Margaret Trudeau says she sought treatment for bipolar disorder after her son, Michel, died in 1998. (CBC)

Margaret Trudeau revealed for the first time at an Ottawa psychiatric hospital that she has suffered from bipolar disorder for years.

She spoke at the Royal OttawaHospital on Friday morning to urge others withmental illness to come forward and seek treatment.

The former wife of the late prime minister Pierre Trudeau says shetried to hide her condition for decades, but came forward in hopes of dispelling the stigma attached to mental illness.

"I felt I was broken for a long time, and now I am whole," said Trudeau. "I have my life back after years of struggle."

Mood swings severe

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, is a mood disorder characterized by mood swings alternating between severe depressionand extreme euphoria.

She sought treatment after her son, Michel Trudeau, died in an avalanche accident in 1998 and after the death of the former prime minister two years later.

During her marriage to Trudeau, she waswidely knownfor her escapades. She suggested they were a result of her mental state.

"None of this has been easy, but through all these years I remember Pierre always said to me, 'It's not what happens to you, but how you react to it that's important,'" she said.

At the news conference, Trudeau asked for the public to support the Royal Ottawa Hospital's new mental-health facility. It's scheduled to open in November.