OPINION | Just like Meghan, I too felt like I didn't want to be alive

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Meghan Markle
Meghan Markle
Photo: Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

"I didn't want to be alive," Meghan tells Oprah in the no-holds-barred CBS interview that aired on M-Net (DStv 101) on Monday night.  

As footage of Meghan in a sparkling ball gown at a glamorous gala event is shown on the screen, the former royal explains that just hours earlier, Harry was cradling her in his arms on the steps of their cottage as she told him that she had suicidal thoughts.  

"Why did you go to the event?" Oprah asks. "Because I didn't want to be alone," Meghan reveals. The camera zooms in on Harry clutching Meghan's hand so tight that his knuckles turn white. He wanted to protect her, and that night it meant having to take her with him to a public event in front of guests and the media so she could be safe and not home alone.  

The cameras captured what we thought was a careless couple, but behind-the-scenes a different story was playing out. Meghan was experiencing, and still is today, brutal attacks from the press and on social media with absolutely no support from "the firm" – the phrase used to describe the royal family's business side.  

In her tell-all interview with Oprah, Meghan bravely shared that she gathered the courage to speak to those in charge to help her get the help she needed. But she was turned away. Even the firm's HR division admitted that they could see Meghan was struggling but that there wasn't anything they could do for her. 

My heart ached for Meghan.  

In the fairy tales, they never speak about the princess being unhappy, suffering from depression, or feeling alone in a crowded room. But real-life isn't a fairy tale, and depression doesn't differentiate between a princess or an average Joe. 

As someone who has struggled with my mental health since I was a teenager, I understand what Meghan meant when she said it wasn't safe for her to be by herself. I know what it means not to trust yourself with your own life. It's a battle I've fought many years – even to this very day. I know how difficult and harrowing it is to share those thoughts and feelings with others and be brave enough to ask for help. How scary it is to speak up finally. Then to be turned away. Devastating.  

I cannot imagine the courage it took Meghan to reveal her deepest struggles in an interview that would be broadcast across the entire world. To share so openly, her personal pain is incredibly valiant but also significant and inspiring for those of us suffering from the same thoughts and feelings.  

As much as I could associate with Meghan talking about her feelings of self-harm and how she saw it as the only way out, I also found encouragement in her story and the fact that all of us deserve to live our best lives. 

Harry too shared that he went "to some dark places" and previously revealed his years-long pain managing his life and mental health. Even with all the wealth and power around him, he too has had to fight the dark clouds that gather above him.  

One of the most challenging aspects of battling depression is that you feel alone. You withdraw, and you purposefully isolate yourself as not to burden others. But in her interview, Meghan did something incredible for those of us who privately fight our battles daily – she has shown us that we are not alone. She has told us that we are brave for speaking up. She has inspired us to own our story and to know that life is worth living.  

I've never shared my struggles with depression so openly on a public platform where strangers can criticise or critique me for the one thing that I've tried to hide every day of my life. I share my story inspired by Meghan to say that talking about your mental health is important. Seeking help is not a sign of weakness and taking steps to address your pain is incredibly important in finding some form of peace. For me, it’s been continuous therapy and medication that has helped me through my darkest days.  

Nobody's battle will be the same, and some days are better than others, but please know that there is help, and it is okay to ask for it. Your life is worth fighting for.  

If you read this and you feel like you need help with your battle, don't fear turning to a friend, family member, or even a co-worker. The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) can also be reached at 0800 21 22 23 or 0800 456 789, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Herman Eloff is News24's Lifestyle and Entertainment Editor

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