By Elise Morton
Wednesday, May 11, 2016 11:45 am ·  1 Comment
700 people sat riveted to their seats as Margaret Trudeau openly shared the story of her battle with mental illness in front of a sold out crowd at the annual Mental Health Week Speaker’s Event at the Oakville Conference Centre on May 4, 2016. It was the biggest event ever hosted by the Canadian Mental Health Association Halton Regional Branch (CMHA- HRB).
“When we can have a crowd like this, we can speak out about it, we can speak comfortably about it and we can do something about it. If people don’t talk about it politicians don’t act it’s that simple, if your not talking about it politicians don’t have do anything about it,” commented MP for Oakville, Kevin Flynn, a long time Mental Health advocate.
Margaret Trudeau, a mental health advocate of ten-years, mother of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the ex-wife of Pierre Trudeau, the 15th prime minister of Canada went into great detail about her struggles with bipolar disorder and depression.
She recounted being “just fine” until she started university where in her second year she was studying to 2 a.m., sleep deprived, not eating or exercising properly. That same year she and her boyfriend tried marijuana, which she took to “like a duck to water” but she didn’t like alcohol.
“I chose marijuana, except I didn’t know that it can push you into mania if you are bipolar,” said Trudeau. “It won’t cause schizophrenia, but if you are going to get into schizophrenia, it will start much faster.”
Aside from the bits of humour she used to lighten the mood, she had important advice to share with the audience.
“I really think that getting hold of your own mental health is a private and personal commitment,” said Trudeau. “It involves a tremendous amount of courage, it involves a leap of faith, it involves allowing yourself to hope that things can get better; and I will tell you it’s baby steps.”
“It’s through kindness and compassion that we can help others face it; they need help.”
She dated Pierre “quite privately” for three years and said their first year of marriage was fine. An episode of mental illness occurred because she felt isolated and alone after their second child Sacha (Alexandre) was born.
“You just don’t realize, you are suffering from an illness; and it’s a serious one. You need to get treatment,” stated Margaret Trudeau.
“After the birth of Sacha, I had been feeling the stress and the strain as well. I wasn’t the same girl as I was when Pierre married me. I had seen too much, felt too much and there was too much going on,” said Trudeau.
“No matter how hard you try, how intelligent you are, you cannot fix yourself if you have a mental disorder,” said Trudeau. “You are not thinking right. It’s called impaired insight. It’s called thinking without passion.”
When Pierre died in 2000, two years after the death of their son Michel, Trudeau said she had reached rock bottom and had no ability to live anymore or ability to even reason.
“It wasn’t until 2000, when I was 50 years old, that I was able to absolutely accept that I’m a person who has a mental illness, which there isn’t a cure for,” said Trudeau. “It’s something you have to learn to live with; and it’s something you have to learn to accept.”
“You put on this mask like you are pretending that you are just fine; you can cope perfectly and just cry, worry and ruminate alone,” said Trudeau. “You just don’t realize, you are suffering from an illness; and it’s a serious one. You need to get treatment.”