KAMLOOPS - If you feel like you may have symptoms of mental illness, Margaret Trudeau has several pieces of advice for you, but just one word when it comes to starting treatment: Talk.
The prime minister’s mother was in Kamloops today, April 13, where she commanded a packed crowd at Thompson Rivers University with her speech on mental illness and story of her own personal struggle with bipolar disorder. Trudeau loaned her voice as the keynote speaker of a fundraiser event, the $25,000 profits of which will go towards upgrading the lounge of one-south — Royal Inland Hospital’s psychiatric ward.
Trudeau told her audience that had she not received help and treatment, they wouldn’t be hearing her story.
“Sometimes you have to get so broken before you can get fixed,” she said. “Mental health is really our brain health."
Using comedy and educational descriptions of the brain’s symptoms during illness, Trudeau shared her life’s story dealing with the various mental health episodes she encountered from her teen years until the death of her husband, former prime minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau.
“We don’t know how bipolar comes to us,” she said. “As Lady Gaga says, ‘we’re born this way'."
She said her first episode came when she returned home from a trip to Morocco a changed person and found it difficult to get along with family members.
She described her secret wedding to Pierre, who was 30 years her senior, and the challenge of being the wife of Canada’s leader. She said she struggled being alone at Ottawa's 24 Sussex Dr., which she jokingly referred to as ‘the crown jewel of Canadian penitentiaries’.
While there was plenty of glitz and glamour to her lifestyle, she still felt the pain of her illness. After feeling emotional and depressed following the birth of her second son, she said she reached out to a doctor who told her she was only hormonal and dealing with ‘baby blues’.
Trudeau said not receiving proper help is what kick-started recurring episodes and she found herself jumping between bouts of mania and depression which took her on a whirlwind trip to Europe and to party with the Rolling Stones, but then left her alone, secluded and sad.
“I ran off with the Rolling Stones but someone else in my condition could have run away with the guy from 7 Eleven," she said. "When you have a mental illness, you cannot fix yourself. You’re mentally ill, you have what’s called impaired insight. Once you’ve had your first episode of depression and have not treated it, you will fall into it again and again."
After Pierre’s death Margaret says her family realized she was in dire need of assistance and sent her to the hospital psychiatric ward, which she says saved her life.
"Without my family and friends I couldn’t have done it. Even for the tiny baby steps like going to get a haircut,” she said. “I got purpose. Having a reason to get up in the morning was the antidote."
Each individual needs to recognize the changes in themselves, she says, to turn away from mania and speak to a mental health professional to prevent a worsened state or a repeat episode.
“Talk. Open up and have a conversation. It really is better to have a third party because we’re filled with an awful lot of pain from our families; we don’t want to let them down, we don’t want to hurt them by saying things. By putting it all on your family, they can’t help."
There are several services available in Kamloops for those looking to get help. To find out more about the best avenue for you, contact the Mental Health Association’s Kamloops branch at 250-374-0440.
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