When I think about princesses, I think about Cinderella. She worked so hard to do what was expected of her, she went to the party everyone wanted her to attend, and she left when a Prince thought she should stay. I have found my sneakers are much better to run in than glass slippers, and while I’m not a princess, I know what it’s like to want to run away and hide from your issues.
It’s mental health month, and I can’t stop thinking about the interview Megan Markle gave Oprah. Hearing her bravely tell her story of coming back from depression was so inspiring to me. I think we expect that when you marry a Prince, you get a happily ever after, but Megan showed us sometimes you have to write your own happy ending and be the hero of your own fairytale.
I needed a Megan Markle thirty years ago. I wish I had seen that for myself when I needed an example of a woman taking charge of her wellness. Thirty years ago, I was struggling with my own mental health. I was sixteen years old and having terror-filled attacks that seemed to come out of nowhere. Sitting in class, driving my car home from practice, or going out with friends was a total struggle for me. Out of the blue, I would begin to feel unbelievably scared, crazy-dizzy, disoriented, confused, and as if I might lose consciousness. Feelings of unreality and despair would wash over me. I truly felt like I needed to be sent to a hospital or committed to a home for people who couldn’t function normally. Something was definitely “wrong” with me.
This began a very dark stretch of my life because it continued to worsen, and no one had any answers for what was wrong with me. They thought I had low blood sugar; then they thought I had a seizure disorder. The bottom line is from age sixteen to twenty-five, I was in extreme darkness. The suffering became almost unbearable.
I quit college, married a safe person who knew I had this issue, and put up one wall after another, trying to extricate myself from the world because I couldn’t function in it. Every five minutes of every day became a struggle for me. I couldn’t walk to my mailbox, drive my car to work, or walk-in Walmart without having an attack.
Eventually, I got a diagnosis of panic disorder, and that diagnosis literally saved my life. Just a week before that, I was on the bathroom rug in a fetal position, pleading with God to please take my life. That is how bad it was. And since no one knew what was wrong with me, I simply felt like I was crazy. Why couldn’t I tell my mind I was safe? Why didn’t I trust myself? Why couldn’t I even be alone and safe in my own body?
I felt embarrassed, ashamed, scared, helpless, and hopeless. What twenty-something functions like this. What young adult can’t go somewhere by herself, drive by herself, or even be left alone in her home by herself without feeling like she would have a mental breakdown? I was convinced I was just a weak-minded, crazy person who simply was utterly dysfunctional.
I felt incredibly alone in my suffering, and I hid this supposed weakness from almost everyone. Back then, you didn’t breathe the word mental illness because it felt like an enormous stigma, and it made you feel even crazier than you already knew yourself to be.
But, once I got a diagnosis, everything changed. I started therapy and still do therapy to this day. I worked with a homeopathy doctor, a general practitioner, a functional medicine doctor, and a psychologist because I was determined to take my life back.
That’s what I have done and continue to do. Am I cured? No, not yet. I am a work in progress, and I no longer hold as much shame around that part of my life. It’s exactly how I became a happiness coach because I was determined to take 100% responsibility for my life and my mental well-being thirty years ago. And this is what led me to become a happiness coach.
It’s exactly why I stand on stages all across the country and tell my story.
It’s okay to have a vulnerability, it’s okay to need support. And it’s okay to ask for help.
It’s time to bring mental health to the light. I want people who are struggling to understand there’s nothing ‘wrong with you.” Even more, know you have a right to advocate for your own mental well-being. There is nothing to be ashamed of. If you had diabetes, you’d go to a doctor and get treatment. If you had cancer, you’d get chemo. If you have a mental health issue, you need to know the bravest thing you can do is ask for help.
As for Megan Markle, she might have married into royalty, but she faces many of the same challenges every day people struggle with in addition to mental health challenges. People will judge your parenting. People will judge how you look. People will judge your race and your background. People will run their mouths and gossip no matter what you do. You will be expected to “perform” motherhood for the people who see you with your babies out in the world, and the standards of selflessness you’re held to are a losing game.
When you’re dealing with all of that struggle, all that judgment, all that pressure, it’s helpful to have someone by your side who is on your team no matter what. Harry’s willingness to protect her at all costs is what meaningful support looks like. To be willing to walk away from what’s expected to be there for your partner and redefine the future according to what’s best for your family is an important kind of brave.
I don’t know what it’s like to be a princess, and I never will. But I do know what it’s like to feel completely overwhelmed by the demands of life and to take faltering steps forward towards comfort, safety, and a new way of being because I could no longer live the way I had been living.
The world will judge us, but we don’t owe it anything. We are accountable to ourselves, to the people we hold dear, and if we genuinely want to be there for them, we have to take care of ourselves.
We have to ask for what we need. We have to walk away from what is no longer reasonable, even if nobody on the outside understands it.
Not everyone gets a prime-time television opportunity to tell their story, but we all have the opportunity to rewrite what happens in it. Megan Markle stood up for her wellness, for her family, for what she needed to show up as a mom and a person in the world who has so much to contribute.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by life, there’s no shame in asking for help. Even Princesses need to ask for help sometimes, and when we participate in our own recovery, we get to help rescue ourselves, and that’s the kind of bedtime story our kids deserve to hear.
Join me in turning the page on the unfair demands of a world that doesn’t understand us and be a light in your own world. You don’t have to be a princess to take royally good care of yourself, and you can leave the ball whenever you want to. Sneaker or glass slipper, you can find your footing and go where you need to.
I believe it’s time to make mental health is a priority, get on the waitlist for The Happy Academy, to be the first to know when it launches.