Sunday, April 1, 2012

Margaret Trudeau speaks about living with Bipolar Disorder

Margaret Trudeau: no regrets about having bipolar disorder, she says in Vancouver interview

Vancouver Sun Digital, March 11, 2012.

Margaret Trudeau has no regrets about having bipolar disorder. Although it’s led to multiple hospitalizations and strained relationships, she says it’s also been a boon to her life journey. In a radio show interview which airs March 12th (part one) and 19th (part two), Trudeau will discuss the effects – good and bad – of having bipolar.

From what I can glean from the advance snippet of the Trudeau segment I’ve been offered, she is characteristically candid during the in-studio interview on Vancouver’s Co-op Radio program, Beautiful Minds. Show host Richard J. Dalton asks Trudeau this rather unconventional question:   ”If you look at all the ways having bipolar disorder has affected your life, if you could go back, would you choose not to have bipolar disorder?”

Trudeau replies: “No, no, no, no, no, because I’ve had such a joyful life. I’ve had such an exciting life.  I’ve had so many rich, rich beautiful things happen to me in my life because I do have energy, and I do reach out and I stretch my eyes.  And I’ve always asked the questions, and I’ve always had a sense of adventure. I go too far.  Pierre used to say to me … I exaggerate, but that’s what my emotions were — so high, so enthusiastic, so sad.  I think that I’ve had a zest for life, and I think it’s been a gift.  And in some ways, my bipolar, it’s also been a terrible thing untreated because I — I’ve damaged so much and so many relationships and hurt so many opportunities I could  have had because of the illness.  And that’s what I’d like to prevent other people from doing…. 

“Accept it early. Accept it right away when you don’t feel yourself.  Get some help.  Talk to someone.  Even the act of talking might be the thing that will keep you from falling deeper and deeper into a depression.”

Since her admission to the psychiatric ward at Vancouver’s St. Paul’s Hospital several years ago, Trudeau has found her groove as a mental health advocate, willing to share her own struggles so others trying to cope won’t feel so stigmatized. She’s been brutally honest in her books, public appearances and in interviews. In her chat with Dalton, she mentions she’s working on yet another new book, a follow up to her best-selling memoir, Changing My Mind:  

I have found in my path in the last 10 years an awful lot of happiness. The next book I hope is going to be, again, stories, but this time about how to make really good choices to be happy. I think we can choose to be happy in our lives. We can choose to wake up and grumble all day and be bitter and angry and judge others and find satisfaction in others doing bad instead of good. Or we can we wake up with optimism and love and say ‘Just what is this beautiful day going to bring me?’”

Many people, including friends and family members, will provide anecdotes for Trudeau’s new book. She’s begun compiling them and hopes to publish next year.

The Beautiful Minds Radio show was conceived by Dalton a few years ago. Then he helped create it as part of a team of volunteer programmers, as a vehicle to enlighten the public and debunk stereotypes about those with mental health issues. C0-op Radio is an advertising-free station and one of the truly remarkable aspects of the Beautiful Minds show is that many of the programmers struggle with mental health issues themselves, including Dalton, who has dysthymia, a form of mild, chronic depression. His diverse group of colleagues on the show have depression, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and schizophrenia.

“Some programmers without mental illness manage to make it through life quite fine anyway,” Dalton says lightheartedly.

Dalton sat beside me when he worked as a reporter at The Vancouver Sun and his interviewing technique was one of the best I’ve ever observed. Now that he has a radio gig, everyone else can now hear it too.  Tune into Beautiful Minds Radio, on Co-op Radio, 102.7 FM,  the second and third Mondays of the month, from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. in Vancouver, and via www.coopradio.org.

The show’s website is really worth exploring because you can listen to archived shows. Find it here:  www.beautifulmindsradio.org.

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