James Middleton, brother of Kate Middleton and Pippa Middleton, has described sinking “progressively deeper into a morass of despair” as clinical depression—or “a cancer of the mind" as he called it—made him feel “a complete failure.”
Middleton, writing candidly about his experiences in the Daily Mail, said the depression was so bad he stopped returning his worried family's calls and texts. He said he had not contemplated suicide, ”but I didn't want to live in the state of mind I was in either.”
He writes, ”I wouldn't wish the isolation and loneliness on my worst enemy. I felt as if I was going crazy.”
“I know I'm richly blessed and live a privileged life. But it did not make me immune to depression,” Middleton said.
“It's not a feeling but an absence of feelings. You exist without purpose and direction. I couldn't feel joy, excitement or anticipation—only heart-thudding anxiety propelled me out of bed in the morning.”
Middleton's moving essay was published days after tabloid pictures showed him sunning himself on St. Barths with new girlfriend Alizee Thevenet, alongside his sister Pippa and their parents.
In the essay, Middleton also described living with what he described as severe dyslexia: “Some days I have difficulty spelling the simplest words.” As a young boy, it meant he “permanently lagged behind” classmates.
With coaching, he secured a place at Edinburgh University, but quit after a year.
If he had known he had ADD, an adult variant of Attention Deficit Disorder, it would have helped, he thinks. He was finally diagnosed a year ago, which explained his “extravagant daydreams” and the impossibility of doing simple tasks such as making his bed. He also sees ADD as a “gift,” and source of much of his creativity. He writes of the pride in his businesses, including a cake-making business and his current greeting card business Boomf. (The Mail had reported the company lost of $2.81 million in 2016.)
The onset of the depression began at the end of 2016, Middleton wrote, signaled first physically by a diagnosis of arrhythmia—irregular heartbeat.
“The best part of 2017 passed by in a fog,” says Middleton. He considered closing his business and withdrew from those closest to him. "It was impossible to let my loved ones know about the torture in my mind," he writes. He wouldn't have listened to any of their counsel.
In December 2017, he went to Coniston Water in Britain's Lake District, with his dogs, “trying to still the tumult in my mind,” having decided that he needed help.
The ADD diagnosis was “the first test” he had ever passed, he writes wryly, and cognitive behavioral therapy had also proved beneficial.
Middleton said he was encouraged to speak out because of his “new sense of purpose and zest for life,” and by the advocacy on mental health issues his sister Kate, Prince William, and Prince Harry are taking through their mental health charity Heads Together.
Harry spoke movingly about losing his mother, Princess Diana, at the age of 12, and how “the shutting down” of “all of my emotions for the last 20 years” had a “quite serious effect on not only my personal life but my work as well.”
Harry had sought counseling after enduring two years of "total chaos" in his late 20s, he said.
People have asked Middleton if he would have become so depressed were it not for the public attention that comes with being related to the Royal Family.
He believes his experience would have been the same, and is grateful that his public profile gives him a platform on which to write about his experience and hopefully help others.
Middleton said he would never say he was “cured” of his depression, but that he now understood it and had formed “strategies for coping.”
To tackle his ADD, he writes out lists of tasks, and takes medication to control his symptoms if he needs to concentrate on a particular activity.
His dogs—Ella, Inca, Luna, Zulu and Mabel—had been central to his recovery, particularly Mabel, who has since become a full-time therapy dog for the charity Pets as Therapy.
Middleton said there was a lessening stigma attached to mental illness.
“Today—hard as it is to admit this—I am pleased I went through debilitating depression because I now have the skills to fight it,” writes Middleton.
The one thought he wanted to leave readers with, he writes, is that “It's OK not to be OK.”