going on for someone behind closed doors.”
The nature of television and social media today makes people feel they know what’s going on in the lives of others. Yet, we can only ever know what someone chooses to show us, even if it’s someone we know personally. We all have a public self and a private self.
It would be easy to wonder how Meghan could possibly feel depressed when she’s beautiful, wealthy and married to a prince. But before Harry, she was a strong, independent, accomplished woman who balanced her time between a successful career and philanthropic work. She gave up all of those things for love and in exchange, ended up in a situation where it could be easy to lose sight of herself and who she is. The media, whether that be the news or entertainment industry, glamorize life as a royal but not everything is as it seems.
The day I thought I no longer wanted to live, I was a few months past my cancer diagnosis and successful treatment.
Everyone assumed I was back to “life as normal” but I felt like I was drowning.
I was the same person as before cancer but I wasn’t the same either. Cancer had changed me and I didn’t know who I was anymore. Feeling lost or like you’ve lost your identity, who you are, is isolating. You feel alone no matter how many people are around you, who you are married to, how beautiful you are or how much money you have. I wouldn’t wish that kind of loneliness on anyone.
“I thought it would’ve solved everything for everyone.”
There’s this conversation that suicide is selfish. But if you have never been severely depressed or suicidal, you can’t understand that there is nothing selfish about it in the mind of the person who is going through it. You truly believe your friends and family would be better off without you.
I knew my family and friends loved me. I never felt unloved or unsupported. I also knew that my depression and the financial burden of my treatment was not easy on them.
I was facing a lot of survivor’s guilt, looking for a job after moving back home and struggling to pay off medical bills. I could see that my pain was hurting them too. I thought that if I wasn’t here anymore, the pain and the financial problems would go away. They could go on with their lives and it would solve everything.
I couldn’t see through my pain to be aware of the pain losing me would inflict on them. In my mind, I would’ve been doing them a favor.
“I don’t want to put more on my husband’s shoulders. He’s carrying the weight of the world.”
In addition to guilt and financial challenges, I lived with a lot of fear. Fear that the cancer would come back. Fear that I would fall further and further in debt. Fear that my family would realize I was not worth all of this and stop loving me. Fear that I was a burden on them and that they would come to resent me for it. I felt like I was carrying the weight of the world and I would have done anything to protect others from feeling the same weight.
Again, I don’t know Meghan, but I believe she felt like her presence had become a burden on Harry. She felt like the basic human function of her breathing made life more difficult for him. The only way she knew how to stop that was to stop breathing. Feeling like a burden to those we love often becomes our biggest burden of all.
“It takes so much courage to admit that you need help. It takes so much courage to voice that.”
For Meghan to ask for help and receive none is unforgivable to me. Mental health is nothing to take lightly. As she said, there’s a lot of shame felt in admitting you aren’t okay. Shame in not wanting to be alive but not knowing how to help yourself. Nobody should have to face that alone. While the interview was still airing, there was an outpouring of support for the couple but there were also a lot of negative comments.
If you were one of the people who diminished her mental health struggles, the only shame felt should be your own. Your friends and family members now know they will never be able to turn to you in times of hardship or vulnerability. If you don’t believe Meghan, why would they think you would believe them? You were unable to show empathy or compassion in someone’s most vulnerable moment and they will never forget that.
“My hope for people is the takeaway from this is to know that there’s another side, to know that life is worth living.”
This fundamental belief is another thing I share with Megan. It hasn’t been easy and I still have bad days. Healing isn’t linear. That doesn’t mean life’s not beautiful in it’s pain and imperfection too. Life will not always be easy but life will always be worth living.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – Call 800-273-TALK (8255)
If you or someone you know is in crisis—whether they are considering suicide or not—please call the toll-free Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) to speak with a trained crisis counselor 24/7.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline connects you with a crisis center in the Lifeline network closest to your location. Your call will be answered by a trained crisis worker who will listen empathetically and without judgment. The crisis worker will work to ensure that you feel safe and help identify options and information about mental health services in your area. Your call is confidential and free.
Crisis Text Line – Text NAMI to 741-741
Connect with a trained crisis counselor to receive free, 24/7 crisis support via text message.