Prince Harry Says He Drank to "Mask" Emotional Turmoil Amid Anxiety Battle

In his docuseries The Me You Can't See, Prince Harry looks back at the death of Princess Diana and how he didn't talk about the anxiety and anger he experienced in the years that followed.

By Elyse Dupre May 21, 2021 1:00 AMTags
Watch: Prince Harry & Oprah Drop Teaser for Upcoming Docu-Series

It was a heartbreaking moment the world would never forget: A 15-year-old Prince William and a 12-year-old Prince Harry walking behind Princess Diana's coffin following her death in a car crash in 1997.

"For me, the thing I remember the most was the sound of the horses' hooves going along The Mall, the red brick road," the Duke of Sussex recalled to Oprah Winfrey in the first episode of their new docuseries The Me You Can't See, which discusses mental health and emotional well-being. "By this point, both of us were in shock. It was like I was outside of my body and just walking along doing what was expected of me, showing one-tenth of the emotion that everybody else was showing." 

And while he was aware of the public's love for the Princess of Wales, Harry couldn't help but think, "This is my mum. You never even met her."

Harry was angry about what happened to Diana and "the fact that there was no justice at all."

"Nothing came from that," he said. "The same people that chased her into the tunnel photographed her dying on the backseat of that car."

Princess Diana's 1995 BBC Interview Bombshells

Thinking about his mother reminded Harry he couldn't bring her back and made him sad. So, he didn't talk about her or his feelings and stuck his "head in the sand" for years. Whenever people asked how he was doing, he'd simply say "fine," calling it "the easy answer."

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But he wasn't fine. Harry said he was "all over the place mentally" and that he'd experience anxiety before attending royal engagements. "Before I even left the house, I was pouring with sweat and my heart raced. I was in a fight-or-flight mode," he said in the docuseries. "Panic attacks, severe anxiety. And from 28 to probably 32 was a nightmare time in my life."

Every time he hopped in the car or saw a camera flash, he recalled, he'd start "freaking out."

"I would just start sweating," Harry continued. "I would feel as though my body temperature was two or three degrees warmer than everybody else in the room. I would convince myself that my face was bright red, and therefore, everybody could see how I was feeling but no one would know why. So, it was embarrassing. You get in your head about it. And then you're just like, 'Everybody is looking at me.' One bead of sweat feels like the whole face is pouring down."

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However, Harry continued to battle with his anxiety in silence. "Everywhere I go, every single time I meet someone, it's almost like I'm being drained of this energy. Picking up on other people's emotion," he remembered. "Finally, I'd bump into someone who was sweating more than me, and I would stop, be able to speak to them and then everything would calm down and then I could move on again."

After a while, Harry tried to numb these feelings. "I was willing to drink. I was willing to take drugs. I was willing to try and do the things that made me feel less like I was feeling," he said. "But I slowly became aware that, OK, I wasn't drinking Monday to Friday, but I would probably drink a week's worth in one day on a Friday or a Saturday night. And I would find myself drinking not because I was enjoying it, but because I was trying to mask something."

Although, Harry said he wasn't aware he was trying to shield his inner turmoil at the time. It "was my brain telling me that I'm in a fight," he said. "I never knew that. Why would I know that?"

While Harry found some happiness serving in the British Army, he knew he'd still have to deal with his past and his anger. "Towards my late 20s, I was starting to ask questions of should I really be here? And that was when I suddenly started going, 'You can't keep hiding from this,'" he said. "Family members have said, 'Just play the game and your life will be easier.' But I've got a hell of a lot of my mum in me. I feel as though I'm outside of the system, but I'm still stuck there."

The now 36-year-old duke started therapy four years ago to "heal" himself from the past and stepped back from royal life with Meghan Markle last year. "The only way to free yourself and break out," he said, "is to tell the truth."

The Me You Can't See premieres on Apple TV+ on May 21.

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