Oprah, The Royal Family, Mental Health, Racism & Being Shunned, Oh My!

I rarely follow tabloid stories about the royals, haven’t had cable TV or an actual television in 25 years, haven’t watched The Crown, and honestly don’t know much about the British monarchy. But like so many others, I remember exactly where I was (on Michigan Avenue in Chicago) when I heard that Princess Diana had died amidst a flurry of tabloid harassment and mental health struggles. So last night, I watched Oprah interview the Sussexes, mostly because of my care about the mental health of the world and my curiosity about how such widely watched and criticized public figures would fare around the conversation of someone’s distressed mental health.

And wow. I felt devastated and heartbroken for them both. To have lost your mother after she was hounded by the tabloids and now to fear losing your wife- I just can’t imagine how terrifying that would be for Harry. And to endure the day to day overt racism, micro-aggressions, hypocrisy, and double standards screaming from the newsstands, the vicious unstoppable internet, and the royal family itself- without protection- oh dear Meghan, no words. Certainly, when you join the royal family, you have to know that you sign up for that- but I get that nobody can anticipate and prepare for how triggering it might be to go from being the beloved princess to being the target of racial hate in today’s doubling down on white supremacy world might be.

I could really relate to how much courage it takes to dare to tell your own truth when the stakes are so high. I know what it feels like to risk losing everything so you can be yourself. I think it was brave and probably terrifying.  As someone who has spent a decade now fearing being shunned for telling the truth about what I have witnessed and experienced in conventional medicine, in the arena of spiritual healing, amidst the racism of some New Age publishing spaces, and about the traumas I’ve endured in my family (who I love), my heart flies open to them both. To wind up in a double bind between being yourself and staying in the fold of the family, your career, and public acceptance is an impossible Sophie’s Choice. I wish I could give them all great big hugs, and I hope that speaking out gives Meghan and Harry some relief from whatever inner demons may have been cannibalizing them from the inside out.

My heart also goes out to the British people and the royal family. Conflict is always hard and it’s sad when families get torn apart. This must be hard, and it will be interesting to hear how people respond. There’s always more than one side to any story, and traumatized people sometimes traumatize others. Nobody is saying anyone is purely the victim and others are purely the oppressors. But I try to err on the side of believing those likely to be marginalized, oppressed, and silenced- in this case, a powerful and outspoken biracial woman who might threaten the status quo of an entrenched monarchy and everything that kind of privilege stands for.

To stand up to something so ingrained in our culture- the fairy tale stories of princes and princesses and the powers that reign- means stepping into the arena in a big way and making oneself an open target for more attacks, which I’m sure will come. It calls to mind a quote I just read about “the field of honor” yesterday from Elizabeth Gilbert’s wonderful fiction book City of Girls. The royal family must talk about honor a lot, yet what does it mean to be in the field of honor? What are the stakes?

The Field Of Honor

“The field of honor is a painful field…The field of honor is not a place where children can play. Children don’t have any honor, you see, and they aren’t expected to, because it’s too difficult for them. It’s too painful. But to become an adult, one must step into the field of honor. Everything will be expected of you now. You will need to be vigilant in your principles. Sacrifices will be demanded. You will be judged. If you make mistakes, you must account for them. There will be instances when you must cast aside your impulses and take a higher stance than another person – a person without honor – might take. Such an instance may hurt, but that’s why honor is a painful field…Of course, nobody is required to stand in the field of honor. If you find it too challenging, you may always exit, and then you can remain a child. But if you wish to be a person of character, I’m afraid this is the only way. But it may be painful.”

Meghan and Harry just stepped into the field of honor, but it will now be seen whether they recognize that these two just graduated from being children imprisoned in a golden cage to being adults who will be held accountable in every way possible for their choices from now on. What an initiation. If they wanted to fade into the woodwork, this will not allow that, but I understand and can relate to the need to speak out when one has been hurt and witnessed others hurting and been the subject of lies and slander. They will be called to account, and the future will mark this moment as a turning point. Where it will lead has yet to be seen, but I wish everyone involved the best, including the British people and all in the Commonwealth.

Regardless of how this plays out, may we all be gentle and compassionate with their risk and respect that they have just come through the fire and will now have a chance to show us who they REALLY are.

All Cries For Help Deserve Attention

To anyone who, like Meghan, needs mental health support, please ask. It is ALWAYS brave and never a sign of weakness to say “I need help.” Let the Duchess be an inspiration to anyone who is feeling crushed by the weight of the world’s suffering right now. And let us all dare to risk being ourselves, knowing there will be consequences to doing so in a world that does not want most people to actually speak the truth.

We just had a 7th grade boy in my daughter Siena’s school system commit suicide, so the risks right now are real. If you or anyone you know is ever on the brink, there are many suicide prevention hotlines. Here’s one.

If you’re not that close to the edge but feel yourself sliding towards it sometimes, please call a trauma therapist if you can. I think therapy is the bravest thing in the world- and the rewards are so worth it.

If what you most need is a kind, loving, creative community where we address trauma in a lighter, less therapeutic way, you’re always welcome to join us at Healing With The Muse. Today, we marked the one year anniversary of lockdown and used our memories of the past year to write, make art, practice compassion meditation, and extend our hearts to one another as a healing balm amidst times of uncertainty.

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