SPARE by Prince Harry

Since Prince Harry’s 2017 interview with Bryony Gordon, I’ve been hoping he would talk more about his mental health struggles. He does in SPARE.

When a celebrity is open about battles with anxiety and depression, it smashes apart stigma and shame and makes a world of difference to families like mine. It also takes a great deal of courage.

I’m drawn to memoirs about anxiety and grief, and this one is a stand-out for me. I know Prince Harry had a ghost writer, and yes, the writing is gorgeous, but I listened to the audiobook, and he’s a fantastic narrator.

At the heart of his story is a broken, lost child who never processed his mother’s death. For years, he reframed it as a disappearance and imagined her in hiding. One day, he wanted to believe, she would send for him and his brother. It’s clear that even now, his mother is a guiding force in his life.

So many times I wondered how different this story would have been if someone—anyone—had taken the young prince to a therapist or a grief counselor. How can a twelve-year-old make sense of a parent’s violent death without professional help?

Prince Harry is open about his drug use, his panic attacks, the therapy he eventually sort as an adult, and his anger (the red mist). He doesn’t  gloss over the backlash of questionable decisions—yes, everyone in England remembers the Nazi uniform he wore to a costume party—or his hatred of the paparazzi.

His descriptions of trips to Africa and his time in the British military are gripping, and I was fascinated by his determination to launch what would become the Invictus Games. Throughout, he’s clearly kept a band of good ‘mates’, but there has been much tragedy in his life. His best friend from school, like his mother, died in a car wreck.

In the chapters that cover his father’s and Prince William’s weddings, it’s obvious how insecure Harry felt at both moments—as if terrified he would be even more alone. I find that heartbreaking, especially when he talks about how much he wanted to settle down and start a family.

But then he meets Meghan Markle  (and eventually her dog) … and they fall madly in love. The stories of their dates before the press found out they were a couple are ridiculously sweet, including the time they went grocery shopping in disguise. But their fairy tale quickly became a nightmare.

I’m not sure why anyone would be surprised they wanted out. People forget that Princess Diana did, too. I still remember news reports about how, “If only she’d kept her royal protection, she would be alive.” Nothing shocked me more in this book than learning how Harry and Meghan’s protection was yanked without warning—despite ongoing death threats.

I hope they find their happily-ever-after; I hope they continue to do good in the world; and I hope Harry finds the peace that eluded his mother, a woman I admired. I was outside the hospital on the day she made history by shaking an ungloved hand with an AIDS patient. A simple act that also challenged stigma.

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