Prince Harry details his struggle with anxiety in his new memoir Spare. He says he first noticed issues during late summer 2013 when he started having “terrifying panic attacks.” Harry recalls being “soaked with sweat” before having to make public appearances, which was common. Although he was able to fight the urge to flee, Harry says his anxiety was heightened even more when he pictured the headlines that would be written if he DID ever run away.
“The panic often started with putting on a suit first thing in the morning,” Harry writes. “Strange — that was my trigger: The Suit. As I buttoned up my shirt, I could feel my blood pressure soaring. As I knotted my tie, I could feel my throat closing. By the time I was pulling on the jacket, lacing the smart shoes, sweat was running down my back and cheeks.”
While the anxiety was just during public appearances at first, it eventually came on any time Harry was going to be in any public venue or crowd. “I came to fear simply being around other human beings,” Harry reveals. “More than anything else, I feared cameras.” It led to the royal not even wanting to leave the house. He eventually began researching his condition and realized he was suffering rom post-traumatic stress, stemming from his time in the war, but also his mother, Princess Diana’s, death.
By 2015, Harry says he stopped going out entirely. “I felt lonely, but lonely was better than panicky,” he admits. “I was just beginning to discover a few healthy remedies to my panic, but until I felt surer of them, until I felt on more solid ground, I was leaning on this one decidedly unhealthy remedy: Avoidance. I was an agoraphobe.”
Unfortunately, his role as a royal meant there was some public appearances that couldn’t be avoided. Harry recalls giving one speech and “nearly fainting” backstage. Rather than get support from his older brother, Prince William, though, Harry was ridiculed. “Willy came up to me backstage. Laughing,” Harry writes. “I couldn’t fathom his reaction. Him of all people.”
Harry says that William and Kate Middleton were there when he had his very first panic attack while driving to a polo match. At the time, William was supportive, which is why Harry couldn’t believe he was reacting so harshly this time around. “He knew something was up, something bad,” Harry reveals. “He’d told me that [first] day or soon after that I needed help. And now he was teasing me? I couldn’t imagine how he could be so insensitive.”
Although Harry tried therapy, he wasn’t able to connect to a therapist the way he wanted to. It wasn’t until years later when Meghan Markle urged him to try again that he was finally successful. However, after Harry got emotional onstage during an event in October 2019, he says William texted him, concerned. “He said I was clearly struggling,” Harry writes. “And he was worried for me. He said I wasn’t well. He said again that I needed help.”
Harry says he pointed out that he was already in therapy, but wasn’t getting the support from William that he needed on that venture, either. “He’d recently told me he wanted to accompany me to a session because he suspected I was being ‘brainwashed’,” Harry recalls. Harry says he urged William to join him, but his big brother never came. It led to a text exchange that “turned into an argument, which stretched over 72 hours.”
“We’d never had a fight like that over text before,” Harry reveals. “Angry, but also miles apart, as if we were speaking different languages. Now and then I realized that my worst fear was coming true: After months of therapy, after working hard to become more aware, more independent, I was a stranger to my older brother. He could no longer relate to me, tolerate me.”