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We Can’t Assume Meghan Markle’s Life Was Perfect Behind Closed Doors

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Editor's Note

If you have experienced domestic violence or emotional abuse, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

You can contact The National Domestic Violence Hotline online by selecting “chat now” or calling 1-800-799-7233.

When I was a child and the evenings were long, particularly in winter, my mom and I would go for long drives. We almost always ended up in one neighborhood that was fancier than ours. At night the lights would be on and we could look in the front window and marvel at the decor, the light fixtures and create narratives in our minds about those families and what their lives must have been like.

Sometimes we would see large families dining at their supper tables or gathered in the living room together watching a TV show together. One time in particular, we saw a father playing the piano, kids twirling about and a mom serving what we presumed were hot cups of cocoa. We would “ahhhh and ohhhh,” struck by how often it looked like something out of a Norman Rockwell picture. Their lives must be “perfect” — or so we thought. 

Decades later, my own family had the opportunity to move into one of the homes Mom and I frequently admired. We were able to purchase it on an estate sale. It still had layers of wallpaper from 1970 and was a Reno job but it had everything I dreamed of as a child: a sunroom, a pool, a yard big enough for a playground, a fire pit, a large garden and loads of space to play.

Anyone driving by would have thought we were the happiest of families, and from a distance it looked that way. Smiles, waves, lemonade stands, pool parties, so much so that our next-door neighbor coined us “Ken and Barbie.”

But what lay behind our white picket fence façade was a marriage in turmoil, a very sick momma (me), tension, fear, angry outbursts and, sadly and far too often, things that are unspeakable.

After five years we moved to a more humble home and later separated. I now live in a rented townhouse, smaller than most apartments, with a postage stamp of a backyard area. As it turns out, regardless of my freaking address, I still have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and it was actually at its worst, when it most appeared like I had it all. 

Why do I tell you this today? 

Well, I was reminded of this when watching the Oprah interview with Meghan Markle and Prince Harry.

1. A reminder that no one knows what goes on behind closed doors. 

2. A reminder that we all wear “masks” — smiles, politely saying we are “fine” when we feel like the weight of the world and everyone else’s world, like it is lying on our chests. 

3. A reminder that mental health struggles are not exclusive to the poor, or those who make “bad” choices or to those who come from “bad” families, or lack of any kind, per se. It does not discriminate — it knows no race, no gender, no age and no socioeconomic status. It can be familiar or genetic or not. It can be situational or not. It can be brain chemistry or not. What it is not is a defect in one’s character.

4. A reminder that Harry and William have been boots to the ground, fighting for better mental health awareness and education, across the globe, and yet Harry couldn’t ask for help for his own wife, due to stigma! And when his wife did advocate for herself for inpatient care somewhere, because she was afraid of her own thoughts, and even being left alone, because she might end her own life when she was pregnant? She was refused help because somehow it might “look bad” on the monarchy.

5. A reminder that despite how far we have come in regards to speaking up about mental health, we have so, so, so far to go. Mental health is physical health. Why do some still see the brain as a separate entity to the body, by the medical community or even science? ( I know a lot of reasons actually but that is a whole other blog.) 

6. A reminder that mental illness, or rather overall mental wellness, is impacted greatly by the family who can do much to make life better or sadly, much worse.

And finally, when men in the public eye are affected by mental health challenges and when men speak up, we applaud their courage to share. However, when women do the same, they are often criticized, minimized and publicly shamed for not being humble enough or grateful enough or for expecting too much or for expecting too little, etc., and this patriarchal sexist BS? It needs to end for us to call ourselves even remotely decent human beings.

Image: Mark Jones, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Originally published: March 15, 2021
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