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Canada's Former First Lady Margaret Trudeau Reaches Out

By:  Charles Anzalone

Reprinted with permission from  bp Magazine, Winter 2008

For many years, Margaret Trudeau thought her up and down moods were just part of her life. After all, her story resembled a movie script. She won the heart of Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau while vacationing as a teenager with her family in Tahiti, and at the age of 22, became the youngest First Lady in Canadian history.

She was one of the world's most glamorous and scrutinized women in the '70s, an A List celebrity as capable of attracting headlines as Princess Diana.

"I thought my life was just taking me high and low," she says. "I had been given so many rich opportunities in my life."

In 2001, Trudeau ended years of denial and checked herself into an Ottawa hospital where she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Five years later, when she felt her recovery was as complete as it needed to be, Trudeau announced at a hospital fund-raiser she had been struggling with bipolar for years, and had been misdiagnosed for decades.

Consider this the latest chapter of Trudeau's remarkable life: She's an eloquent and compelling advocate for people with a mental illness, in particular those living with bipolar. Instead of running from reality, she flies across North America to discuss that reality with eager audiences. Now she uses her celebrity (celebrity she says once used to be "infamy") to bring attention to world-wide causes.

"Bipolar is an exaggeration of your emotions, so when you do get knocked down by life -- which you will because everyone will be knocked down at some point -- it's very hard to bounce back. Some people can live with sorrow for awhile and get on with their lives. I didn't have that ability. I got very knocked down and it was very hard for me. What learned is that it's awfully hard to do it on your own.

"And that's my message: to reach out and get help."    

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