A happy ending after a tumultuous battle with mental illness

If you remember the 1970’s and the glamourous couple who filled every newspaper with their activities, you’ll enjoy this book by “Maggie.” Margaret Trudeau was only the media’s darling for a short time, until her antics became too bizarre and headlines read: “Maggie does it again!” And “it” was not good.

Changing My Mind

By Margaret Trudeau

Harper Collins Publisher

If you remember the 1970’s and the glamourous couple who filled every newspaper with their activities, you’ll enjoy this book by “Maggie.” Margaret Trudeau was only the media’s darling for a short time, until her antics became too bizarre and headlines read: “Maggie does it again!” And “it” was not good.

Margaret and Pierre Trudeau were married March 4, 1971, in a very private ceremony; he was 51- years-old and she was 22.

He was the prime minister of Canada, and she was a very beautiful, young and lively woman.

John Diefenbaker, who was leader of the Opposition was quoted as saying, “you can marry her or adopt her.”

Margaret tells us step by step how it was. The meetings with world leaders and their fashionable wives, the travels and of course the babies.

When the babies began coming, Margaret was truly happy.

The hormone storm that accompanied her pregnancies cooled the radical behaviour that had begun to dominate her life.

Though little was known about her problem at the time, she suffered from bi-polar disease and was often out of control. She has written this book, in part, to encourage others afflicted with this mental illness, to seek treatment.

To everyone else she encourages a better, kinder consideration of those suffering from mental illness. Often when she made headlines she was in a manic phase and behaved unpredictably. The press coverage did not help.

Looking back and relating this story in a calm way, she is highly ashamed of her actions. She did meet people who treated her kindly, among them Fidel Castro, Mrs Roland Michener, Jimmy and Rosalind Carter, and others.

Any 22-year-old thrown into this very public life would have had difficulties dealing with protocol and posh dinners. Guests were always older and bilingual. Margaret had no skill with the French language.

This young wife discovered very early on that she had married a workaholic man who liked routine and quiet.

He was also parsimonious. Money (as in her having none) became an issue very early in their relationship.

There were many happy years with their young family, especially at Harrington Lake, the country residence of the prime minister.

The children grew up, but the marriage to Pierre gradually fell apart, as Margaret’s mood swings posed greater problems.

As the prime minister’s wife it was unthinkable that she see a psychiatrist.

In December of 2000, Dr Colin Campbell, a psychiatrist in Ottawa agreed to see Margaret. She had been divorced from Pierre for sometime, had remarried and had another family.

The treatment of bi-polar disease had improved. Margaret began the long journey back to sanity, eventually becoming a public speaker for the cause and encouraging others similarly afflicted to seek help.

This is a highly readable book, with all the details of hob-nobbing with the rich and famous. Best of all it has a happy ending with married sons and grandchildren making life good again.

Peggy Freeman is freelance writer living in Red Deer.

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