‘Every day I wake up happy,’ Margaret Trudeau says
Margaret Trudeau, an engaging author and public speaker, visited Regina Thursday, where she spoke enthusiastically about the new priorities in her life: her grandchildren.
“You’ve got these darlings,” Trudeau said, fondly talking about the youngest generation of a familiar Canadian family.
Among their best qualities, she said, was how they simply deal with her as a beloved grandmother.
“Because of their vitality, their innocence and their newness. They don’t know anything, except I’m grandma. They know none of my story,” she said. “It’s the best time of my life.”
Trudeau, mother of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and ex-wife of former prime minister Pierre Trudeau, has known much darker times and has chronicled her struggles with mental illness in books and on the public speaking circuit.
Her message in Regina, where she was guest speaker at a luncheon, was to encourage people experiencing mental anguish to seek help.
“Just stop denying that you have a problem,” she advised. “If you are waking up every morning stressed and unhappy, going to sleep fitful and unhappy … there’s something wrong. Don’t deny it.”
Trudeau said the simple process of sharing can lead to healing.
“As soon as you start unburdening, the relief you feel [is real],” she said. “Most of us don’t want to admit that we have a mental issue because that can be scary. It doesn’t have to be.”
Trudeau’s journey, which included hospitalization, began as a young wife to a political star of the age, former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.
She admits, in her book, that she was unprepared for public life and struggled with depression.
When her marriage ended she suffered a breakdown. While she found some stability in a second marriage, the tragic death of her son Michel, in a skiing accident in 1998, preceded a more serious health crisis.
It took several more years — and a lot of effort, she said — before she found treatment that worked.
“It’s a slow, slow process,” Trudeau said, talking about the difficult loss of her son and the time it took to recover from that. “It took five years.”
Now, her outlook on life is decidely sunny.
“Every day I wake up happy and every night I go to bed satisfied,” she said.
She said her book, Changing My Mind, became a sort of how-to manual for people needing guidance on dealing with a mental health crisis.
Won’t lobby her PM son
While she said government needs to spend more on mental health, Trudeau quickly said she won’t be pressuring her son on the issue.
“I won’t lobby Justin about it because he already knows, because he’s lived it with me,” she said. “I’ve been doing this [public advocacy] now for 10 years, so I have informed him.”
Trudeau also spoke about the recreational use of marijuana and how her using it as a way to deal with a mental problem was not a good idea.
“It’s a distraction to get you away from yourself and to think you’re healing yourself. And it doesn’t work,” she said. “It wasn’t a mistake when I was having fun. It was a mistake when I thought it was the answer … and that’s where abuse comes in.”
At 67, Trudeau said she is enjoying living life in the moment and not in the past, although questions about her life story arise.
When asked what advice she would give to her younger self, Trudeau took time to ponder the question.
“I feel like a complete, happy person,” she finally said. “So I have to believe that my younger self was right in the place that she had to be. I had to learn, through my own life, all the lessons — however hard they were — to get to here.”