Trudeau candid about bipolar disorder – Mood swings likened to \’nuclear bomb\’ going off –Nov 29, 2006 — WHITBY — Margaret Trudeau says one of the reasons she didn’t get help for bipolar disorder was because of the stigma that’s often associated with mental illness.
“I’m Margaret Trudeau — I’m not mentally ill,” she would tell herself.
On Wednesday, the former wife of Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau was the keynote speaker at an open house hosted by Whitby Mental Health Centre (WMHC), where she discussed her battle with depression, the death of her 23-year-old son, Michel, and her quest for physical and spiritual treatment that has led her now to lead a balanced, happy life.
“I’m astonished that I’m here,” Ms. Trudeau, 58, said. “Six years ago I was in a psychiatric hospital in Ottawa, very close to death, because I had been slowly starving myself. I was overwhelmed by the death of my husband, and previously to that of my child, Michel, and I couldn’t stand on my own feet. I couldn’t take of myself. I could hardly breathe.”
That all changed when Ms. Trudeau got treatment and it was that message of hope and achieving balance that she conveyed to mental health professionals and the public at WMHC on Nov. 29.
But it was a long road to proper medical treatment and living life as a whole person again, said Ms. Trudeau, who went through a series of bouts of depression and mania typically experienced by a person with bipolar disorder. One of those, she said, came after the birth of her second child in which she went through a stage of postnatal depression.
“I just could not stop crying, yet couldn’t understand what was wrong with me. I had everything… an extraordinary good marriage… a beautiful home and I had the support of the nation. I couldn’t have been situated in a better place,” she said. “Why couldn’t I see all the joy and delight that my life was offering me?”
The depression continued, she said, until she was hospitalized. However, improper medicine and treatment didn’t help, she said. The depression was followed by manic episodes, including making 2 a.m. phone calls to friends and functioning on as little as three hours of sleep a night.
“It’s like a nuclear bomb has gone off,” she said.
Without proper treatment for her bipolar condition, Ms. Trudeau said she started to self-medicate herself with drugs and alcohol, particularly marijuana.
“Now you do remember that I was a hippy and so for me it was marijuana. I thought marijuana was the answer to lift my spirits, to get me functioning again,” said Ms. Trudeau, who married the then 51-year-old prime minister when she was 22. The two divorced in 1984.
Years later, Ms. Trudeau now says she’s a happy, whole person who owes her life to the people who helped her regain her balance of mind, body and spirit. Her road to recovery has been about making hard choices, accepting the diagnosis of mental illness, maturity, and above all else, acceptance.
“It’s very hard to stand up and say: Those were my short-comings. Those were my mistakes and from now on I’m going to endeavour to be a stronger, better person,” she said. “Isn’t that what life’s all about? Learning from your mistakes?”
By David Blumenfeld
Whitby Mental Health Centre (WMHC)
© Metroland, Durham Region Media Group.