She may be the wife of a former prime minister and the mother of a current one, but even Margaret Trudeau can admit she was never powerful enough to fight mental illness on her own.
“If you suffer from mental illness, you can’t fix it yourself,” she told a crowded auditorium at Northern College in Kirkland Lake, Ont. Monday night.
Trudeau, 69, is on a tour to promote her book Changing My Mind. She came armed with some terrific one-liners about her relationship with the late Pierre Elliott Trudeau, the 15th prime minister of Canada.
“I loved Pierre – what a wonderful man,” she said. “But all his friends were old and boring.”
During the marriage, she admitted, she found herself escaping into a different world and down a different path. As prime minister, Pierre had too much work to do trying to run the country and she felt neglected.
“One hour a day with Pierre wasn’t enough,” she said. “Loneliness is part of mental illness. I lost my spark. I lost my smile. I felt just worthless.”
She admitted she turned to marijuana to ease the pain of loneliness.
“I chose marijuana to try and change my mind,” she said.
But it didn’t work and that’s when she started to do some really crazy things.
“I ran away with the Rolling Stones,” she said.
But running couldn’t solve her problem. She was bipolar. She’d have moments of deep depression and then moments of euphoria. That’s when she knew she had to do something.
“I was trying to fix my own mind,” she said.
But she couldn’t do it alone and now she tells crowds of people and anyone who reads her books, depression isn’t a battle that can be won alone.
“The only thing you can do is reach out for help,” she told the crowd.
For her, that reaching out wasn’t to her family or friends. It was to her doctor. She took that crucial step and went to the doctor. And then she took the medications the doctor suggested and got better. But even after recovering from a serious mental illness, Trudeau said, there had to be a constant effort to ensure she stayed on the right path. And now she tells anyone who will listen about that effort and the struggle that came with it.
“My story is kind of a dire warning, because I didn’t do too much right with my mental health,” she said.
She encouraged all those suffering from mental illness to seek help. And she encouraged everyone in the audience, whether they suffered from mental illness or not, to do three simple things — get the proper sleep, eat the right food and get the right amount of exercise to avoid falling into depression. She said walking was the most important of all of those.
“Pierre used to tell me, there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes,” she said, about her walking regiment.
She’s a staunch supporter of the current Me Too Movement to fight against sexual assault and harassment.
“My mother raised five girls to be independent,” she said. “It’s about time we had a Me Too Movement.”
Trudeau is scheduled to speak tonight at the Timmins Campus of Northern College. That discussion begins at 7 p.m. Doors open at 6 p.m. Tickets are free and available at the reception desk.
Jeff Wilkinson is a Senior Politics Reporter at Debate Report covering provincial and national politics, . Before joining Debate Report, Jeff worked on several provincial campaigns including Jack Layton. Jeff has worked as a freelance journalist in Toronto, having been published by over 20 outlets including CBC, the Center for Media and VICE.com.