Sitting in jail, it wasn’t the drugs or even the partying Margo Talbot missed – it was the fresh air and the mountains she was yearning for.
“I had a boyfriend at 28, he was a partier like me, but he was also an ice climber and he took me,” said Talbot, the author of All That Glitters: A Climbers Journey Through Addiction and Depression. “Two weeks later I was thrown in jail for drug dealing. When I was sitting in jail I didn’t miss my friends or the drugs. I missed the mountains.”
While Talbot had only been ice climbing once, she had begun ski touring a few years before that, and had cross-country skied since the age of nine. Her exploits – she is credited with many first ascents in the Canadian Rockies – have led her to mountain ranges around the world, garnered her sponsorships, and seen her compete at the X-games.
It was ice climbing that became Talbot’s catalyst to heal from her depression and drug addiction.
“My addiction was because I was self-medicating for my mental health,” said Talbot.
Asked what it is that drew her to develop a passion for ice climbing, Talbot is quick to mention the aggression required of the sport.
“It takes a certain level of aggression to kick the ice and swing your axe. When you first start it feels dangerous and risky. It forces you to be in the present moment.”
Looking back, however, she had no idea where ice climbing would take her.
“I was just trying to figure out a way to stay afloat. I had no idea where it would take me,” she said.
Talbot says while there is still a stigma about mental health issues within the sports world it is changing.
“I’m starting to see it [talk about mental illness] come out in sports like the NHL. In the big sports world there is still a huge stigma,” said Talbot, however she doesn’t feel that same stigma towards herself when speaking about her own struggles with mental illness
“There’s not a stigma towards myself because I’m so comfortable talking about it. I think I’m immune to it now. Mental illness and addiction have always existed in this cloud of mystery and I do my part to dispel that mystery.”
Perhaps it is for that very reason Talbot is adamant that it is not only climbers and those struggling with mental illness who can make a connection to her story.
“Mental health issues and addiction affect everyone in some way. These are social problems, they are not individual problems.”
Margo Talbot will be at the Revelstoke Library to talk about her book All That Glitters on Thursday, February 19 at 7 p.m.