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Margaret Trudeau Doesn't Shy Away From The Hard Truth About Mental Health

There's no easy solution.

09/26/2017 13:55 EDT | Updated 09/26/2017 13:55 EDT
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Margaret Trudeau delivers remarks at We Day Canada at Parliament Hill on July 2, 2017 in Ottawa. (Mark Horton/Getty Images)

Margaret Trudeau — mental health advocate, mom of Justin (and four other kids) and ex-wife of Pierre — has been incredibly open about her struggles with bipolar disorder ever since she published her memoir, Changing My Mind, in 2010.

Now, she's opening up about what exactly it takes to get to a place of peace. And by her own admission, taking hold of your mental health is a lot of hard work.

Earlier on HuffPost:

In an interview with GoodHousekeeping.com following an appearance at WE Day UN in New York, Trudeau pinpointed what is often the most challenging aspect of a mental illness diagnosis.

"You can't fix yourself out of a mental health issue," she told the publication. "You can't wake up and say, 'Today I'm not being depressed!' It's a process to get well, but there is recovery."

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Margaret Trudeau with her sons in December 1986. From left, Michel; 11; Justin; 14; Kyle Kemper; 2; Margaret; and Sasha; 12. (Boris Spremo/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

It was the death of her son Michel in 1998 that triggered what she called her "final psychosis, my complete breakdown," leading to an eventual diagnosis of bipolar disorder in 2006.

"I was doing what every poor soul with a mental illness without help does: self-medicate. Whether it's with alcohol or drugs or shopping or sex or gambling, we're somehow trying to make ourselves feel better.

"I was put into the hospital and had a wonderful doctor who told me that he couldn't make me better unless I wanted to get better. He said he would hold my hand, but I had to make the decision to do it."

[I] had a wonderful doctor who told me that he couldn't make me better unless I wanted to get better.

And while her kids have admitted that it was difficult to have a mom going through such struggles while growing up, they now appreciate her bravery and openness in keeping the mental health conversation front and centre.

Speaking on "The Social" about his mom for the Bell Let's Talk campaign in 2016, Justin noted, "I got to see the resilience and the strength that comes through not always being externally super, and all put together, and everything, but being vulnerable and being open and demonstrating a real core resilience and strength."

Her youngest, Ally Kemper, who accompanied her to the interview and WE Day, called her mother an "inspiration."

Trudeau credits cognitive behavioural therapy with her stability, explaining how a therapist will take a situation you describe and encourage you to think about it in a different way. And much like dealing with mental health itself, it's an uphill battle.

"It's a reprogramming of the mind," she explains. "It isn't easy; there isn't one pill that's going to make you better. It's about taking steady baby steps toward being well."

There isn't one pill that's going to make you better. It's about taking steady baby steps toward being well.

She doesn't discount the role of medication, either, even if it's not her preferred solution.

"[The] most important thing to understand is that you can't get better all by yourself," she told WWD. "Because in mental illness you're [using] wrong thinking, you have what they call impaired insight. So you need to turn it over to someone to help you get clarity, get balance."

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Justin Trudeau is embraced by his mother Margaret Trudeau as he arrives to give his victory speech after Canada's federal election in Montreal, October 19, 2015. (REUTERS/Jim Young)

"And if you need to go on pharmaceuticals, while we all dread them, the science will bring us back to reality and then we can work on our beautiful minds and make sure we have a positive, good outlook."

In short, mental health isn't something that simply exists — it must be worked towards, even for those who haven't yet encountered any problems. Because as Trudeau put it to HuffPost Canada last year, "The secret is to nip any mental disorder in the bud. As soon as you're not feeling yourself, reach out and get some help because you can quickly get better. If you get stuck in it, it's so hard to get out."

Sounds like a smart plan to us.

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