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Margaret Trudeau

December 5, 2013 by Speakers' Spotlight

Margaret Trudeau On Living With Bipolar Disorder

Margaret Trudeau has garnered more publicity than any woman in Canadian history, enduring both the highs and lows of being in the spotlight for so long. Sharing her personal life story, from becoming a prime minister’s wife at a young age, to the loss of both her son and her former husband, to her journey of acceptance and recovery from bipolar disorder, she reminds others of the importance of nurturing the body, mind, and spirit. Trudeau spoke yesterday with CBC Montreal about living with bipolar disorder:

Margaret Trudeau suffered in silence from her bipolar disorder for years before coming out publicly in 2006.

After the death of her son Michel in 1998 and her ex-husband and former prime minister Pierre Trudeau just two years later, Margaret sought treatment for an illness she had battled without help for so long.

She checked herself into the Royal Ottawa Hospital in 2001 and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder shortly thereafter.

“I had no idea there was such a thin line between sanity and insanity. I got pushed right to the edge by tragedy in my life, and I couldn’t stand up, I couldn’t recover,” she told CBC Montreal Daybreak host Mike Finnerty.

“I was so surprised, astonished, when I lost my mind, because I didn’t think that I ever would. I assumed I would always be just fine,” she continued.

Community support essential to recovery

Trudeau said that, for years, she had difficulty in admitting she had a mental illness. She made for good tabloid fodder in the 1970s, during which time she was known for behaving erratically and going on numerous “escapades” while Prime Minister Trudeau was in office.

She has attributed much of her wild behaviour to her then-undiagnosed bipolar disorder. She was able to come to grips with the illness when, after checking herself into the hospital, she realized everyone around her was suffering in the same way.

She said she realizes she was particularly fortunate to be able to reclaim her life — and her family — after leaving hospital. She said she had community support to thank for that.

“You need community support. You’re pretty defeated when you’re laid low with a mental illness. It’s a frightening place to be, and to get up and be able to stand and to move forward and to start functioning again, you need so much support,” she said. “You need to feel you’re not alone.”

Listen to the full interview below:

CBC News/December 4, 2013