I had the pleasure of seeing Margaret Trudeau speak a couple of weeks ago, so this isn’t a “real” interview. Rather, a summary of the great talk I was blessed to enjoy. I will admit, my reasons for wanting to see her in the first place were a bit selfish and shallow. I was born in 1964, so I do remember her first husband being the Prime Minister of Canada. We studied him in school. I also remember Margaret getting herself into all kinds of trouble — which to me at the time was very cool! Of course her son is now our present Prime Minister — even more bragging rights for attending her talk. Like I said, selfish and shallow.
Most of my life by saying “yes” (Carpe Diem is my favourite saying) I have been very blessed with rich experiences. This was no exception. Margaret was amazing and I had no idea that she would speak in such intimate detail about her shortcomings and the effects that Bipolar Disorder have had on her life. I am so glad I went to see her, even if my motivation wasn’t so altruistic. She is also an avid advocate for ‘Brain Health’ which I love and is totally up this therapist’s alley!
When Margaret married Pierre Elliott Trudeau, he was 51 years old and she was 22. She would later say that their age gap contributed to their demise. However, her then undiagnosed mental health issues certainly did not help. She was a wild child, she was bored with her husband who worked too much and had little time for her or family (they had three children), and she was also not making good decisions. They separated after only six years, and divorced after thirteen.
Margaret gave us THREE PILLARS for maintaining good mental health:
- SLEEP – the single most important factor, first and foremost. Our important brain chemical for warding off depression and anxiety is serotonin, and it is produced various ways, she says: “eating, laughing, sex, purpose . . . and it is replenished while we sleep”.
- EXERCISE – which Margaret coupled with my own mantra and belief that I am constantly pushing to those around me, OUTSIDE TIME. “Nature gives us balance” Margaret says.
- NUTRITION – “sugar is our enemy”, and healthy good choices are our friend.
I like that Margaret put sleep at the top of the list. Research, as well as my many years of being a therapist in practice, definitely support this. In my latest interview with Rosy Batalia, she also spoke about her own battle with Bipolar Disorder and how important sleep is. She had said that unlike most people that can function if they happen to have a bad night’s sleep — not her! It has a deep impact on her well-being (ability to function, regulating emotions, decision making, etc).
Margaret urges that one cannot heal thyself — you need a third party; you need to ask for help. “Bipolar has one of the highest suicide rates”, she says, “because you get tired of letting everyone down; tired of making stupid mistakes”. This statement of Margaret’s reminds me of another interviewee of mine, Sarah Jickling, who also spoke about how hard Bipolar is on those around you. “I can’t take it; you’re too much” said people in Sarah’s life as they were leaving. Comedian Maria Bamford is also known to say that “when you have Bipolar, you are terribly hard to be friends with!”
Although Margaret admitted that she has experienced condescension from psychiatrists over the years, talk therapy is something she has found helpful. “The first time you talk with someone who has compassion, a weight is lifted.”
Advice from Margaret:
- You must be present in your life.
- Have the courage to change.
- You need purpose: a reason to get up in the morning.
- You can make a difference in the smallest, kindest ways.
Please also take the time to read Margaret’s fantastic book The Time of Your Life, a must read for women as they approach later life, and wish to do it well!