MARGOT KIDDER: From Superman to superwoman
By Carol Crenna
Canadian-born Margot Kidder became famous for playing Lois Lane opposite Christopher Reeves in four Superman movies. After her highly publicized breakdown 16 years ago, she made a comeback to the screen in movies including thrillers Halloween II and Three of a Kind and TV shows Brothers and Sisters, Smallville and Robson Arms.
She has worked with everyone from Norman Jewison to Richard Pryor, and in 2013, she acted in films Matt’s Chance and Pride of Lions, and was recently featured on CBC’s George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight.
She also played a real-life leading lady to Pierre Trudeau many years ago, who inspired her to become a passionate activist for the environment. Margot continues this role, and was recently arrested at the White House for protesting the construction of the Keystone oil pipeline.
Margot is also quite outspoken about mental health, having successfully managed bipolar disorder. I was lucky enough to spend some time with Margot, and spoke to her about her health and lifestyle.
CAROL: Where in Canada are you originally from?
MARGOT KIDDER: I was born in Yellowknife, which I still consider my hometown, then we moved to Labrador, then Northern Quebec and then to Vancouver where I finished high school before moving to the US.
CAROL: It has been many years since you played Lois Lane in Superman, but you have completed literally dozens of other films and TV series appearances since then. What Canadian production did you really enjoy?
MARGOT KIDDER: I loved one in Calgary called Chicks with Sticks about a women’s hockey team because hockey is a passion of mine. I have done a few others, and continue acting, but my main job right now is being a grandmother and I’m loving every minute of it!
CAROL: You have done many lectures, videos, and been commended for your advocacy toward natural therapies and better treatment of “mentally ill” patients. Have you found this to be as fulfilling as your acting career?
MARGOT KIDDER: It is very fulfilling in a very different way. And, although I may have helped to get the word out, I still find it frustrating sometimes to see friends going to psychiatrists who prescribe lots of pills. I want to stop them and show them that there is an alternative. Though there is definitely a place for prescription drugs, their abuse by the medical system is obscene.
CAROL: How did you learn about using natural therapy for manic depression and bi-polar disorder, and when did you begin using it?
MARGOT KIDDER: For several years I took many prescribed antipsychotic drugs, which made my condition worse. Even when I was in the psychiatric ward in LA, at my lowest point (which was covered by the media), I knew there must be a healthier way.
When I was released, my brother in Vancouver took me to a woman who practices Five Element Acupuncture. Within a month she was able to “bring me back” from my manic depressive state, and I was no longer delusional.
She mentioned that Dr. Abram Hoffer in Victoria. BC, had enormous success with orthomolecular medicine in treating manic depression, but he was booked for almost a year before I was able to see him.
During that time, I began my own research, reading medical texts which discussed vitamin, mineral and amino acid deficiencies common in psychiatric disorders.
I was then asked to host a documentary about orthomolecular medicine and learned that there were brilliant doctors who had been practicing what I had become interested in, using medicinal doses of nutrients to treat illness.
I worked with Dr. Hoffer and several others during this project and after six months with regular acupuncture and orthomolecular medicine my moods began to stabilize, and after a year and a half I became fairly “normal”.
(Although Dr. Abram Hoffer has passed away, there are still centres that offer his therapies. See http://www.orthomolecularvitamincentre.com)
There was a lot of luck involved in my recovery process. Most people aren’t as fortunate to be able to get better from an illness as serious as mine. Unfortunately, they get over-medicated instead.
CAROL: What nutrient deficiencies did you have, and what did the physicians supplement for these?
MARGOT KIDDER: I think I was deficient in most things! For many years, I didn’t eat properly, if I ate at all. In my business, acting, people were always on a diet, and, in retrospect, I could have had an undiagnosed eating disorder. There were too many parties.
And then for years afterward, there was abuse of the psychiatric drugs. They also deplete many nutrients because they put your body under enormous stress.
Since every person’s metabolism is slightly different, 10 people diagnosed with manic depression may have 10 different deficiencies. It’s a very individualized process.
I take Vitamin B-Complex injections, which are absolutely essential for nerve function. They assist amino acids to become neurotransmitters which enable our brain to work properly, and Vitamins B, C, and nutritional enzymes act as co-factors to create essential metabolic changes.
But you need all essential nutrients, everything nature intended taken in combination and all working together.
CAROL: How have your eating habits changed?
MARGOT KIDDER: I make sure I have the right amount of the foods I need, without being obsessed about it. I’m not a good cook, so taking supplements is sometimes easier for me.
My essential nutrients – which include Omega 3 fatty acids and multivitamins – are always with me, in my fridge at home, or carried in luggage when I travel.
Now, instead of spending hours fanatically shopping for and preparing my meals, I eat well but I’m more concerned with eating regularly to keep blood sugar levels up.
CAROL: Did food sensitivities partly contribute to the manic depression problem?
MARGOT KIDDER: Yes. I had sensitivities to the usual culprits like dairy, wheat and egg whites. I avoided them for years, but once you have gotten your body stabilized, you can eat them sometimes with no ill effects.
Years ago, my system was so fragile that the least amount of stress, even from eating these, would push me over the edge. It may take a long time to become well on natural treatments, but it also takes much longer to become ill again because your body is healthier.
CAROL: What other changes have you made to your lifestyle?
MARGOT KIDDER: Sleep is really important. One factor contributing to manic depression is that a person in initial stages feels that they no longer need to sleep. I now strictly get eight hours each night.
I also exercise. Living in Montana, I hike with my dogs and ski, and right this minute, while filming a movie, I’m off to find a skating rink! Once you feel well, the way I have for several years, it no longer becomes the central focus in life. I can now simply live.
CAROL: Do you feel that there will be changes toward the use of orthomolecular medicine in the future?
MARGOT KIDDER: The change will depend on the public, only. And I don’t know how long it will take. It’s against the law to patent a naturally occurring substance such as a vitamin, and pharmaceutical companies make billions of dollars from patents.
If they can’t make a profit from creating Vitamin B or zinc, they will instead promote a new breakthrough drug, which, if it’s an anti-psychotic substance, simply means another tranquilizer.
It is the most profitable industry in the world, and partially funds the US government. It surpasses oil in terms of profits, and my country (US) goes to war due to oil pricing. What does that say they will do to keep this other industry in tact?
It is up to patients and their families to question what they are being given, and to consumers to demand better, more natural alternatives.
CAROL: Do you feel that, no matter what the cause, those with mental illness could benefit from orthomolecular medicine? And isn’t it expensive, since it isn’t covered under medical insurance?
MARGOT KIDDER: At some point, you say, “I could have gotten this way due to A, or B, or C or D,” but really it doesn’t matter. The key is in finding out exactly what is going on in your system now using appropriate tests, then trying to fix it.
Those who choose this method have to finance it themselves, but in the long run, it becomes cheaper for them than using the conventional route. It’s like getting an education; if you invest in the short term, it pays off substantially later.
Article written by Carol Crenna originally featured in VISTA Magazine