Navigating through early adulthood is hard enough without having your every move scrutinized by the press. Now, imagine being one of the most famous people in Canada by the age of 22, while silently struggling with a mental illness that has complete control over your emotions. This is how Margaret Trudeau lived for 30 years of her life. As the wife of former prime minister Pierre Trudeau and the mother of our current prime minister Justin Trudeau, Margaret has been in the limelight for the past 50 years. She first opened up about her battle with bipolar disorder in 2006, an illness that affects her emotions and her rational thinking. Margret Trudeau’s memoir Changing My Mind sheds light on this illness, and it allows readers to get a glimpse into the life of one of Canada’s most influential women. Margaret’s experiences illustrated in her memoir show how Canada is a nation built upon compassion and self-actualization, one where we can learn from our mistakes without the fear of permanently damaging our reputation.
From dancing and singing on tabletops at formal events, to leaving mid-interview on live television, every decision Margaret had made was filtered through an ill mind. Margaret states in her memoir that often, “the Canadian public opened their newspapers to a feast of scandalous stories about the disgraceful antics of Pierre Trudeau’s mad, exhibitionist wife.” She was terrified of losing her family and tarnishing her reputation. But she was also terrified of the unknown illness that was compelling her to make decisions on a whim. Bipolar disorder is life consuming, but Margaret lived though the damage it did to her, and she emerged victorious from the battle. She was diagnosed in early 2006, and she made the parlous decision to inform the public just a couple months later. Luckily, she was met mostly with praises and support from her fellow Canadians, which goes to show that we as a nation value compassion.
Margaret Trudeau’s most significant contribution to Canadian identity is her openness about her struggle with mental illness. Bipolar disorder was not classified as it’s own mental illness until 1980, and even after that it was not widely talked about until closer to the 2000’s. Despite the fact that the illness was relatively unknown, once Margaret was able to explain that her decisions were not made while she was in a lucid mind, her past behaviour was excused. She worked hard to earn back the trust of the people of Canada. The fact that she was able to apologize for her actions shows how resilient she is, and the fact that Canada as a nation accepted her apology shows how open minded we are, and how we value honesty and respect.
After reading this memoir, I was amazed at how Margaret was able to overcome her struggles with bipolar disorder, and how despite facing seemingly insurmountable obstacles, she continued to fight. Now that she is receiving treatment for her illness and is able to think clearly, she has been a consistent supporter of the Canadian Mental Health Association. She is striving to educate others about mental illness in the hopes that no one else has to suffer in silence the way she did. She is an extremely inspiring Canadian who we should all look up to for the reasons I’ve highlighted today, along with many more that are illustrated in her memoir. Margaret Trudeau exemplifies Canada’s core values and beliefs such as self-actualization and honesty, and I believe her legacy will be one of resilience and strength. She worked hard to change her mindset, which led her to help change the way in which Canada perceives mental health today. What do you want to change?